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Dog Control Bill gets second reading


The second reading of the proposed Dog Control Bill was held in the House of Lords last Friday, tabled by the Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Redesdale.

It was hoped by those involved in putting it together that it would introduce major changes the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, however it was not to be, despite cross party support.

During the reading of the Bill a wide-ranging discussion took place on issues, including the breeds of dogs to be covered by the legislation and the problem of dangerous dogs being used by gangs.
The proposed amendments would take the emphasis off breed specific legislation and place responsibility for dog control firmly on the owners or person responsible for the dog.

Research had shown that the genetics of a dog’s breeding plays only a part in the temperament of the dog, environmental effects and training equally impact on the dogs, in turn affecting its temperament. By placing emphasis on the owner, instead of banning specific breeds of dog, the dog’s behaviour – as well as its treatment by its owner – would be used to determine if it is a risk to public safety under the Dog Control Bill.

Support

The support for the Bill came from Conservative and Liberal Democrat Peers on the basis that it is non-breed specific and would do more to target irresponsible owners and better protect the public. Lord Tyler (Liberal Democrat) highlighted that the Dangerous Dogs Act is quoted to political students as an example of ‘the dangers of knee jerk legislation’ and added ‘breed specific law is bad law; it simply doesn’t work’. Earl Cathcart (Conservative) stated that the DDA was ‘hastily brought in’ and that ‘...you wouldn’t arrest a human based on their looks, so why dogs?’

However, some sections of the Bill did leave a number of grey areas which could be open to misinterpretation and cause concerns, which had been highlighted in Our Dogs previously.

Laura Vallance Senior Public Affairs Officer of the Kennel Club told us: ‘The Kennel Club supported the Bill but did have some reservations and some of the issues of concern to us were debated on Friday. I am sure there will be further discussion in Committee and we will be pushing for amendments to be made to the Bill’.

We asked the Kennel Club about some of these sections. In section 5 it stated that a dog could be seized and destroyed immediately, but in the previous section 4 it stated the owner would be allowed to prepare a defence for the dog. We asked if there could be a situation in which a dog is seized and destroyed before the owner could prepare a defence? Laura Vallance assured us that this is an area that is under discussion but if it was a minor incident the owner and dog would be subject to a control notice - this could be something as simple as requiring dog and owner to go to dog training classes.

As is the case now, dogs would only be seized in the most severe cases.
The Kennel Club had previously raised concerns that this could theoretically lead to the seizure of any dog which attacked a rat or rabbit for example, and had pushed for the Bill to be amended.

Irresponsible

In section 5 sub section 3 it states a dog may be destroyed to protect it from suffering? Could this be a health and welfare issue or is it just a way to stop dog fighting?

If a health and welfare issue could any dog a vet believed was suffering due to an inherited condition be destroyed? Laura Vallance replied that, ‘No- this Bill is about dangerous dogs and this would apply to dogs that were used for fighting I think the important thing to remember about all of this is that the Bill is designed to tackle the irresponsible actions of the minority of people who allow/train their dogs to be aggressive. New legislation is needed that would place more responsibility on the owners of aggressive dogs and to cover the actions of the dog rather than the dog’s breed or type (deed not breed). The emphasis must be on targeting actions irresponsible owners and only them.’

Following the debate, Lord Redesdale agreed to review various parts of the Bill, including removing the clause which would make it an offence to keep a dog that has injured another dog or animal.

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Communications Director, welcomed Friday’s response by the Lords: ‘The debate which took place in the House of Lords is an extremely welcome one. Current legislation is severely flawed and has failed in its attempts to protect the public or reduce the number of pit bull terriers in the UK. The Kennel Club is pleased that Lord Redesdale will now look to amend his Bill at committee stage and we will continue to push for changes on areas of the Bill with which we have concerns.”

The next stage will be a committee meeting in the House of Lords, detailed examination, debate and amendments. This stage takes place in a Public Bill Committee and a date has not yet been set.



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