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New Act ‘won’t be worse than DDA’

THE KENNEL Club has expressed disappointment at recent reports claiming that the KC was backing new dog control legislation that could be worse than the Dangerous Dogs Act that it would replace.

The report claimed: ‘The draft Bill, which the KC and Metropolitan Police hopes will take the place of the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA), is likely to introduce measures allowing authorities to seize dogs who may cause trouble before they actually do. Under possible new clauses, dogs could be taken away and put to sleep if it is deemed necessary.

Despite suggestions that a new law would be fairer to dogs, some of the proposed new powers are already causing unease among owners who fear that such a piece of legislation could have even more sinister overtones than the DDA.’

Several experts have been working on the draft legislation, including well-known canine law solicitor Trevor Cooper and PC Peter Tallack of the Metropolitan Police. The report goes on to say that Tallack and Cooper were working on a draft law following a meeting of the Dog Legislation Advisory Group and that the proposed new law was to be called the Control of Dogs Act.

A KC spokesman is quoted as saying: ‘The group thoroughly discussed the current Dogs Act 1871, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the revised legislation that the group is working on. We will now re-write this and entitle it the Control of Dogs Act. This will then be circulated around the group for comment.

‘The group will write to Ministers Gerry Sutcliffe and Ben Bradshaw to update them on the work of the Dangerous Dogs Act Study Group [part of DLAG].’The group has now reached an agreed position and will be meeting again in three weeks’ time to discuss the proposed Control of Dogs Act.’

It is claimed that the new legislation would allow dog owners to be prosecuted for incidents involving their dogs that happen on private property, and also introduce an element of ‘sus law’ whereby people could report a dog held on private property on the suspicion that it may be dangerous of cause problems.

Judge and behaviourist Mike Mullan was quoted as saying: ‘It really worries me that legislation is being considered that will allow a dog owner to be fined and/or imprisoned because somebody thought it might be dangerous on its own property.’

However, Phil Buckley, External Affairs Manager of the Kennel Club was quick to hit back at the claims, saying:

‘We saw the report on the proposed draft Control of Dogs Act and were somewhat disappointed by the negativity portrayed. We feel that the draft produced will do much to address the current problems of the DDA by, for example, making owners more responsible for their individual dogs actions and authorities becoming proactively involved prior to an incident occurring, which currently is not the case. All organisations involved are of course pro-dog and all agree that something needs to be done in advance of the Government considering knee jerk legislation without consultation once again.

‘This new legislation will better protect the public, responsible owners and their dogs. Another meeting has been arranged for the end of the month to finalise the draft and a press release will be issued shortly after this meeting. We then intend to approach politicians and Ministers.’

Although the KC and DLAG are remaining tight-lipped about the specifics of the proposed new law, it is understood that while it will replace the DDA it will also replace the Dogs Act 1871.

It is believed that the Metropolitan Police wish to retain the means – currently within the DDA’s Sections 1 and 2 - to seize dogs bred for fighting. It is believed that this part of new Act may be written to merely state ‘dogs kept and/or bred for fighting’.

Whether any breed specific elements would remain on the statute books is unclear.

Phil Buckley added: ‘The Dangerous Dogs Act Study Group is disappointed that speculation appears to be already rife. We really want to get this absolutely right prior to approaching politicians and the media and would urge all to please be patient with us for a while longer. This is a very important issue for dogs and owners and we of course have their best interests at heart.’

DLAG is due to meet again on November 30th, after which time the final agreed draft proposal will be passed to the Home Office and DEFRA for the Ministerial attention and possible further action.