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New laws will cover dog attacks during home visits

Changes to dog laws will give greater legal protection to doctors and healthcare staff facing dangerous dogs on private property.

Under proposals put forward by the NHS Protect’s Legal Protection Unit, current legislation on dog attacks in public places will be extended to cover visiting private residences.

The changes mean that dog owners will be held to account for the behaviour of their pets if they cause injuries on private property. The new law will also requires all dogs to be micro-chipped from 6 April 2016, which makes finding the owners of dangerous dogs easier.

Figures show that there were  almost 60,000 assaults against NHS staff in England in 2011/12 but it is not known how many of these relate to dog attacks.

Liverpool GP and chair of Sefton LMC Dr Andrew Mimnagh said the new legislation was welcome but in his experience, irresponsible owners weren’t the main problem when it comes to being bitten by dogs on home visits.

He said: ‘Fingers crossed it might improve things but at the end of the day it’s not going to stop you getting bitten if there’s a sick patient who needs attention and they cannot control a dog due to their ill health.

‘Dogs are quite territorial and as usual it’s not the dog barking loudly at you at the door you need to worry about but the ones that are waiting quietly inside for you.

‘Normally you are able to get owners to lock them up and thankfully there are few irresponsible dog owners, so as doctors we don’t get too many injuries from dog bites. But I know this is an issue for the ambulance crews where they have to effect entry to premises and have been caught unawares.

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