London Local Authorities Bill
In September, the Kennel Club and Pet Care Trust successfully petitioned against a clause in the proposed London Local Authorities Bill that would have placed restrictions on dog owners in the London area who wished to walk more than four dogs in London Parks.
This Bill, which was promoted by Wandsworth Borough Council on behalf of all 32 London Borough councils, received its first reading in January 2002 and was finally heard by the Opposition Bill Committee on the 11th and 12th September 2003.
The primary concerns of the KC and Pet Care Trust were that, whilst we were sympathetic to Wandsworths concerns regarding a few professional dog walkers in their parks, ordinary dog owners could also be affected and unfairly discriminated against as a licence would have to be applied for if more than four dogs were to be exercised at once. We were further concerned that this legislation could soon be adopted by other local authorities or even nationally and in the long term could substantially reduce the number of dogs that people could own.
After two days of giving evidence and at times being on the receiving end of intense cross examination from both politicians and the promoters Queens Counsel, the Committee retired to consider the evidence. The conclusion was that the clause needs to be renegotiated so that the law will apply only to dogs being exercised off lead and whilst the final decision has not yet been made, the requirements of the Bill are now likely to be reasonable rather than restrictive.
Much has been learnt from this exercise and it is hoped that in the future legislators will think more carefully before approaching Parliament with a view to introducing legislation with insufficient prior consultation.
Hunting Bill update
Also in September, The Governments Hunting Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Lords, and finally the fate of the dogs, should hunting be banned, was discussed.
The Kennel Club has lobbied for sometime for discussion to take place with regard to this very important welfare issue prior to the legislation reaching the Statute Book, although it appears that Government have now confirmed that many of the dogs will be put to sleep. In August, the Kennel Club organised and hosted a 'Hunting With Dogs' meeting attended by the major animal welfare charities and chaired by Ian Cawsey MP, who also chairs the All Party Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW) in Parliament.
The primary purpose of this meeting was to find a solution to the problem of the fate of the hounds. It is now the group - and Mr Cawsey's intention - to establish a working party consisting of members of APGAW and representatives from the organisations that would be affected by a ban, as more thorough discussion is certainly necessary on this issue.
It is hoped that a number of recommendations will be circulated to Ministers, Members and Peers for their consideration. Furthermore, in light of comments expressed at the initial meeting, the Kennel Club wrote to all the Lords listed to speak during the Hunting debate urging them to consider the fate of the dogs and support Mr Cawsey's 'working party' initiative. The letter requested that the urgent need for an acceptable solution be recognised, and the fate of the hounds fully considered and debated.
It would seem that whilst many members have taken our suggestions on board, unfortunately, Government may have already decided the fate of these dogs.
Fireworks Bill Royal Assent
The Fireworks Bill received Royal Assent in September and the DTI will be consulting next year on draft regulations which will be in place for the 2004 fireworks season.
The main measures of the Act will include the imposition of a noise limit of 120 decibels on fireworks available to the public, the licensing of people who sell fireworks and a ban on the use of fireworks during anti-social hours.
The Kennel Club, as part of the industry based Animal Welfare Fireworks Coalition which includes organisations such as the Blue Cross, RSPCA and GDBA is delighted with the progress of this Bill, which will make a real difference in cracking down on the excess noise and nuisance that so often causes misery to dogs and other animals.
Animals (Electric Shock) Collars Bill
The Kennel Club has long been a supporter of this Bill which, if passed into law, will make it an offence for any person to use, procure or permit the use of an electric collar or similar device on any animal.
This action follows a number of meetings that have taken place regarding the use of electric shock collars, culminating in a joint presentation by David Rendel MP and the Kennel Club to APGAW in April 2002 at the House of Commons. This Bill is supported by other major animal charities including the NCDL and PRO Dogs.
The Bill was scheduled to have its second reading at the end of the last Parliamentary session, however there is a strong possibility that should it be allocated time, its passage will be objected to. This is often done by a Government whip, which indicates that the government does not support the Bill and objects to its passage either out of principle, or for the fact that it is deficient in some way.
The Kennel Club understands that an objection will be raised because the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) do not support the Bill and do not want any new legislation that is separate from the proposed Animal Welfare Bill (AWB). In theory the Kennel Club would welcome this intervention if it could be assured that the projected ban would be encompassed in the AWB, yet from our communication with DEFRA we understand that, while they appreciate our position, they require scientific evidence which supports the cruelty argument.
Once they have such evidence it is likely that it could be included in the new legislation. In light of this the Kennel Club is calling on all concerned dog owners to contact the press office with any evidence to support our position and addresses the concerns of DEFRA.
We expect that our proposal would win widespread support from not just MPs, but the public also, and we should be able to apply considerable pressure on Government to act. If you would like to become proactively involved in this issue, please contact the Press Office on 020 7518 1020, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dangerous Dogs legislation
The KC continues to monitor the spread of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) throughout the world and remains very concerned with regard to this particular issue. Whilst only recently New Zealand Local Government announced that it did not support the breed specific regulations outlined in Government proposals to tighten dog laws, the Italian Government has recently introduced punitive anti-dog legislation, which has branded breeds such as Border Collies, St Bernards and even Corgis as dangerous!
Unfortunately, when deciding on drafting Dangerous Dog legislation, many countries refer to the flawed UK Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and appear to ignore the fact that this legislation simply does not work. In an attempt to further combat the spread of BSL throughout the world, the Press Office is in the process of writing to all overseas KCs to seek relevant contacts to liaise with, as some important lessons have been learnt from the UK, especially with regard to the activities of Domino, a concerned group of canine enthusiasts who operate under the umbrella of the KC. For further information please go to www.dominodogs.org.
The Welsh Assembly
Readers we are sure will be well aware of the well publicised scheme recently implemented by the Welsh Assembly that provides capital grants to farmers who are looking to diversify their regular agricultural business into other areas, with one such area being the breeding of dogs.
The KC has written to Farming Connect Services the body responsible urging them to review this decision, but has only received a standard response, as have the multitude of concerned dog owners who have also drafted letters of protest. In November 2003, representatives from the Kennel Club will be travelling to the Welsh Assembly with other concerned dog owners, to make their feelings known directly to the politicians, with a view to entering into communication with them.