Criticism over Wales' dog control law drop

Erfan Ali Erfan Ali was attacked by a neighbour's dog which had leapt a garden fence

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Plans for a new dog control law in Wales have been shelved by politicians.

The new law would have given police the power to issue control notices to owners of animals showing dangerous behaviour before an attack.

Currently dog control law is a devolved matter but the Welsh government intends handing power on the matter back to the UK government to avoid confusion with up-coming UK legislation.

Disappointment has been expressed over the decision by several organisations.

The Control of Dogs (Wales) bill would have given dog wardens and police the power to force owners of out-of-control dogs to undergo training.

It would also have allowed them to order the owners to make alterations to private property to ensure the safety of others.

However, neither of these measures are contained in the UK government's alternative which is currently going through Parliament.

VICTIM REACTION

Dilwar Ali, whose six-year-old son Erfan received life-long scars to his face in a dog attack in Cardiff last august, believes the UK legislation is not focused enough on preventative measures.

"Of course I want out-of-control dogs destroyed, and the owners sent to prison, but what I want more than that is for no other child to ever have to go through what Erfan had to," he told the BBC.

"I think there was a better chance of achieving that with the proposed Welsh bill and the way it would have intervened earlier, than there is with the UK one, which seems more bothered about punishment after the fact.

"We have to get away from this idea of banning types of dogs, and finally accept that we need to ban types of owners instead.

"My son was attacked by a Rhodesian ridgeback which still wouldn't be covered by the new UK act, so it's completely pointless."

On Thursday, The RSPCA, the Communication Workers Union, British Veterinary Association and North Wales Police gave evidence to assembly members on the environment and sustainability committee who were debating the proposed hand-back of power on the matter.

Dave Joyce, the national health, safety & environment officer of the Communication Workers Union, said thousands of postal workers were attacked every year and the union was "desperately unhappy" with the decision to suspend work on the Wales bill which he said, was "an opportunity for cleaner, clearer legislation".

He described dangerous dogs as a stand alone issue and said 70% of attacks by dogs are on private property "where the owner is not held to account", and argued that the law needs to be extended to cover private property.

While Sally Burnell, from the British Veterinary Association, said it was "very disappointed" by the decision not to go forward.

Protection

Speaking to the BBC, the chief executive of the RSPCA animal charity Gavin Grant said: "The Welsh government spent almost six months consulting all the interested parties, and as a result came up with a piece of draft legislation which - whilst it wasn't perfect - got to grips with the key issues."

"Through Dog Control Notices, which could have been issued at the first sign of a problem, The Control of Dogs (Wales) bill, offered a golden opportunity to improve animal welfare and public safety alike.

"The UK Government's Antisocial Behaviour, Crime & Policing Bill is nowhere near as focused, and concentrates far too much on punishment rather than prevention," he said.

But in a written statement to the committee, the Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies AM, argued the differences between the proposed UK and Welsh legislation were small, and the public would be protected more quickly through an England and Wales approach.

"It has become clear to me as I have reviewed this work that there may be benefits to working with the UK government to take forward our proposals on a Wales and England basis.

"I have reviewed the provisions of the draft Anti-Social Behaviour Bill published by the Home Office and, whilst I accept many of the criticisms made of this draft bill, I nevertheless believe that it may provide a useful vehicle to fulfil our ambitions."

Several organisations expressed disappointment on 11 July 2013 at the Welsh Government's decision to suspend work on the Control of Dogs (Wales) Bill.

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