Government & LegislationRegulation

Select committee finds dangerous dogs legislation ‘fails to protect the public’

A new report by Defra has called for a full-scale review of current dog control legislation and policy after the commons select committee found it “fails to protect the public”.

The inquiry was launched to investigate Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) and wider dog control, amid concerns that the current approach was not protecting the public adequately.

The committee said an alternative dog control model should be developed that focused on prevention through education, early intervention, and consistently robust sanctions for offenders.

The committee’s recommendations to the government are as follows:

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  • Removing the prohibition on transferring banned breeds to new owners. The Committee found the prohibition to be misguided, as it results in the unnecessary destruction of good-tempered dogs that could have been safely re-homed.
  • An independent review into the factors behind dog aggression and attacks, and whether banned breeds pose an inherently greater threat. The committee raised serious concerns about the robustness of the government’s evidence base on BSL, and highlighted evidence showing that some legal breeds can pose just as great a risk to public safety as illegal breeds.
  • Mandatory dog awareness courses for owners involved in low to mid-level offences.
  • A compulsory training course, similar to speed awareness courses for drivers.
  • Awareness campaigns to encourage responsible ownership and improve childhood education on staying safe around dogs.
  • A new Dog Control Act to consolidate the existing patchwork of legislation and provide enforcement authorities with new powers

Neil Parish, chair of the committee, said: “The government’s current strategy for tackling dangerous dogs is well intentioned but misguided. Existing laws and the breed ban have not stemmed the rising tide of injuries and deaths from dog attacks.

“Children and adults are suffering horrific injuries, many of them avoidable. This is unacceptable. The public must be properly protected, and we are therefore calling for a full-scale review of existing dog control strategies.”

British Veterinary Association president Simon Doherty said: “This is a strong endorsement of BVA’s position on dangerous dogs. We are very pleased to see that the report recommends a full-scale review of current dog control legislation and policy to better protect both public safety and animal welfare.

“BVA has long campaigned for a total overhaul of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act because it targets specific breeds rather than deeds and gives a false impression that dogs not on the banned list are ‘safe’, thereby failing to properly protect the public and their pets from attacks.

“Any dog of any size has the capacity to be aggressive and dangerous, particularly when it is not properly trained or socialised, so education about responsible dog ownership is key to reducing these terrible cases of dog attacks we see in the headlines. We hope that the report will lead to robust, fit-for-purpose legislation that effectively tackles individual acts of aggression rather than banning entire breeds.”

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