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London Mayor Boris Johnson welcomed new harsher punishments for owners of violent dogs.

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Owners whose hounds go out of control and attack people in public could face 18 months in prison, from August.

Irresponsible owners will be easier to ban from keeping dogs.

In addition, using the dog as a weapon by goading it will be seen as an aggravating factor by judges.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “These welcome changes mean we’re one step closer to tackling the serious menace of weapon dogs, but I’ll continue lobbying for the wider legislation to ensure the owners who deliberately train animals to become weapons dogs receive the same harsh punishment as people who carry knives.”

Training a dog to fight or possessing paraphernalia for dog fighting will also be seen as an aggravating factor, following lobbying by Mayor Johnson and the Police Federation – which represents rank and file officers.

The Dogs Trust said the changes would encourage courts to focus on “the key factors of culpability of the owner and the amount of harm to the victim”.

Peter Chapman, chairman of the Magistrates’ Association sentencing committee, said “For the first time, magistrates will have all they need in one document to help them sentence the offender, disqualify him from future dog ownership if appropriate, order compensation to the victim and order destruction of the dog if necessary.”

But more needed to be done warned animal charity, Blue Cross.

“The campaign to reform the current Dangerous Dogs Act has been dragging on for some 20 years now,” said Steve Goody..

“We feel that there is an urgent need for preventative action, or dog attacks will continue to increase.

“We believe the introduction of useful, practical measures could be used specifically to target irresponsible dog owners before an attack happens.”

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