Basildon Council is supporting new guidelines to get tough on convicted owners of dangerous dogs.
New guidelines issued to judges and magistrates by the Sentencing Council include longer prison sentences following increasing numbers of offences involving dangerous dogs.
Councillor Richard Moore, cabinet member with responsibility for animal control, said: “Although most dog owners are responsible, there are a minority of people who put others at risk by not training or controlling their dog responsibly.
“This is a problem on both a national and a local level with some people using their dogs as a status symbol. Last year our animal control team collected over 500 stray dogs in Basildon and 225 of these were status or bull breed dogs.
“These new guidelines will help ensure courts use their full powers when dealing with offenders and I hope it will make irresponsible dog owners think twice before using their dog as a weapon.”
Under the new guidelines, which come into effect on 20 August 2012, the most serious offences will attract jail terms of 18 months - three times the current average of less than six months.
Basildon has one of the highest figures for animal welfare issues in the country and is currently running a “Care for your Canine” campaign to address these issues and promote responsible pet ownership.
Dog owners can get their dog microchipped for free between 11am and 3pm today and tomorrow (16 and 17 May) outside The Place (Pitsea Leisure Centre) and take advantage of free advice and support from a dog behaviourist.
Owners of staffordshire bull terriers (and crosses) in receipt of benefits can also pick up discounted neutering vouchers.
For more information on caring for your canine, visit www.basildon.gov.uk/caninecare