Dominic Lipinski / PA via AP, file
At least 16 people have been fatally attacked by dogs in Britain since 2005.
Owners of killer dogs could be imprisoned for life under tough new sentencing proposals being considered by the British government.
In the wake of a spate of fatal incidents, an online consultation has been launched to examine public support for stricter penalties.
"Dog owners who fail to take responsibility for their dogs must be held accountable," crime prevention minister Jeremy Browne said. "Today’s consultation will give the public a say in whether owners of dangerous dogs that attack people should face tougher penalties, possibly life imprisonment."
The maximum term for such incidents is currently two years.
The proposals follow a national outcry after a teenager was savaged to death by four dogs at a friend’s house in March.
Mark St George / Rex Features via AP, file
Jade Anderson, 14, was killed by pack of dogs in Wigan, Britain, on March 26.
Jade Anderson, 14, was mauled after she began eating a meat pie in Wigan, England.
She was the 16th person to be fatally attacked by dogs in Britain since 2005.
Jade's parents, along with the relatives of four-year-old John Paul Massey, who died after his uncle's pitbull attacked him in 2009, last month handed in a petition calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to take action to try to prevent other attacks.
Launching the consultation process, animal welfare minister Lord de Mauley said it was crucial that the laws act as a deterrent to stop “horrific incidents.”
“Dog attacks are terrifying,” he said in a statement. “We need harsh penalties to punish those who allow their dog to injure people while out of control.”
The new proposals were immediately welcomed by postal workers.
"Current sentencing arrangements do not match the serious nature of offences,” said Dave Joyce, a health and safety officer at The Communication Workers Union.
“Only one person has ever been imprisoned for a dog attack on a postal worker and as the fatality rate from dog attacks grows sentencing must get tougher. This consultation is very welcome and hopefully indicates the government is serious about tackling the problem of irresponsible dog ownership.”
First published August 6 2013, 6:15 AM