THIS week the Government announced plans to force dog owners to insure their animals against injuries to other people.
And Dog Behaviour Orders (Dogbos) could be in the pipeline forcing irresponsible owners to muzzle, leash or even neuter their pets.
These plans, designed to combat the growing problem of vicious animals being bred for use as weapons, sound sensible.
The number of people hospitalised by out-of-control dogs has increased by 70% in the last 12 years, according figures uncovered by the Conservatives.
Indeed, Huddersfield has been no stranger to horrific dog attacks in the last seven months – the latest of which has left a young mother with permanent facial damage.
PDSA, which provides free veterinary services for pets of needy owners, and the RSPCA welcomed the plans.
But both charities stressed the importance of targeting irresponsible dog owners rather than the dogs themselves.
So can the Government’s plans work? How would they implement them?
The cost of insuring a dog against vets’ bills and third party injury varies on where you live, the age and breed of the dog and if the animal has a history of aggression.
Unsurprisingly to insure a Rottweiler – a powerful breed often used for security – costs more than most other breeds.
Quotes for a year’s cover for an 18-month-old Rottweiler living in Huddersfield varied from £288 to £788 from three of Britain’s biggest insurers (RSPCA, Petplan and Asda).
By comparison a relatively harmless Yorkshire Terrier would cost between £102 and £419 to insure for 12 months.
But, interestingly, quotes for an Akita, a large Japanese hunting dog notorious for biting, varied from £221 to £433.
A few hundred pounds a year to cover your dog doesn’t sound so bad.
But the problem lies, according to Brighouse vet Martin Stelfox, with irresponsible owners who have no intention of registering, let alone insuring, their dangerous dogs.
Martin, who every week handles animals which have been attacked by dangerous dogs, says: “It’s a complete and utter waste of time. The sort of people with really dangerous dogs aren’t going to get them chipped or insured. You see plenty that aren’t muzzled and those people won’t muzzle them.
“In theory the proposals sound ok but in reality it’s impossible to enforce. The only way it could work is through draconian legislation. The council would have to visit every home with a dog and take appropriate action. That would cause a public outcry.”
And why, in the first place, do people feel the need to own these dangerous dogs?
In short, it’s status, protection, a reaction to the crackdown on knives and guns and even fashion.
Sarah Jane Robinson, Principal Psychology Lecturer at Huddersfield University, explains: “These dogs are status dogs, especially in hard neighbourhoods where intimidation is seen as a value.
“Even very young people are infected with the attitude that intimidating other people with angry animals is a way to acquire respect.
“Legislation that focuses on the breed and ignores the owner isn’t going to work.
“The police have focused on guns and knives. It’s harder to carry knives and guns so possession of a dangerous dog becomes more attractive for these people.
“These animals are the latest street weapons and become like an accessory. Like Paris Hilton who has a miniature dog, this is the opposite end of the spectrum...The law could serve to make these dogs more desirable because they are illegal”.