Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Danger dogs crackdown abandoned

By Rob Merrick, The Northern Echo

A CRACKDOWN on dangerous dogs - to protect the public from gangs who brandish them as "weapons" - is set to be scrapped, a government minister has revealed.
A proposal to fit every dog with a £30 microchip, to allow council wardens to trace and destroy illegal breeds, will be dropped as unworkable, MPs were told.
The decision leaves the clampdown pledged by Labour - to tackle growing concern that "status dogs" are being used to intimidate people - in tatters.
Before the general election, Gordon Brown junked the other main plank of the crackdown, requiring every owner to take out third party insurance. The proposal had provoked widespread criticism.
The new coalition government is still analysing the responses to a 12-week consultation, launched in March, but appeared to rule out any new laws, during a Commons debate.
Instead, environment minister James Paice said: "There is a plethora of legislation on the matter - too much, some would argue. It is often a matter of enforcement."
On the issue of compulsory micro-chips, the Conservative minister added: "Our view is that, as with licensing, the people whom we are trying to address would not do it.
"One could argue that dogs found without a microchip would be destroyed, but we would end up with the serious problem of having to destroy a large number of dogs. Again, the majority would be paying for the sins of the minority."
Mr Paice suggested Labour had failed to improve on the much-criticised 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, which already allowed police to seize the likes of pit bull terriers, adding: "We do not see many fighting chihuahuas around."
Pointing to a "dramatic increase" in seizures - from just 42 in 2005, to an expected 1,100 this year - the minister said: "Part of the problem has been lack of enforcement."
The comments were condemned by Luciana Berger, a Labour MP in whose Liverpool constituency a four-year-old boy was mauled to death by a pitbull. She said: "This government needs to wake up and realise the need to take action urgently.
"On its own, micro-chipping is not enough - we also need better education of dog-owners. But unless the government acts, someone else will die because of a dangerous dog."
Under the micro-chipping plan, every dog would carry around with them their name, breed, age and health record, along with their owner's address and phone number.
The details would be stored on a national database, that town halls could tap into. Any owner failing to chip, would be fined or have their dog confiscated.
The insurance plan was quickly abandoned, after the Tories dubbed it a "dog tax" and unveiled posters featuring Gordon Brown as the dog from the Churchill Insurance adverts with slogan: 'A dog tax on five million owners. Oh yes'.

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