Law must be focused on ensuring dog training

Steve's baby daughter made amazing progress this week, or so his wife thought

STEVE CANAVAN: It was a lot of rattle over just a little roll

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The issue of dogs on leads is one that is guaranteed to divide opinion anywhere, regardless of whether it is in parks, in the countryside or on beaches.

On the one hand you have those who are implacably in favour of allowing dogs off the leash everywhere, pointing to the fact that it is healthier and kinder to give, as they see it, a loyal and fun-loving companion some freedom.

They will say that when things go wrong – as they occasionally do – it is a sign of a failing owner, not a failing dog, and that the owner should be punished, not other dogs.

On the other side of the fence are those who feel that, as they see it, a sharp-toothed, mobile and aggressive animal should be kept as much under control as possible at all times.

The problem is obviously finding the balance. Where’s the middle ground, and what would be fair?

Today, we carry the story of Stuart Green who, to his credit, agreed to speak to The News after being convicted of allowing a dog attack to take place, after which a Jack Russell had to be put down.

Green explains his perspective on the attack, and after passing through the courts, has been given a punishment of being banned from owning dogs for five years.

His daughter Layla, who will take on some of the dogs, says she believes dogs should be on a lead everywhere except in enclosed spaces.

There is some merit in this, and it is a valid point of view, but we would stop short of recommending it as a change in the law. Instead, this case highlights that the legal system is becoming more adept at dealing with dogs, and deciding whether they are dangerous.

It is right that owners should be punished heavily in the event of a dog attack, as that will be an incentive to make sure their pets are trained and behaving properly.

The use of an animal behavioural expert is also to be applauded to help courts come to the best decision.

Our society would be poorer without well-behaved dogs – but must be ready to weed out and prosecute those owners who, with their pets, prove a threat to others.