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New Control Act raises concerns


The new Control of Dogs order going through the House of Lords has raised concerns from a number of dog owners, who feel that this piece of legislation might not be as straight forward as it at first appears. Some have even likened it to the Dangerous Dogs Act in that it is badly worded and badly thought out. Others have likened it to the Pedigree Dogs Exposed programme which claimed that good responsible breeders had nothing to worry about from the programme yet we all know that we have in fact suffered in some way or another.

The act is supposedly designed to make dog owners responsible for the actions of their dogs and to define what constitutes responsible ownership. In section 1:(1) the act states that the person responsible for the dog is responsible whether “on a temporary or permanent basis”. 1:(2) Refers to a person in charge of a dog being responsible for it. Does this mean that if an owner employs a dog walker and an incident happens while the dog is in the dog walkers charge the dog walker is responsible as well as the owner? 1:(3) & 1:(4) state that the dogs owner or the parent of the dogs owner is responsible for the dog. Section 4:(4) certainly seems to have implications for dog walkers, as it says that if the owner of the dog can prove he or she was not in charge of their dog but a responsible person was that they believed to be reasonably believed to be a fit and proper person to be in charge of the dog. Section 4:(5) does at least allow for an owner to appeal against a destruction order which may have been placed on the dog due to an incident occurring while in the charge of another person.

The control definitions appear in section 2 of the act, and while some of the rules are obviously aimed at some of the young thugs who go around in gangs and use the dogs as a status symbol, or to intimidate others, it is not clear in other areas, which have caused a number of readers to comment that it might be that an over zealous enforcement officer might issue a control order to an owner of a dog which might have acted in a defensive way.


Responsible

Section 2 (a) states that no person shall allow a dog for which they are responsible to be aggressive in a public or private place. Is a private place to include the enclosed garden where the dog resides, and if it is then what happens if a dog gives chase to a cat?

Section 2(e) does not allow a person to keep a dog which has attacked another animal, and here this has caused concern because it may be that a dog which has bitten another dog for example may have done it self defence, and where as the act in section 4:(3) says it shall be a defence for a person charged to prove that the dog was provoked into an attack, the attack was in self defence, was a service dog or the attack was on a trespasser, this might end up as two owners and their dogs become involved in a dispute where it is the word of one owner against that of another.

Would both owners be given control orders or would the enforcement officer have to judge the situation? If the latter then certain breeds such as Staffords and Stafford crosses may suffer, as might many rescue dogs who may have need of retraining before being re-homed.
Section 2’s other clauses relating to dog fighting, and using dogs to intimidate other people, no responsible owner would disagree with, and these clauses may even help animal welfare officers, such as Dog Wardens, the RSPCA and the police to actually save many dogs from a life of suffering at the hands of callous owners.

Section 3 opens with Control notices, and explains the controls open to the enforcement officers. In section 3:(1) it appears that the enforcement officers may be put in a position where they will have to try to predict whether or not a dog is likely to be a problem at some point in the future. So is an officer expected to serve an order on an owner based on speculation as to the dogs potential to attack a person or another animal?

While this is not breed prescriptive it is none the less going to affect some breeds and breed types more than others. Section 3:(2)(f) states that an enforcement officer can arrange for the dog to be rehomed, which if the dog is in the wrong hands would benefit the dog, but who is to judge an owner, and their capability for handling the dog? Are the officers expected to speculate that the owner might not be capable of training the dog, even though sub section (e) allows for the officer to arrange for the owner and dog to attend training classes. Would training be tried as a first option?

Section 4 looks at the penalties which face an owner and the dog if a control order is broken. Sub section (d) allows for a dog to be ‘destroyed’ in certain circumstances, and this is a worry owners who get embroiled in a dispute, where it is one persons word against anothers in a dog on dog attack situation. If a dog has previously been attacked by another dog and is approached by a another dog who then starts an attack, could both dogs be destroyed? Or is this another area where in a dispute the enforcement officer has to judge like “Solomon” and decide which dog was at fault?

The act has worrying aspects in section 5 which detail the powers to seize and destroy dogs. In subsection (3) it says that a dog once seized can be destroyed before the case let alone an appeal can be destroyed. Imagine an innocent dog is not shut up in kennels as happens now under the DDA but could now be seized and destroyed straight away! What would happen if the dogs owner appealed and won the case? Are they to get some form of compensation, not that grief at the loss of a much loved dog can ever be compensated for.


Accident

Section 7 of the act underlines the fact that a dog does not have to actually attack, maul or injure any other animal or a person, as long as there is the apprehension that it might it is to be regarded as dangerously out of control. The reference to ‘injure any person or animal’ does not stipulate how this injury might come about. Is a dog dangerously out of control if it is excited and greets a person and accidently knocks them over?

While the1871 Dogs Act, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1994 and the Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997 are repealed it is believed by many responsible dog owners that this act could as one reader put it, “Contain more mischief than any that has gone before”. We can only hope that common sense will prevail and that the enforcement officers will not be over zealous, and will have the insight to do what is best for the dog in each individual case.

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This is so ill thought out and worded it is unreal!!!why dont they actually talk to dog people and find their views on how to sort out the wheat from the chaff with responsible ownership???

Lynn


Well here we go again.... badly thought out and quickly put through new control acts..and for a anti dog person they must be laughing....
 
My dogs are in their own garden and if somebody broke into/entered without being allowed and they were prevoked then said person has the right to complain even at the worst insist they were being attacked... totally insane....  who actually puts these inforce.. how about an act that allows a home owner to defend themselves against an intruder without being found guilty.. maybe then we might have a more civilised environment...
 
Strikes me if you are an intruder of any sort the law is on your side...

Jane



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