The campaign to reform the much-criticised Dangerous Dogs Act has been rumbling on for over two decades, and today we have finally heard how the coalition government intend to address the problem of dangerous dogs in our society.
The Blue Cross has been at the heart of this debate over the last few years, promoting measures such as Dog Control Notices, compulsory microchipping and the extension of the law to cover private property, to the government.
The government's proposals are long overdue. Hospital admissions for dog bites have more than doubled since the last 90s, and there have been five fatal attacks on children since 2007. Despite these shocking statistics, and the time taken for the government to consider its options, what has been announced today does not go far enough. The government has made the following proposals-
- To consult on plans to introduce the compulsory microchipping of puppies
- Extension of the Dangerous Dogs Act to cover private property
- Giving the police more discretion with regards to banned breeds being seized and kennelled
- Providing £50,000 for local and community projects involving animal welfare organisations, the police, local authorities and community groups to promote more responsible dog ownership in estates, youth clubs and schools
- Providing £20,000 for the training of expert police dog legislation officers in each force
- Issuing new guidance to help the courts deal more effectively with seized dogs.
We do not think this is good enough. We wanted to see the government introduce a new, practical, consolidated piece of legislation that actually works to prevent dog attacks by introducing Dog Control Notices, measures that would force an owner to take reasonable steps to control their dog after aggression has been demonstrated but before an attack has taken place. These measures could include training, muzzling, microchipping and neutering. Practical, useful actions that would ensure the dog was being kept under better control and not a danger to anyone. The current legislation does not allow action to take place until after an attack has happened, and so it does not adequately protect the public.
We do support the extension of the law onto private property, as thousands of postal workers, midwives, utility workers and others who have to go into people's homes in the course of their duties are attacked by dogs. Allowing an attack to occur in a private home is not currently a criminal offence, which we feel is wrong.
We also support, in principle, the introduction of compulsory microchipping for dogs. However, we are at a loss as to why the government is only consulting on making this compulsory for puppies? Thousands of dogs in the UK are lost or stray every year, the kennelling, rehoming or destruction of these animals costs Local Authorities and welfare charities huge amounts of money. If all dogs were required to be microchipped we could reduce costs, reunite more dogs with their owners, and ultimately improve dog welfare. This is a move in the right direction but we do not understand why the government wants to wait anything up to 15 years before the policy will apply universally. With over 127,000 dogs straying every year, the dogs, the charities and the local councils just cannot wait that long.
We have been working on this issue for a very long time and although we are pleased the government has finally reported, we think this is a missed opportunity to improve both public safety and animal welfare. However, the Blue Cross remains committed to working with other charities and with the government to get this right. The fight goes on.
Pity the Poor Pit Bull Terrier- The Pit Bull Terrier type is perhaps the most abused and misunderstood dog in our society. Bred to fight bulls and other large animals, the breed-type was outlawed in the UK in 1991 when the Dangerous Dogs Act was first introduced. The hope was that Breed Specific Legislation would result in the eradication of the Pit Bull in the UK, which obviously did not happen.
There are now more of these dogs in the UK than ever before, they have become one of the most desired breed-types for certain groups in society. These poor dogs, which are often tremendously loyal, smart and can be excellent family dogs, are abused terribly. Many are denied their five freedoms, used for illegal purposes, dumped, mutilated, or forced to fight other dogs in pits. Many others are owned by perfectly reasonable people and are family pets.
These poor dogs can be picked up by the police as a banned breed, regardless of their behaviour, and are very often destroyed. This is simply because of the way the dog looks and we think this is wrong. We are pleased to see the government announcing a degree of flexibility for the police when dealing with sociable Pit Bull types, but ultimately we would like to see all Breed Specific Legislation repealed.
Not all Pit Bulls are dangerous dogs and not all dangerous dogs are Pit Bulls.