It seems like the changes to the law are:
1) longer prison sentences for owners who 'allow' their dog to attack someone (From the site: up to 14 years, from two years, for a fatal dog attack; up to five years, from two years, for injury; up to three years if an assistance dog is attacked.
2) owners are now liable even if the attack takes place on their own property (which provides protection for people like postal workers, visitors to a property, etc)- the case of trespass is somewhat wishy washy, in the house bites seem to be excused in the case of trespassers but in the garden not so much.
3) The law now specifically protects assistance dogs (service dogs being attacked has become a fairly large issue and IMO I'm glad to see this now being included in the law)
What I find misleading about the petition: "If your dog causes injury to someone or if someone feels worried that it could potentially cause them injury, then your dog is classified as Dangerously Out of Control. This law is applicable, regardless of whether or not the dog is on your property...the current law is ridiculous in the sense that no mitigating factors can be taken into consideration... A couple of gentlemen own a cat. They feel worried that their cat may hurt if it goes into the garden of a large dog. They want the large dog to be destroyed for the safety of the community, despite this large dog never having caused them or anyone else any harm...
Yes, based off the changes a dog does not have to bite to be considered dangerous, but it also doesn't mean every dog is going to be destroyed because someone requests it to be. From the UK.gov site, on destroying a dog: "For the purposes of subsection (1A)(a), when deciding whether a dog would constitute a danger to public safety, the court—
(i)the temperament of the dog and its past behaviour, and
(ii)whether the owner of the dog, or the person for the time being in charge of it, is a fit and proper person to be in charge of the dog, and
(b)may consider any other relevant circumstances."
Does this mean that the dog in the situation above will not destroyed? IMO, probably. A court would still have to find this large dog to be of a temperament to be dangerous to a community (and a neighbor's cat would have to be considered part of the community) and perhaps also consider the dog's owners to be unfit.
In the case of the akita: "I have recently witnessed an incident where a large Akita attacked a small dog that ran onto his property. The small dog was not under control. The owner of the small dog ran after her dog and beat the Akita to get it off her little dog. She put her hand into the Akitas mouth, incurring a small puncture, on her hand - the Akita didn't bite her (or she would have obviously had more than a single puncture wound) and she only needed a wash and a plaster on the wound according to medical reports. She is now prosecuting the owner and demanding the Akita is destroyed."-> IMO this is a difficult case. Did the Akita attack the person outright? No, but clearly it was going after another dog with intent to cause harm and did during that act injure a person. The fact that it was on its own property, IMO, is not of consequence because it sounds like it was not behind a fence and also like it was loose or tethered (essentially the same thing) without an owner present. I have owned a dog aggressive dog before and it is part of the owner's responsibility (especially with a large, potentially lethal dog like an Akita) to make sure their dog is not in a position to hurt other dogs. The smaller dog should have been leashed, perhaps, but unless the smaller dog actually started an all out attack I don't think it has so much to do with the story. Do I think this Akita should be destroyed? No. But I also don't think that it should be a no harm done type situation. A dog aggressive dog was left outside, in a situation where it could cause harm, and it injured a person (however accidental that injury to a human was). Where were the owners? Was there a fence? If not, why was there no fence? IMO that situation is not a clear cut "that little dog should have been on a leash".
Most certainly I think this statement is ridiculous: "I would like people to have to justify why they "feel worried" about a dog, before it can be classified as dangerously out of control."-> This is what I found in the law on how a dog comes to be considered dangerous: "It is hereby declared for the avoidance of doubt that an order under section 2 of the M1 Dogs Act 1871 (order on complaint that dog is dangerous and not kept under proper control)—
(a)may be made whether or not the dog is shown to have injured any person; and
(b)may specify the measures to be taken for keeping the dog under proper control, whether by muzzling, keeping on a lead, excluding it from specified places or otherwise." So yes, a dog does not have to hurt a person to be considered dangerous, but I don't see anything indicating any single complaint without any proof will be taken as fact. I get the feeling there is some governing body/power behind this and they are the ones that come and see the dog before they mark them as dangerous. Also, if there is a dog that is clearly posturing for a bite but has not yet harmed someone I have no problem with that dog being considered dangerous and required to wear a muzzle/leash and excluded from some places...
Honestly, I agree with jagger on this one. Having a dog of any size is a responsibility and, yes, can be a liability. Having an aggressive dog (to people or other dogs) is a liability. People can be pretty lax about managing their aggressive dogs.
I like the suggestions the link to the animal welfare trust had, which is essentially ensure that your gardens are fenced and safe, ask neighbors to keep their kids out of them, and ensure that mailmen can get to a mailbox or your door without encountering your dog, as well as being sure to manage your dog properly when answering the door.
Hopefully owners will get smarter about management and behavior problems, and hopefully not too many dogs have to suffer their owner's idiocy.