Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee hears renewed calls for consolidated legislation on dog laws.

The Government has missed a “real opportunity” to consolidate dog control and welfare legislation.

American pit bull.That was the view of expert witnesses when the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (Efracom) last month (April 24) to scrutinise the Government’s Draft Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Bill.

Amendments contained in the bill will enable the prosecution of owners of dogs involved in attacks on private property as well as putting stiffer penalties in place for attacks on assistance dogs.

But police experts and the leaders of various dog welfare charities told the committee that the Government has failed to grasp an opportunity to untangle existing dog legislation.

Alongside the much-maligned Dangerous Dogs Act (1991), there are currently five other key acts in British law relating to dangerous dogs and dog control.

Much of this legislation, including the Dogs Act (1871) and the Metropolitan Police Act (1839), dates back to the 19th Century and could be replaced by a new act covering all aspects of dog control and welfare.

“The situation is difficult in terms of there being so much legislation, said temporary Chief Constable for North Wales Police, Gareth Pritchard, from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

“Forces have dog legislation officers who have specialist knowledge and experience, but many of these cases fall to neighbourhood officers and patrol officers who do not deal with this often but they are often the first on the scene.

“And they do find it difficult. Sometimes they are unaware of the powers they have or do not have and it is clear that some consolidation of legislation would be very helpful.”

ACPO worked with UK dog charities to draft a proposal for a dog control bill that they hoped could lead to the creation of a single piece of legislation, more easily understood by police, the public and courts.

The Blue Cross has long called for consolidation, a stance reiterated at the committee meeting by director of external affairs Steve Goody.

He said: “We are missing a real opportunity to consolidate dog legislation more generally to provide effective welfare measures for dogs and adequate measures to protect the public.

“A consolidated dog control bill would absolutely have given us that opportunity.”

  • For the full article by reporter James Westgate, including comment from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and Dogs Trust, see this week’s Veterinary Times (Vol. 43, No.19)
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