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Assembly to debate attacks

Legislation on dangerous dogs in Northern Ireland is to be reviewed, following Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew’s address to the assembly on Tuesday.

She also said there were issues concerning the enforcement of the existing laws. The minister said she wanted to discuss the enforcement of the laws with both the police and the councils to see an end to dog attacks and dog fighting.

In a move which appears to be unavoidable following the recent media highlight of ‘dog on dog’ violence alot of which centre on Northern Ireland, Ms Gildernew pointed out that she had found the issues, as so graphically highlighted in the media, totally abhorrent and agreed that steps should be taken to rid society of ‘this scourge’.

She told the assembly, “I intend to carry out a review of the legislation and end this evil act in a coherent and considered manner.”

The motion, aimed at strengthening dangerous dog legislation in Northern Ireland, was proposed by Alliance MLA Naomi Long.

She said while dog attacks on livestock were treated as criminal offences, attacks on other pets were not. Ms Long, Alliance deputy leader, said that the ‘aggressive behaviour should still be of serious concern’.

She also aired the view that a fair number of dog on dog attacks had actually taken place in public, where people could be put at considerable risk.

‘We need to examine levels of control that dogs are kept under while in public places’, she said, adding that more attention should be given to the behaviour of dogs and their owners rather than banned breeds.

Ulster Unionist assembly member Tom Elliott said it was an important issue, but that any change to the law must not target responsible owners, a call which will hearten most people who feel ill at ease with recent calls to ban certain breeds

Mr Elliott said: “People here love animals, and as such any increased legislation upon the control of dogs must be respected by the people or it will fail," he said. “That is why it is vital that caring dog owners whose pets pose no threat must not suffer from legislation.”

OUR DOGS contacted Mr Nick Hammond, the Chairman of the Irish Kennel Club on this subject. Mr Hammond confirmed that the IKC had taken this whole area very much to heart and not only are they fighting any breed specific legislation, but are actively involved in promoting responsible dog ownership in a number of ways.

Mr Hammond said, "We recently have met with the Irish Minister of Education Mary Hanifin to discuss the promotion of responsible dog ownership, starting with junior schools and then looking at a good citizen dog scheme. This meeting also developed our ideas further and we have subsequently been in consultation with Mr John Gormley, the Minister of the Environment on the subject of BSL. Any moves that encourage responsible dog ownership, whilst tackling clear misuse of dogs in fighting or whatever, have to be welcomed".

Mr Hammond also confirmed that the IKC had recently welcome Mr Jimmy Cahill, of the DSPCA (Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to a meeting with the Irish Kennel Club to make progress on key issues.