Animal welfare organisations, veterinary professionals and local authorities today joined forces to condemn the much-criticised Dangerous Dogs Act, demanding that it must be replaced by a hard-hitting new Dog Control Bill focusing on prevention rather than cure.
Existing legislation has failed to reduce the number of dog bite incidents in the UK, which have risen in the past five years by 79% in London and 43% nationally*. Meanwhile costs have continued to rise; it was revealed that 10 million pounds has been spent by the Metropolitan Police alone in the past 3 years simply to implement Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act, relating to the seizure, kennelling and euthanasia of banned breeds.
The Dangerous Dogs Act Study Group (DDASG) has lobbied against the inadequacies of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 for many years and members of the group are now backing a new Dog Control Bill proposed by Lib Dem Peer Lord Redesdale, which will receive its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday (9th July). This Bill would consolidate previous legislation and better protect the public by targeting the cause of dog attacks – dog owners themselves.
Lord Redesdale commented: “People deserve to feel safe around dogs and this Bill goes a long way towards protecting the public through tougher action against irresponsible dog owners. The current law has done nothing but make banned breeds and their lookalikes more appealing and created the issue of status dogs because they are a status symbol.
“Owners of aggressive or violent dogs of any kind would be brought to account with this Bill, which in turn will prevent a large number of attacks by dealing with problem behaviour at the first signs of aggression rather than when an attack has taken place, as in current legislation”.
If passed, the Bill will introduce major changes to current dangerous dog legislation, which is widely considered to be one of the most ineffective pieces of government legislation ever brought into force. These changes include:
- More emphasis on the owner’s responsibilities – the Bill supports the principle that it is the owner who has the potential to make a dog either well-behaved or badly-behaved. It gives authorised officers the powers to place Dog Control Notices on irresponsible owners at the first signs of dog aggression.
- Attacks which take place on private property would also become a criminal offence – a large number of dog attack incidents occur within the home and on private property. The Bill includes various exemptions such as being attacked by another animal, provocation, and attacks on individuals committing an offence for which they could be imprisoned.
- Legislation will no longer be breed specific – since the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, public money and resources have been wasted by already overstretched police authorities seizing dogs simply for being of a particular breed or type. Research now overwhelmingly supports the principle of ‘deed not breed’, and proves that genetics (breed) play only a limited part in the temperament of an individual dog, with environment and training having a far greater effect.
DDASG Chairman Chris Laurence, Veterinary Director of Dogs Trust, said: “We firmly believe that the Dangerous Dogs Act needs to be overhauled to better protect the public and that a new dog control regime that emphasises responsible dog ownership should be introduced.
“The Dog Control Bill supports the principle that it is people, not the dogs themselves that make dogs dangerous. Lord Redesdale’s Bill would allow people to be better protected from dangerous dogs with tougher action taken against irresponsible dog owners.”
The Dangerous Dogs Act Study Group has also launched a petition supporting Lord Redesdale’s Dog Control Bill which already has almost 10,000 signatures. The petition can be found at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/repeal-and-replace-the-dangerous-dogs-act.html