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.


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.


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."


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

    Comment number 502.

    Overall I would say dog owners ....generally do not lack empathy with other humans
    Yes, they do. Why keep dogs in the first place? That is weird in itself, except if you live in the countryside or need a guide dog. They put their dogs over humans, especially children. What are they compensating for?

  • Comment number 501.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    454.Lou Kizhe NHS total cost 100 billion for England alone, cost of dog bites 3 mil = 0.003% of budget

    imbecillic straw man argument, i didn't say cost to NHS was large relative to its entire expenditure. The fact remains that fatalities due to dog attacks are low but the number of attacks is high & there is a significant cost attached to them as in millions of pounds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    I worked in dog rescue and rehabilitation for over 25 years, and especially in the large molosser /mastiff types. I 've encountered quite a few "ferocious/dangerous " dogs. But I must say that in all honesty I not encountered one that could not be attributed to poor ownership, ignorant ownership or downright moronic ownership. Any legislation must punish this element not the animal.

  • Comment number 498.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    Sorry, but am I missing something here? They smell, drool, hunt in packs and urinate in the street, how do you expect their dogs to behave better?

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    486.Jon Wayne
    'Nope, just get rid of the dogs, the most decadent domestic animal ever. Ban them all from cities, apart from guide and sniffer dogs'

    In perspective there's a thousand things that need to happen before we start worrying about dogs. e.g deport all foreign criminals & their families, imprison all convicted muggers & burglars for minimum 10yrs, etc etc etc etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    Stop giving licences to any 'Tom, Dick, or Harry' and start by only giving a provisional licence to families wherein local authorities have knowledge of whether they really are suitable owners. When a dog attacks any human ensure it is first put down; and, the owner is charged with major assault, plus, the keeping a dog outwith of their control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    "The consequences........". Ban the cars, especially red ones."

    Better still, ban the pedestrians and anyone whose life is incomplete without a phone glued to their brain.Cars are harmless. No car ever attacked anyone.Only some drivers cause the problem.A car is for a purpose - transport. A dog serves no purpose and owning one is a lifestyle choice like smoking. Neither is compulsory.

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.

    thoughts... what if a licence was brought back in but the money raised was set aside for dog purpose made/maintained walking areas, would this appeal? Maybe this cost would dissuade the inappropriate owner while benefiting the good owner & pet?

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.

    480.Mayna The point is about why 2 deaths per year even registers with the public consciousness, it does so because a minority wish to blow the problem out of all proportion to roll out draconian controls. NHS deaths & dog deaths are not apples & pears from a public safety point of view. An estimated 100k extra die post op & our leaders are dealing with 2 dog deaths. Don't you find that stupid?

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    @Jon Wayne

    'Nope, just get rid of the dogs, the most decadent domestic animal ever'

    In fairness that would have to be the cat. Dogs do have some potential uses. Sheepdog. Gundog. Foxhound. Greyhound. Terrier.

    Cats on the other hand? They're for people who would like a pet but are too bone idle to look after one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    473 JohnWayne & others
    Overall I would say dog owners are superior as they generally do not lack empathy with other humans and creatures and strive for understanding.
    Totally opposite to the haters who freely spew their vitriole and show themselves as the selfish sociopathic animals they really are.
    People without compassion are not really people worth knowing or listening to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    our children should be taught how to behave around dogs, for their own safety and the safety of the dog.
    Dogs aren't equal to humans, if they can't adjust to society, there is no place for them in it. Do you want to teach deer how to deal with the Fentons of this world as well?

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    Don't blame the dogs so much as ther numpties who own them, the biggest problem is some people have dogs as weapons for street cred so unless u can stop them having these animals in the first place, also an enforced on the spot large fine if the dog is off the lead & or not muzzled might get the point over otherwaise most people don't worry as the Police aern't interested right now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

    As many dog owners will tell you their dog is already chipped and insured. Mine is. He is always on a lead in public too, even though he is the softest, most gentle animal on the planet. Dog haters on here are determined to lump ALL dog owners together. Good owners are worried about the aggressive dogs of thugs, just as much as everyone else you know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    All normal human beings need to stay indoors until the threat has been passed ;-)
    Nope, just get rid of the dogs, the most decadent domestic animal ever. Ban them all from cities, apart from guide and sniffer dogs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    "The high number of car accidents demonstrates that the current legislation on road traffic has comprehensively failed to protect the public from cars by out of control drivers, many of which have had horrific consequences.". Ban the cars, especially red ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    474. FrankVine
    "If they were tiny then people would fumigate against them."

    Well, if we're deciding which species deserves to live and which to die, if I was an alien I would fumigate us first. Based on damage to the planet, damage to ourselves, damage to other species and over consumption of resources.

    Even so I don't think we deserve that and neither do dogs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    473.Jon Wayne
    'You have to admire dog owners for their total and utter conviction that they are somehow superior to non-dog owners, who in their view are simple morons just for not owning a dog'

    Danger, danger - Inferiority complex on the loose.

    All normal human beings need to stay indoors until the threat has been passed ;-)


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