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Page last updated at 09:21 GMT, Wednesday, 26 January 2011
March couple support dangerous dog owners bill
Staffordshire bull terrier
Dangerous dog or dangerous owner? Couple call for responsible ownership

A Cambridgeshire couple is calling for law changes to make dog owners responsible for their pets' actions.

Roger and Linda Saltmarsh's dog, Snoopy, is still recovering from an attack by two Staffordshire bull terriers on Sunday 16 January 2011.

"He was in so much shock, and he was in absolute agony. They'd bitten right down to the bone," said Linda.

The Dog Control Bill, which targets the owners of out-of-control dogs, is going through the House of Lords.

'Viciously attacked'

On 16 January Roger took Snoopy, a Lhasa Apso cross, on his regular walk on a green near the Saltmarsh family home in March.

Two Staffordshire bull terriers were being walked by their owners off the lead.

"When they saw my dog the two of them just left their owners and came running across here and viciously attacked my dog and me," said Roger.

"When this couple got to where I was being attacked, even they couldn't get the dogs under control.

"The more that they whipped the dogs and kicked the dogs, the more they attacked."

The couple walked off when Roger talked to them about paying for Snoopy's treatment.

Roger carried the dog home, not really aware he had also been bitten.

Lhasa Apso
Snoopy is a cross between a Lhasa Apso, above, and a Maltese terrier

"Quite frankly, I couldn't take it in at first," said Linda, when she saw her husband with Snoopy. "Then I saw the wounds and the distressed state my husband's in because he's been bitten three times."

Dog Control Bill

The Dog Control Bill is currently going through the House of Lords.

The private members' bill has been tabled by Lord Redesdale and, if passed, would repeal the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 2007.

It would apply to all breeds of dogs, put the onus on the owner for the training and control of their pets, and would apply to private property as well as public places.

"The issue here is about responsible dog ownership and training dogs properly," said Chris Laurence, veterinary director of The Dogs' Trust.

He pointed out that any dog from any breed will bite if it is hurt badly enough.

"A 'Dangerous Owners Act' is indeed what we need," he continued. "The Dangerous Dogs Act as it is at the moment doesn't work in terms of prevention of humans or dogs being bitten."

'Cried in pain'

Snoopy is still recovering from his injuries.

"I've never had a dog that cried in pain before and this little one cried in pain all night and every night," said Linda.

So far he has had over £600-worth of veterinary treatment and will need more.

"We do have pet insurance, thank God," she continued. "It doesn't come easy when you're pensioners - £120 excess - but if it hadn't been for the insurance I don't know what we'd be doing."

The Dog Control Bill was postponed at the committee stage at the House of Lords on 21 January 2011. Leading animal charity, welfare and veterinary organisations say they will continue to fight for it to become law.

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