TOUGH new penalties for dog owners whose pets attack people have been welcomed by East Lancashire MPs.
They follow a string of child fatalities involving canine savaging, including the February death of Blackburn toddler Ava-Jayne Marie Corless.
The town’s MP Jack Straw, Burnley’s Gordon Birtwistle and Pendle’s Andrew Stephenson all said the new laws which came into force today were the right move.
The politicians said they hoped the long prison sentences would send a message to irresponsible owners.
The maximum prison sentence for allowing a dog to carry out a fatal attack was increased from two to 14 years.
Allowing a dog to cause injury can now be punished by five years in prison, up from two.
For the first time owners will be prosecuted regardless of where an attack takes place, even in their own home.
On February 10, 11-month old Ava Jane of Emily Street Blackburn was found mauled to death by the family pit bull terrier type dog.
Her mother Chloe King and her boyfriend Lee Wright are on bail pending further enquiries after being initially arrested on suspicion of child neglect and manslaughter.
Jade Anderson, 14, died in March 2013 at a house in Atherton after being mauled by four dogs.
In October, their owner Beverley Concannon was given a 16-week suspended jail term after admitting causing suffering to the animals.
Labour MP Mr Straw said: “These tough new penalties are a good idea.
“Too many dog owners see their animals not as pets but as means of intimidating others, “I hope this send out a clear message that such irresponsibility will not be tolerated.”
Tory Mr Stephenson, whose mother Ann was bitten by dog in 2011, said: “This is the right thing to do. Dog owners need to know they cannot let their animals roam dangerously and attack people.”
LibDem Mr Birtwistle, who has been bitten several times, said: “These tough new penalties are absolutely right. The irresponsible ownership of dangerous dogs can have tragic and fatal consequences.”