A TRAINEE solicitor has become the first dog owner in East Lancashire to be prosecuted for allowing his pet to roam without an identity tag or collar.

Mujtaba Ilyas, 26, was taken to court after his Japanese Akita was twice caught wandering the streets of Brierfield.

Now other dog owners are being warned they will also be prosecuted if their animals are found without a tag as part of a major clampdown.

And Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson has welcomed the tough action saying it sends a clear message to irresponsible owners.

Reedley Magistrates heard that because Ilyas’s dog had been microchipped, council dog wardens were able to trace ownership back to his Berry Street home.

He was found guilty of two offences of permitting his dog to be in a public place and given a 12-month conditional discharge, with £200 costs and a £30 victim surcharge, after he told the court he had taken steps to ensure it did not happen again.

Dog control orders were introduced in Pendle in 2007, toughening up the requirements on dog owners to have the identification measures.

Coun John David, cabinet member for environmental services, said: “Although microchipping is a permanent way of identifying a dog, it is a legal requirement for the dog to wear a tag with its owners’ details when out in a public place.

“I’m pleased that the magistrates agreed with us and saw fit to convict Mr Ilyas.

“I think this demonstrates how seriously the courts take responsible dog ownership.

“It's just common sense to want to tag your dog. That way anyone who finds it can return it to its owner.

“A microchip under the dog’s skin is only a back-up if the tag comes off or the dog is stolen as it allows people like our Dog Wardens to find out where the dog belongs and return it."

Speaking after the case Ilyas said his four-year-old dog Kuma, had escaped on 7 and 11 November from his backyard.

He said: “Obviously I accept responsibility because it’s my dog, but it was a total accident.

“I’m a trainee solicitor and I’m really worried about this conviction.

“I’ve spent four years at university and another doing my legal practice course and it’s cost a lot of money.

“He was found twice in a space of five days. I had a faulty latch on the gate in the backyard and I went to get it fixed straight after collecting him from the pound where the dog warden had kept him the first time. But it is a type of lock that won’t always click shut.

“I showed the bench my receipt for a collar and tag for him. Because he’s such a big dog I had to order one from Pets at Home, which is when he escaped the second time.”Council officials are now planning a series of microchipping events, where the law on dog tagging will be stressed.

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said: “We have a real problem in parts of Pendle with irresponsible owners not being in control of their dogs. I welcome this tough action by the council that sends out a clear message on this issue.

“The government is bringing forward proposals to tighten dangerous dogs legislation and hopefully this will give more powers to deal with these concerns.”

Dog control orders are also in force around Burnley but is thought no such prosecutions have yet been forthcoming.

Coun Alyson Barnes, leader of Rossendale Council, said that she supported dog tagging but had misgivings about taking court action.

“Clearly people need to get their dogs tagged so that if they wander off, as they can do, then they can be returned,” she said.

“But I think there are more important issues going on when it comes to prosecuting people for it. I think that’s just daft.”

Animal experts from the RSPCA in East Lancashire insist that dogs must be tagged before they live their Altham centre.

“All dogs must leave the premises with a suitable collar, dog tag and on a lead,” a charity spokesman said.