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Scottish bill could be ‘blueprint’ for UK

DOG OWNERS who fail to keep their pets under control could face ‘Canine Asbos’ under a new law put forward in the Scottish Parliament last week.

MSP Alex Neil also believes his legislation could serve as a blueprint for the rest of the UK.
The Central Scotland SNP MSP launched his Control of Dogs (Scotland) Bill the day after the funeral of 13-month-old Archie-Lee Hirst, who was killed by his grandparents' Rottweiler on December 28. Referring to the case, Mr Neil said: ‘The recent tragic killing by a Rottweiler of a baby boy in Wakefield serves as yet another reminder that dogs of any breed can act dangerously. We need to focus on the deed, not the breed.’

Mr Neil added: ‘My bill will offer a flexible range of control orders - an Asbo for dogs if you like - which contains practical measures which will stop dogs from getting out of control. Importantly, this bill puts the onus on the owners, not the dogs, to ensure that this does not happen.’

As reported in OUR DOGS last week, it is estimated that across the UK dog attacks have doubled in the past eight years. Scottish police reported 239 cases in 2002, increasing to 623 in 2007.

Dog experts report that most incidents are a result of irresponsible owners and bad training. Mr Neil said there was a ‘gaping hole’ in the Dangerous Dogs Act. By banning specific breeds, the act gave the false impression that dogs not listed were safe, he said.

It also failed to cover attacks in the dog's own home and attacks on other animals.

The Scottish SPCA estimate that anything between 25% and 50% of all people seeking treatments for a dog bite were bitten while trying to stop an attack on their own pet.

The bill has the support of the Scottish Kennel Club, Scottish SPCA, and Advocates for Animals. A senior member of the Metropolitan Police Dogs Unit sat on the working group that helped lay the groundwork for the bill.

Mr Neil said that he hoped the measures could eventually be adopted in England and Wales as well. He said: ‘It is a devolved matter and entirely within the powers of the Scottish Parliament to pass this bill. But passing the bill here will put pressure on Westminster to act as well so, hopefully, this will be a pathfinder for the rest of the UK.’

Scottish SPCA chief inspector Mike Flynn said: ‘Most serious dog-related injuries can be traced back to irresponsible or neglectful owners, so this bill will help protect not only the public but also responsible owners of the most castigated breeds.’

The bill has been put out for a three-month consultation and Mr Neil is inviting all interested parties – particularly individual dog owners to let him have their views on the proposed and current dog legislation.