Chief Insp Paul Winter column: Please be responsible with your dogs

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You can’t bottle the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you come home from a long day at work and are greeted by the welcoming wagging tail of your pet dog.

There are 8.5 million homes in the UK which include a dog. They are much loved parts of our family and if you have one you are smug knowing how lucky you are to have one in your life.

Having a pet dog has countless benefits to health and wellbeing. Research shows they are a calming influence, good for the blood pressure and depression.

And you can’t put a price on the smiles they bring. But in the world of policing we are also acutely aware of the high stakes that can come with dog ownership.

As you know Nottinghamshire Police has a dog section to support divisional officers at incidents such as a burglary in progress, or a violence related incident as well as at public order incidents and football policing. We also have drugs, explosive and victim detection dogs such as those used in the Wycherley murder case.

Our dog officers work very hard to train the dogs they work with and are more than familiar with the dangerous potential all animals can have.

We saw in the news only a few month ago the case of the elderly man in West London who was killed by his neighbour’s animal.

With 25 per cent of households in the UK having a pet dog, we’d like to remind you all of the importance of conscientious dog ownership.

Under changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 in May it is now an offence for a dog to be dangerously out of control in both public and private places, including inside the dog owner’s home.

If a person dies as a result of an attack by your dog you now face up to 14 years imprisonment. This is consistent with a maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving. As well as that your dog will likely lose its life.

If your dog injures someone you could be jailed for five years and if it injures or kills an assistance dog you could be behind bars for up to three years.

New powers that will come into force later this year will mean that for the first time police and local authorities will be able to intervene in low level antisocial incidents in a bid to prevent dogs becoming dangerous.

Someone who deliberately sets their dog on someone can already get life imprisonment for manslaughter or murder if the victim dies.

We have a number of specially trained Dog Legislation Officers in force and we also work closely with the local authorities and the RSPCA.

A dog has a mind of its own and it is wrong to assume it will not react in a certain way in a certain situation. Keep your animals under control. To be absolutely safe keep dogs on a lead when out in public and if in any sort of doubt use a muzzle. Do not ignore signs of aggression in your dog. For advice speak to your vet.

Remember, as a dog owner you are not only responsible for their welfare you are also legally accountable for their actions.