KENNEL CLUB SUPPORTS HOUSE OF COMMONS REPORT ON FAILINGS OF DANGEROUS DOG LEGISLATION
The Kennel Club is pleased to see the publication of the report released today by the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Committee regarding the failings of Dangerous Dog legislation and its inability to protect the public while harming animal welfare.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary said: “The Kennel Club strongly believes that new legislation regarding dangerous dogs is needed and we have long been campaigning for a change in the law to concentrate on the prevention of dog attacks, submitting evidence to Efra to this effect.
“Current legislation focusses enforcement on the physical appearance of the dog and not on the behaviour of the dog or the owner. This means that potentially dangerous dogs are overlooked as they don’t have the appearance of a ‘dangerous’ dog. We want to see legislation that delivers preventative measures at an early stage before anything more serious happens and that doesn’t waste our already overstretched police resources on seizing particular breeds that are labelled as dangerous, regardless of the dog’s behaviour.
“The Kennel Club, along with the other leading welfare charities, developed the ‘Deed Not Breed’ campaign many years ago and as yet Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act, which was created nearly 30 years ago, has not been repealed. Seeking independent evidence on whether one breed of dog or crossbreed presents an inherently greater risk would be greatly welcomed, and the Kennel Club is delighted to see a recommendation to this effect in the report.
“The Kennel Club welcomes the proposal of the introduction of the new dog control notices which would help as part of a preventative strategy as they would allow authorities to take action against irresponsible dog owners at the first signs of their dog displaying aggression. These pre-emptive measures would mean that ‘problem dogs’, and indeed problem owners, could be addressed before a serious incident occurs.
“The Kennel Club acknowledges that the report maintains that evidence is key to developing preventative strategies and in the Kennel Club’s ‘A Dog’s Life’ manifesto a proposal was put forward for government to establish a database of all serious and fatal dog bite incidents and for these to be investigated using the services of a suitable behaviourist to understand the causes and aid prevention. It is reassuring to see this as a measure that the committee has put forward in the report.
“The Kennel Club welcomes this excellent report which we were delighted to contribute to and hopes that the report enables the start for change to help prevent further tragedies occurring from ineffective dangerous dogs legislation across the whole of the UK.”
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Summery of the House Of Commons Report.
The UK is a nation of dog lovers. Whilst the vast majority of dogs pose no threat to the public, concern is growing that the Government’s current approach to dog control is failing to protect people adequately. In 1991 the Dangerous Dogs Act outlawed certain breeds/types of dog to protect the public from attacks, but since then the number of yearly fatalities has continued to rise. Hospital admissions for dog attacks have increased by 81 percent since 2005. An unacceptably high number of victims suffer horrific life-changing injuries in these incidents. Even where no physical injury occurs, dog aggression can cause significant psychological distress. At the same time, too many harmless dogs are being destroyed every year because they are banned and cannot be re-homed, even if they are well tempered and pose no risk to the public.
The Government has maintained that the breed ban is essential to public safety, arguing that these prohibited dogs pose an inherent risk. Our inquiry found insufficient evidence to substantiate this claim. We agree with the Government that it would be irresponsible to amend the breed ban immediately without adequate safeguards. That does not mean that the Government should continue to sit on its hands. Changing the law on Breed Specific Legislation is desirable, achievable, and would better protect the public. The Government’s lack of action on this front shows a disregard for dog welfare.
The current approach to dog control is plagued with deep structural problems. Improvements to public safety that simultaneously safeguard animal welfare can only be achieved through an open-minded engagement with new strategies. This will require time, commitment and political courage. To this end, we call on the Government to:
* Immediately remove the prohibition on transferring a banned dog if it has been behaviourally assessed by experts and found to be safe. This would prevent the needless destruction of friendly animals that could be safely re-homed;
commission an independent evidence review to establish whether the banned breeds/types present an inherently greater risk than any legal breed or cross breed;
* Commission a comprehensive review of existing dog control legislation and policy, with a view to developing an alternative model that focuses on prevention though education, early intervention, and consistently robust sanctions for offenders;
* Ensure all future strategies are developed with a full and transparent commitment to evidence-based policy-making. If the independent evidence review concludes there is insufficient evidence to support the Government’s position on Breed Specific Legislation, this aspect of the law should be revised;
* Introduce mandatory training and education courses for minor dog offences, similar to speed awareness courses for drivers;
* Support wider dog awareness training for schoolchildren, and run a targeted awareness campaign for dog owners and the general public on safe human-dog interaction;
* Increase support for local authorities and police forces to ensure they have the capacity to fulfil their duties; and
* Engage with international partners to learn lessons and best practice from abroad.