Dog Control and Welfare - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Dog Control

1.  The high number of dog attacks demonstrates that the current legislation on dangerous dogs has comprehensively failed to protect the public from attacks by out of control dogs, many of which have had horrific consequences. We were disappointed that the Minister was unable during our oral evidence session last October to provide the Committee with either detailed or comprehensive answers on a range of dog control and welfare issues. His evidence has done nothing to reassure us about the priority that Defra gives to this important issue. We believe the current approach set out by the Government is too simplistic and does not take adequate account of the importance of preventative action to deal with irresponsible dog breeders. (Paragraph 17)

2.  Defra's consultation failed to reflect widespread public concern about irresponsible dog ownership, and its proposed measures announced in February 2013 were woefully inadequate. We recommend that Defra undertakes urgently a comprehensive consolidation of the legislation relating to dangerous dogs so as to provide a clear statutory basis for taking action on irresponsible dog owners. As a precursor to this, Defra should consult the Law Commission on the opportunities for the Commission to prepare a consolidation of dog control legislation. (Paragraph 18)

3.  We recommend that the Government frames clear guidance for law enforcement officers and the Crown Prosecution Service enshrining Ministerial assurances that the application of measures under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to offences taking place in private places will not protect trespassers. Defra should publish draft clauses as soon as possible for full consultation. (Paragraph 24)

4.  We endorse the Government's proposals to require dog owners to microchip their dogs, principally in view of the likely welfare benefits. We welcome the Government's recognition that it is essential to require all dogs, not only puppies, to be microchipped in order to deliver the benefits over a reasonable timescale and to enable effective enforcement. Defra should publish the details of what it proposes as soon as possible. (Paragraph 34)

5.  Defra must liaise closely with enforcement agencies, including the police and local authorities, to ensure that officers are fully aware of the new provisions. It must also ensure that the public is made aware of the requirement, utilising all potential channels including via partners such as local authorities, veterinary practices, police forces and animal welfare charities. Furthermore, to ensure widespread compliance, arrangements must be made to ensure that low-cost microchipping services are provided to those less able to afford to microchip their pets or those owning assistance dogs. (Paragraph 37)

6.  We recommend that the responsibility for the accuracy of data held on a dog microchipping database be placed with the owner of the dog being sold or transferred such that the onus is on the current owner to ensure that the new owner's details are provided correctly when the dog is transferred. (Paragraph 39)

7.  We conclude that microchipping a dog provides a more reliable method of linking it to its owner than a licensing regime since the microchip stays with the dog at all times and can hold all the necessary data to enable enforcement agencies to identify the dog's owner. Furthermore, we do not consider it practical or proportionate to introduce a scheme under which a potential dog owner would be required to meet conditions before being licensed. (Paragraph 43)

8.  We are concerned that the number of stray dogs has risen considerably in recent years and we recognise the strain that managing the problem places on tight local authority finances. Nevertheless, it is vital for both public safety and dog welfare reasons that dog warden services are adequately resourced. Failing this, it will be necessary for the Government to consider a return to the police of statutory responsibility for stray dogs. (Paragraph 47)

9.  We recommend that the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 be amended to enable the Secretary of State to add other types of dog with particularly aggressive characteristics to the list of banned types from time to time. We further recommend that Defra, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice consider how, in individual cases where there is clear evidence that a dog of a banned type poses no threat, discretion might be applied to require the dog to be neutered rather than destroyed. (Paragraph 56)

10.  In view of the potentially disproportionate costs to responsible dog owners, and the likelihood of a high level of non-compliance by irresponsible owners, we do not support a requirement for owners to obtain third-party insurance against their dog attacking a person or animal. (Paragraph 59)

11.  The Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 must be amended to provide protection to the full range of livestock now farmed, such as camelids. (Paragraph 62)

12.  Enforcement agencies must give greater priority to responding to complaints of attacks on livestock and take a more consistent approach to prosecuting offences. (Paragraph 63)

13.   We recommend that the legislation be amended such that an attack by a dog on an assistance dog be equated with an attack on a person and be unequivocally considered an aggravated attack. (Paragraph 65)

14.  We recommend that Defra and the Home Office legislate to introduce Dog Control Notices, using as a model Dog Control Notices introduced in Scotland. This will provide the police and local authorities with a comprehensive and tailored set of powers for tackling all aspects of dog-related crime and antisocial behaviour ranging from the illegal breeding of dogs, including so-called 'status dogs', to the training of aggressive dogs. (Paragraph 73)

15.  We are concerned about the apparent lack of priority given by the Home Office to dog-related issues which are to be subsumed within a generic framework for tackling antisocial behaviour and crime. Further, we are concerned that the split in responsibility for dog-related issues between the Home Office and Defra could lead to a fragmented approach which could be less effective at tackling both dog control and dog welfare issues. (Paragraph 76)

16.  Agencies such as the police and local authorities need a clear set of powers to tackle dog-related antisocial behaviour and crime. If Defra is not to be given the opportunity to introduce consolidated legislation, as we recommend above, the Department must be given sufficient locus in Home Office policy development on antisocial behaviour and crime such that Government proposals take into full account dog welfare needs and the impacts of how dogs are bred and reared on dog behaviour. (Paragraph 77)

17.  We recommend that those agencies responsible for enforcing dog control legislation, including the police and local authorities, provide their staff with full training in dog welfare and control practices so as to enable better protection of themselves and the public from an out of control dog whilst having regard to the welfare of the dog. (Paragraph 80)

18.  We recommend that Defra assess the cost-benefits of funding dog welfare charities to provide greater support to local authority antisocial behaviour teams and other bodies working at a local level to enable them to give sufficient attention to dog-related problems when dealing with multi-faceted antisocial behaviour and crime. (Paragraph 85)

Dog Welfare

19.  The current threshold for licensing breeders, which is set at five litters per year, could equate to some 40 to 50 dogs being produced by each breeder each year. We consider that threshold is too high and therefore recommend that anyone breeding more than two litters per year should be licensed as a breeder. (Paragraph 94)

20.  We recommend that Defra and other agencies such as local authorities and dog welfare charities work together to publicise puppy contracts and make buyers aware of the need to buy only from reputable sources and to ensure basic conditions are met, such as always seeing a puppy with its mother. (Paragraph 97)

21.  We recommend that Defra works with websites and with other Government departments, including the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, initially to develop a voluntary Code of Practice to which it should encourage any internet site offering dogs or puppies for sale to adhere. This Code should establish minimum requirements for any listing of a dog or puppy for sale on the internet, such as pre-registration of the seller so that they can be identified at a later date if necessary and setting a minimum age of eight weeks for any puppy sold. (Paragraph 101)

22.  We recommend that the Kennel Club refuse to register puppies that do not meet the conditions of its Assured Breeder Scheme so as to send a strong signal to breeders about the need to adopt high health and welfare standards. The Assured Breeder Scheme should require key tests for heritable health problems to be undertaken and the results of these tests applied to breeding decisions as a condition of membership of the Scheme. (Paragraph 107)

23.  We recommend that the Kennel Club and breed clubs work with the veterinary and research communities to co-ordinate action to develop outcrossing strategies for those breeds which have the most pressing health issues linked to inbreeding and narrow gene pools. These bodies should ensure that they liaise with international counterparts to learn from the experiences of those countries with similar breed problems. (Paragraph 111)

24.  We endorse the work of academics, veterinary professionals and breeders who are working to provide sufficient data to develop strategies to improve the health of breeds, including outcrossing where relevant. However, it is vital that there is proper co-ordination of research and data gathering and that adequate funding is secured. (Paragraph 115)

25.  We recommend that Defra investigates with the insurance industry the potential for aggregated, anonymised data to be provided to researchers on the incidences of inherited and other diseases in dog breeds. (Paragraph 118)

26.  Whilst we recognise that the Kennel Club and some breed clubs have taken steps to address the consequences of Breed Standards on the health of some pedigree dogs, progress has been slow and many problems remain. Those involved in breeding dogs, including the Kennel Club, breed clubs and individual breeders, must redouble their efforts to eradicate health problems caused by conformation to Breed Standards. (Paragraph 126)

27.  We recommend that the Kennel Club commission an annual review of Breed Standards to be undertaken by an independent panel of experts led by relevant representatives from the veterinary profession. (Paragraph 127)

28.  We welcome moves by the Kennel Club to introduce vet checks at dog shows. Extending these checks to other breeds will be a helpful step. The Kennel Club should also consider the feasibility of performing additional checks on dogs before their entrance to show is accepted, perhaps through selecting dogs at random to reduce the burden of conducting a large number of checks. (Paragraph 129)

29.  We recommend that Defra consider giving the Advisory Council on the Welfare Issues of Dog Breeding a regulatory role on the implementation of provisions relevant to dog breeding. Funding should continue to be provided by those involved in dog breeding such as the Kennel Club and dog welfare charities. (Paragraph 134)

30.  We recommend that Defra consider amending the Animal Welfare Act 1986 to place a duty on anyone breeding a dog to have regard to any offspring's health and welfare. As part of this consideration, Defra must ensure that sufficient data is available to a breeder at an affordable cost to enable them to make informed decisions as to whether it is appropriate to breed from any dog or bitch. (Paragraph 136)

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 15 February 2013