Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Dogs Trust’s response to government’s dangerous dog consultation

Dogs Trust is delighted that the Government has announced a long awaited consultation on measures to tackle the issue of Dangerous Dogs. It has been apparent for many years that the existing Dangerous Dogs Act doesn’t work and that it urgently needs revising to help protect the general public and dog welfare.

Dogs Trust has been lobbying the Government about the benefits of compulsory microchipping for the past twelve months. The charity believes that permanent identification must form a central part of any new dog legislation so it is deeply gratifying that this has been included as part of the consultation. Just a third of dog owners currently have their dog microchipped, but should this become a legal requirement more stray dogs can be reunited with their owners, thus ultimately reducing the 9,000 dogs that are destroyed by Local Authorities every year. A recent survey conducted by Dogs Trust shows that 88% of dog owners would be in favour of such a law.

Similarly compulsory third party insurance is a sensible precaution to protect both human and animal victims of dog attacks. Many household insurance policies will include this as long as the dog is in the insured person’s control at the time. There are also membership schemes such as the one Dogs Trust offers where for just £20 a year, any dog within the household has third party liability insurance up to a million pounds per claim.

There is a real need to extend the existing dangerous dog laws to cover private property as well as public spaces but exemptions will need to be carefully thought through. For example if a dog were to bite an intruder in the home such as a burglar, would their owners be exempt from punishment?

It is really positive to see a joined up approach from Defra and the Home Office in tackling the issue of irresponsible dog ownership. However it is essential that this is regarded as a social rather than a dog issue. It is unacceptable that a young person feels it is necessary to own a dog as a form of protection in order to feel safe on the streets.

In terms of what appears to be missing from the consultation, Dogs Trust would have liked to see the total repeal of all breed specific legislation and more consideration given to the penalties awarded to irresponsible owners including possible custodial sentences. The charity is currently lobbying for the introduction of increased penalties along the lines of dog owner ‘ASBOS’ which firmly place responsibility for the dog’s behaviour on the owner rather than looking at the breed of the dog in question.
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