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 802.

    Never under estimate the warmth of a cold nose!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 801.

    787.
    TDL76 Both are obscene.
    4x4's and other gas-guzzlers hogging the roads are completely unnecessary - given the state of the climate - and anti social.
    "Blokes" with dangerous dogs, often used as weapons, making up for "inadequacies" elsewhere?
    Choice?
    Yes, but not at the expense of riding roughshod over the majority of reasonable, law-abiding people.
    No consideration for others at all!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 800.

    785. Blaer
    Government enacts these laws.
    So the blame lays there.

    Those people who administer the needles are mere outsourced private contractors of the government.

    Who enforces compliance if you don't comply with the law?
    Um, let me think... the government? Correct!

    Now, can you finally answer the question I posed to you. Should innocent private property be violated by a government needle?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 799.

    Reading some of the incoherent hate-filled rants on here makes me realise why I prefer the company of my dogs to that of most people. I'm sure other dogs owners will understand.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 798.

    There's a distinct lack of balance in many comments. Dogs do need to be controlled and ultimately the owners (myself included) held responsible. Good training (of dogs and owners) helps enormously. Greater enforcement is required but this needs to be resourced.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 797.

    make straying an offence £75 fine, licence all dogs £25 per dog per year, payable to local authorities, wardens would be funded by the fee, free service

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 796.

    I remember the RSPCA campaining against the banning of certain breeds and with their support the Dangerous Dogs Act was watered down. Ever since then I have not donated anythign to that organisation and never will. I put the lives of mine and otehrs children before that of any dog. Thanks to the RSPCA we still have dangerous breeds killing our children

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 795.

    When I read the intro "Dog attacks action plan" I wondered why we cared what the opinion of a dog was.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 794.

    This is brilliant, all the comments back and forth! Everyone seems to forget you can have as many rules and laws in place as you want, it will never work if you cant police it!!! We need to start but there is no money!!!

    Dog owner for 30 years, everyone's favorite type the Staffordshire Bull Terrier

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 793.

    98. doomas38

    Exactly right, including fox-hounds.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 792.

    Anyone remember the self righteous man from Harry Enfield in the pub. Some of the comments on here would make great material for that.

    He'd push everything to the extreme and then say what he would do about it. Winding himself up into a frenzy where he lost all sense of reality.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 791.

    With reference to the tone of many comments: Many people should be restrained when in public, banned from most public places, and be dealt with severely when drunk out of their minds, vandalising anything, being violent or abusive towards those people pursuing a harmless life etc etc.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 790.

    I predict they will end up killing dogs when they don't find a microchip. Which is worrying considering that microchips fail or migrate, and there are different brands of chip and readers that are not compatible.

    Maybe we should chip the irresponsible owners instead.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 789.

    further to 785
    According to the Dogs trust whilst the majority of dogs are already chipped, the majority of the annual 100,000 lost dogs are not chipped & 7000-9000 pa are currently put down by councils as a result. They say that compulsory chipping should dramatically reduce that number & also will make it easier to identiify owners culpable of animal cruelty

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 788.

    All dogs now in public places over a size should always be muzzled and all dogs in public always on a lead, no matter what breed of dog.
    All dogs now need to chipped and also bring back a dog licence of say £250 per dog smaller size and larger dogs £550 and give police powers that they need to bring in fines or destroy any dog in any attack no matter what. Make it pay in fines for dog wordens.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 787.

    @ 786. andyrwebman

    for the very same reason why people buy 4x4's or other huge cars - Personal choice!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 786.

    For all that many - including professionals - stress the importance of raising a dog correctly, I have to wonder why it's ever necessary to have big powerful dogs with jaws that can crunch through bone and huge teeth.

    If the owner fails to raise the dogs right, I'd rather it be a chihuahua than a rottweiler. And if you want a family dog, why have a bull terrier?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 785.

    @769.Bastiat
    .. Is it fair that a man from the government comes along and sticks a needle in this person's private property (to microchip them onto a government database),

    chipping is done by dog owners Vet or Dogs Trust Personnel not Govt, the info is held on private sector databases not Government. It was The Dogs Trust who argued for chipping to be made compulsory rather than government

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 784.

    @kitty 776 also may i add my father had 3 black labs when i was younger 2 of which were lovely natured and one that had to be well controlled because it was aggressive,all brought up in the same family envoirement! DEvery dog is different .. food for thought maybe?..regards

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 783.

    To dog owners:
    I dont know your dog is not going to attack when he runs at me and jumps up. I will therefore assume he is being hostile and kick it hard if it approaches.
    By not controlling your dog and keeping it on a lead, you are consenting to this sensible precautionary approach.
    Also, if it defacates on public property, you should be made to eat it.

 

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