The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has welcomed new dog control laws, but warned more work is needed to make the failed legislation effective.
Changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991), which came into force yesterday as part of the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, extend the law to cover incidents on private property, increase maximum sentences for those convicted of dog control offences and offer legal protection to assistance dogs.
BVA has long campaigned for a total overhaul of the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) on the grounds it fails to protect the public and their pets from attacks and targets breeds rather than behaviour.
BVA president Robin Hargreaves said: “We are pleased to see the inclusion of preventive measures in the form of antisocial behaviour tools. These are not the dog control notices we had campaigned for, but we hope they will allow the police and other enforcement agencies to act before attacks take place.
“We welcome the new protection afforded to guide dogs, but are disappointed the opportunity was missed to extend this protection to other animals. Dog attacks on innocent pets have distressing consequences for animals, owners and vets, and can be a precursor to attacks on people.
“We are particularly disappointed the ineffective breed-specific elements of the legislation remain in place, despite evidence they fail to protect the public while stigmatising certain breeds.
“Our members also believe more needs to be done on educating the public if we are to see a reduction in the terrible incidents like those we’ve seen in the headlines in recent years.”
The UK’s largest organisation dedicated to dog welfare, The Kennel Club (KC), also had a mixed response to the new legislation.
Caroline Kisko, KC secretary, said: “The Kennel Club sees these amendments as being extremely positive overall for the welfare of millions of dogs in this country, as well as helping to protect the public and the UK’s responsible dog owners.
“Disappointingly, the issue of breed specific legislation still remains unaddressed, with the Government failing to use the opportunity while amending the Dangerous Dogs Act to repeal this ineffective element of the law.
“The Kennel Club believes in the principle of ‘deed not breed’ and that genetics plays only a small part in the temperament of a dog, with breeding, socialisation and environment having a far greater effect.
“Consequently, any legislation based on genetics that ignores the influence of the dog’s keeper on its behaviour is highly likely to be ineffective, as has been proven with the Dangerous Dogs Act.”