Dog attack plans 'woefully inadequate' say MPs

 
A muzzled and leashed pitbull terrier An estimated 210,000 people are attacked in England every year

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Government plans to protect the public from dog attacks in England are "woefully inadequate", a group of MPs has said.

The law should be "urgently" amended to boost "action on any dog-related antisocial behaviour", the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said.

In a report, the MPs said they were not convinced the government was giving "sufficient priority" to dog control.

Ministers are bringing in compulsory microchipping for all dogs in England.

They have also said the police will have more powers to investigate attacks.

Officials estimate around 210,000 people are attacked by dogs in England every year.

'Public concern'

Five children and one adult have been killed by dogs on private property since 2007 and the NHS spends around £3m a year treating dog attack injuries.

Analysis

Arguments about how government should deal with dangerous dogs go back well over a hundred years.

Defra still regards the 1871 Dogs Act as possibly the most effective piece of dog control law available.

It lets courts rule that individual animals should be controlled or destroyed.

To its critics the Dangerous Dogs Act introduced 120 years later is the epitome of law made in haste in response to media outrage. It banned four breeds after a spate of highly publicised dog attacks.

The current government plans to make microchipping dogs in England compulsory.

But banning some animals and identifying others is one thing.

Stopping irresponsible owners and breeders rearing and keeping aggressive, dangerous dogs is quite another.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has set out plans to make it compulsory for all dogs in England to be microchipped from 2016 and extend laws governing dog attacks to cover incidents on private property.

The Dangerous Dogs Act, which was introduced in 1991 after a spate of fatal attacks, currently only covers the behaviour of dogs on public land - except in Scotland, where the law has been amended.

The committee said the latest proposals "failed to respond adequately to public concern" and were "too limited".

It said it had received a large number of responses from the public to its inquiry, adding that there was a "lack of corresponding commitment" from the government.

"The high number of dog attacks demonstrates that the current legislation on dangerous dogs has comprehensively failed to protect the public from attacks by out of control dogs, many of which have had horrific consequences," the report said.

The committee urged Defra to urgently bring forward a bill to consolidate the "fragmented" legislation relating to dog control and welfare and do more to improve dog welfare linked to dog breeding, instead of relying on voluntary action.

'Neglect'

The MPs recommended that attacks on guide dogs to be treated in the same ways as an aggravated attack on a person and urged the police to be more consistent in prosecuting the owners of dogs who attack livestock.

The committee's chairman, Conservative MP Anne McIntosh, said: "Incidences of cruelty and neglect are rising and many dogs are out of control due to the irresponsible or deliberate actions of a minority of owners.

Start Quote

We hope that Westminster will act on the excellent recommendations in the report and take action ”

End Quote Billy Hayes Communication Workers Union

"The evidence we received from Defra and the Home Office did little to reassure us that either department is giving sufficient priority to dog control and welfare issues."

She said the approach of the Home Office to tackling antisocial behaviour was "too simplistic" and failed to reflect the impact poor breeding and training by irresponsible owners can have on a dog's behaviour.

A Defra spokesman said: "Last week, we announced that all dogs will need to be microchipped by 6 April 2016 to relieve the burden on animals charities and local authorities who deal with over 100,000 stray dogs every year by making it easier to reunite dogs with their owners.

"Giving the police extra powers to investigate dog attacks on private property means we can protect those who have to go into people's homes to do their job. Irresponsible dog owners can also be held to account for attacks, regardless of where they take place.

"The Animal Welfare Act already regulates against poor breeding practices. Anyone found to have caused unnecessary pain or suffering to a dog faces prosecution."

'Failing'

The Communication Workers Union, which has campaigned to raise awareness of dog attacks on postal workers and telecom engineers, welcomed the report as a "strong and clear in its assessment of the failure of current laws".

General secretary Billy Hayes said "This is a far more comprehensive and satisfying response to the problems of dangerous dogs and the limitations of current laws.

"We hope that Westminster will act on the excellent recommendations in the report and take action to introduce preventative measures against dog attacks, such as dog control notices, and to go further in addressing England's failing dogs laws."

In the past 12 months, more than 3,000 postal workers were attacked by out-of-control dogs, with 70% of these incidents happening on private property.

In Scotland, the devolved administration has already tightened dog-control legislation, enabling enforcement officers to impose sanctions on the owners of out-of-control dogs and extending the criminal law on dog control to cover attacks taking place on private property.

Owners may be forced to muzzle their dogs, keep them on a lead, or attend training in dog-control techniques.

In Northern Ireland, dog owners are required to have licences for their dogs, and compulsory microchipping was introduced in April 2012.

The Northern Ireland Executive has also made it a criminal offence to own a dog that attacks and injures somebody else's pet.

The Welsh Assembly Government has consulted on compulsory microchipping of dogs, and although it has yet to announce a formal decision on whether to proceed, it believes there is a "high level of support" for the idea.

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 102.

    Dog ownership should be licensed, applicants should have to sit a fit and proper persons test and the licence granted (and renewedd every 5 years) based on situation - is the home suitable for the breed of dog, children, ability to care for the dog etc. Chipping is a small step in the right direction but more needs to be done to ensure owners are responsible for their pets.

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 101.

    I agree all dogs should be licenced, microchipped and all puppies when bought should be trained properly, brought to a training club, as so many dogs these days are rescued, you have no idea what their backgrounds are, so many are abused and neglected, we need a new law here in the u.k. we need to know that we can go for a walk without being attacked, dogs after all are only what we make them.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 100.

    the responsible dog owner follows all the rules the pick up after there dog they know when to put a dog on a leash and when to muzzle if needed. its the irresponsible owners of dogs there is not such a thing as a irresponsible dog you need to clamp down on the irresponsible chav owners that own attack dogs or use a dog as a status symbol and use them to intimidate guide dogs and the likes

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 99.

    @95villabarmy

    'Are you man enough to kill a yobs dog '

    I'm not suicidal. I'd probably poison it on the q.t. and keep my fiver.

  • rate this
    -25

    Comment number 98.

    surely the easiest and cheapest route is ALL dogs on a lead and muzzled where they are in contact with the public

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 97.

    67.freindleonewhocares
    A dog licence of at least £100 a year per dog rigorously enforced would go a long way to stem the out of control dogs and mindless owners"

    I'm sorry but no. Why should innocent, responsible people be forced to pay yet again because of a minority few? This has become so typical of our society that everyone should pay yet in practice, those who flout the law do not pay.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 96.

    Dogs aren't the problem. They need protecting from humans.
    People treat dogs the way they would like to treat humans if they could get away with it. Observing someone's dynamic with a dog is very telling indeed about that person and an excellent way to discern their true nature. There is strong scientific and anecdotal evidence for this.
    Dogs really are man's best friend.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 95.

    @75
    So Mr loads of money
    Are you man enough to kill a yobs dog and then hand him a fiver(which you have lots of).Big talk hiding behind an e-mail.You would not do it in reality.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 94.

    I have a dog & love him dearly.

    But I know how unpredictable dogs can be. Many have a disliking towards children and I've seen placid dogs turn in a second for no apparant reason at all.

    As owners we have to be responsible, afterall we are talking about decendants of wolves.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 93.

    @79. final word
    I believe all dogs and cats should be licensed

    @87. KURGANCODE
    Dog ownership should be licensed

    Compulsory micro chipping of dogs is effectively a licence. A licence merely allows us to see who owns a dog and is not a test on a persons ability to own a dog, So the whole licence argument is none sense.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 92.

    I have a dog and agree with some comments about the mess but you cant blame the animal its the owner.I dont think the dangerous breeds should be allowed for the general public, but even with them and the dogs that attack its all down to the owners the same as the teenage louts who run riot after a glass of water and some wine gums its how they are taught at home

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 91.

    As unfair as it sounds, the easiest, quickest & cheapest way to tackle this in the SHORT TERM is to make leads compulsory, or face a large fine. Dog taken from owner for repeat offence (3 strikes?). Police can enforce this whilst on the beat a la swearing or urinating offences.

    In the meantime, phase in controlled breeding & compulsory microchips & insurance. Then let dogs off the leads again...

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 90.

    It's irresponsible owners that are the problem. Not the dogs themselves. Responsible dog owners properly train and socialise their dogs and tend not to allow them to run amok attacking people.
    There is no point in demonising particular breeds either. Any dog can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 89.

    A guy near me walks down the road smoking a joint with two bull terriers wandering behind him fowling ad lib he dose nothing who is going to challenge him the police for the drugs no cut back a dog warden no cut back the public scared of the dogs no he dose what he wants unchallenged

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 88.

    Can we not turn this into a petty cats vs dogs debate... and which species fouls the most and has the worst owners etc

    It doesnt advance the discussion... thankyou.

    I think that Dogs are clearly worse than cats when it comes to anti-social behaviour, and having irresponsible owners though.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 87.

    Dog ownership should be licensed in the same manner as firearms with similar penalties imposed on owners if the animal attacks.
    All breeding should be licensed and all dogs sold neutered.
    These animals should be viewed as potential dangerous weapons and if found to be a danger to the public removed from dangerous idiots who own them.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 86.

    Perhaps it's time to put the lives of children above those of dogs.

  • Comment number 85.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 84.

    67.
    freindleonewhocares
    A dog licence of at least £100 a year per dog rigorously enforced would go a long way to stem the out of control dogs and mindless owners.
    The real dog lovers would pay this willingly.
    ***Since the country has a system of vehicle license and insurance which is totally ignored by a significant part of the road users what makes you think all dog owners would comply?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 83.

    The risk of out of control dogs, dangerous dogs and dangerous/incompetent dog owners must be addressed.

    But we must ensure that the responsible dog owner with a nice, well behaved pet that bites a burgler breaking into its owners house is not penalised.

 

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