Animal welfare organisations and veterinary professionals today joined forces to condemn the much-criticised Dangerous Dogs Act – and demand its replacement by harder-hitting dog control legislation concentrating on prevention, rather than cure.

Animal welfare organisations and veterinary professionals today joined forces to condemn the much-criticised Dangerous Dogs Act – and demand its replacement by harder-hitting dog control legislation concentrating on prevention, rather than cure.

Many claim 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 per cent in London and 43 per cent nationally.

Meanwhile, costs have continued to rise; it was revealed that £10m has been spent by the Metropolitan Police alone in the past three 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 what it believes are 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 (July 9). Many feel this bill would consolidate previous legislation and better protect the public by targeting the cause of dog attacks, namely dog owners.
 
Lord Redesdale said: “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 would introduce major changes to current dangerous dog legislation. These changes include:
 
* More emphasis on the owners’ responsibilities, with the bill supporting 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 that take place on private property would also become a criminal offence. The bill features various exemptions, such as being attacked by another animal, provocation, and attacks on individuals committing an offence for which they could be imprisoned.
 
* Legislation would no longer be breed specific. 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.
 
The DDASG has been working closely with Lord Redesdale in support of his Dog Control Bill and has long been calling on the Government to repeal the current legislation. The group believes the breed-specific nature of current legislation has caused it to fail, and that focusing on individual breeds has failed to prevent a large number of dog attacks, or reduce the number of pit bull terriers in the UK.
 
DDASG chairman Chris Laurence, veterinary director of Dogs Trust, said: “We firmly believe 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 here

 

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