The problem of Dangerous Dogs and irresponsible dog owners has been in the media again this week with talk that life-term prison sentences could be handed out to the owners of out-of-control dogs which kill.

Knowing the great pleasure that “man’s best friend” can be, it saddens me whenever controls on dog owners are spoken of, but it is clear that as long as even a tiny percentage of owners view their dog as a status symbol and an extension of their virility, something must be done to safeguard the general public and prevent the vast majority of sensible dog owners from being tarnished with the same brush.

Thankfully, incidents of dog aggression are relatively rare but they are heart breaking when they do occur and the current legislation has had little impact on the number of cases.

The Veterinary profession has reiterated its call for preventive action to deal with the problem of out of control dogs, as the Government announces a consultation on increasing penalties for irresponsible dog owners who allow their dogs to attack members of the public.

The consensus within the profession is for the introduction of dog control notices to be served on dog owners at the earliest sign of a problem.

While it is clear that penalties need to work as an effective deterrent, the key to reducing incidents involving dogs must be to prevent them happening in the first place.

Of course education plays a very important role in helping people understand dog behaviour and the requirements for keeping a dog under control at all times, but we also need strong legislation.

In a family environment, a dog can teach people of all ages important lessons in caring, responsibility, loving, and the importance of regular exercise and there is a danger that recurring negative stories about dogs in the media could dissuade people from dog ownership and deprive families of the opportunities that dog ownership can offer.

The introduction of dog control notices would allow trained enforcers to take action at the earliest opportunity and prevent these terrible incidents that the Dangerous Dogs Act has failed to reduce. Prevention is always better than punishment.