New laws to tackle killer dogs have been welcomed by canine lovers on the Fylde coast.
Amendments made by the Government to the Dangerous Dogs Act mean the maximum prison sentences in England and Wales for allowing a dog to fatally attack someone have increased from two years to 14 years, while the term handed down when injury is caused is up from two years to five.
For the first time, the Act also includes a specific offence to protect assistance dogs, such as guide dogs, from attack, with guilty owners facing up to three years in prison.
Irresponsible dog owners can now also face prosecution if their pet attacks a person in their home or on any private property, except if they attack a trespasser.
The move has been welcomed by professional dog walkers and pet minders across the Fylde coast.
Sarah Moore, who runs the Bone Rangers dog walking service, in Blackpool said: “It’s a good thing.
“There should be a tougher sentence for people who don’t get their dogs to behave correctly from a young age.
“But there should be more in place before it gets to that stage and a lot of people feel frustrated by the law on that.
“There should be fines or the police should be able to take the dogs away from the owners if they have suspicions there’s going to be an incident so they can consider rehabilitation for the animal.”
Lee Ingham, from Take The Lead, which is also based in the resort, added: “I do think it’s a good idea. It’s a step in the right direction.
“We need to be more strict with dog control orders too and I wouldn’t be against the return of dog licences myself.”
Animal welfare minister Lord de Mauley said: “Dog attacks can have horrific consequences for victims and families and it is only right those responsible should face tough punishments.
“Irresponsible dog owners will not only face longer prison sentences, but will also be liable for prosecution regardless of where an attack takes place, even in their own home.
“This will give protection to those who provide vital services in the community - postal workers, nurses, utility workers - as well as people visiting family and friends.”
Coun Amy Cross, Blackpool Council cabinet member for street scene and the environment, said: “We welcome any measures that will act as deterrent and encourage people to take responsibility for their pets as well as train and look after them properly.”
Lancashire Police says it also backed the new measures.