Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Written evidence submitted by Communication Workers Union (CWU)

Overview and the CWU “Bite-Back” Campaign

CWU through our “Bite-Back” Campaign has been leading the campaign to change the Dangerous Dogs Legislation along with a number of other organisations and we launched our “bite Back” campaign in 2008 because 23,000 postmen and women have been attacked by dogs in the last four years in the UK with two of Postmen nearly losing their lives. 12 Postal Workers are attacked by Dogs every day. Eight Postmen and Women have had fingers bitten off whilst delivering mail through letter boxes in the last year—this is becoming more common.

The EFRA Inquiry will be another opportunity to discuss this important issue. The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act is totally ineffective and the law needs to be changed.

Dangerous Dogs are now a huge problem in our society and has reached a point where dog control is “out of control;” in the UK and therefore needs urgent action from government.

The CWU is not anti-dog because most dogs do not pose a problem to anyone and are good pets and companions to their owners.

Bite—Back Campaign Objectives

The CWU calls upon the Government to Revise, consolidate and modernise existing Dangerous Dogs Laws, introducing changes that will:

Extend the Criminal Law to include Private Property (Applying the Law everywhere).

Introduce Dog Control Notices (DCNs). (Preventative Measures—As in Scotland, Northern Ireland).

Introduce Compulsory Microchipping for ALL dogs (Ownership Traceability).

Introduce tougher punishments and increased court Penalties.

Ensure effective enforcement and resources for Police and Dog Wardens.

Introduce new more wide ranging powers of seizure (all types) and discretion to leave dog with the owner by Police and Dog Wardens.

Improve victim compensation arrangements—Third Party Insurance Cover, Criminal Compensation Orders, Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.

Base the new law on the “Deed not the Breed”.

Support the above with a national programme of public awareness, owner education and training and local community projects which promote responsible dog ownership

More funding to support the training of Dog Legislation Police Officers, so each of the UK’s 53 Territorial Police Forces has dog expertise.

Supporting Organisations

Some of the organisations on record supporting these changes:– Communication Workers’ Union (CWU); Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO); Police Federation; Metropolitan Police; West Midland Police; National Dog Warden Association (NDWA); Royal College of Nursing (RCN); Royal Society for Prevention for Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA); Dogs Trust; Battersea Dogs & Cats Home; Blue Cross; British Veterinary Association (BVA); British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA); Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS); Camden Community & Police Consultative Group (CC&PCG); Dangerous Dogs Act Study Group (DDASG); Greater London Authority (GLA); National Animal Welfare Trust (NAWT); PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals); The Kennel Club; Wood Green Animal Shelters (Wood Green); Trades Union Congress (TUC); Unite; UNISON; GMB; Prospect; Tonbridge & Malling Council; Tendring Council; Wandsworth Council; Wakefield Council: Wokingham Council; Haringey Council; Kensington Council; Lambeth Council; Lewisham Council; Manchester City Council.

“Deed not the Breed” & Responsible Ownership

There needs to be a shift from concentration on the breed of dogs to responsible ownership. It is generally recognised that the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 has proved to be a bad piece of legislation, perhaps one of the worst pieces of legislation ever to be put on the statue books. Since it was introduced, there has been an increase in general irresponsible dog ownership, in dog attacks and bites and street dog fighting, and a big increase in stray dogs. Despite banning four breeds, it has not reduced the number of pit bull terriers in this country and, in fact, the number has grown. Demonising certain breeds has the danger of making them attractive to the wrong people.

A dog is only as good as its owner, and any dog has the potential to be dangerous. It is essential that dogs receive training, socialisation and exercise, and the emphasis in any new law must be on the responsibility of owners and the prevention of the horrific attacks that we know about and are experiencing. We must look on dog ownership as a great benefit to society, but we also know that it brings dangers. We must protect young vulnerable children, Postal Workers and other workers visiting homes and commercial premises and the public at large from these ever more common attacks.

The CWU has for many years been calling for the Westminster Government to introduce a Bill to tackle these issues. There must be genuine prevention. Concentrating on breeds is not effective—it is the “deed, not the breed”, as all the key stakeholder organisations agree. The police spend money and resources on enforcement of the Dangerous Dogs Act, seizing dogs because of their breed and type, but it would be much better to concentrate on all dogs that show unprovoked aggression combined with irresponsible owners. We need the Minister and Government to stop the shilly-shally and introduce a new bill, repeal half a dozen useless dogs laws and look at the new laws introduced in Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Private Land

The key issues in a new Bill must be that is cover all places, including private property. Postmen and women have no defence in Law when attacks take place on private property. 70% of the attacks on postal workers occur on private property where the law does not apply. This is an the issue being pressed strongly by the Communication Workers Union.

Dog Control Notices

There must be prevention through new Dog Control Notices. The police and dog wardens presently have no proactive powers to deal with aggressive, dangerous dogs and bad owners before an attack takes place and the introduction of new statutory dog control notices (DCNs) would resolve that problem.

Compulsory Microchipping

A permanent means of identification is needed by way of compulsory microchipping of all dogs. This is an easy procedure to carry out, it is a safe and painless way to permanently identify pets. This not only assists in the reuniting of lost dogs with their owners, it will resolve ownership disputes, reinforce the responsibilities of the owners and have the additional advantage of linking offending dogs to their owners in order to establish responsibility. Many countries have already introduced compulsory microchipping including European countries, as well as Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Israel and others. EU Countries report a high compliance rate of between 70% to 95%.

There also needs to be:

Tougher enforcement and punishments via increased court penalties. (A sentencing Council Consultation has just closed).

Effectively resourced enforcement by Police and Dog Wardens should be put in place.

Compensation arrangements for severely injured dog attack victims left with debilitating and disfiguring injuries as many owners are uninsured. 

Better Dog Ownership Information, Education and Training.

Public Awareness Raising of the serious problem.

A large number of back bench MPs from across the house of commons have given wide support to the CWU campaign for change and high levels of support and consensus exists on all sides, all parties, in the campaign to replace the ineffective Dangerous Dogs Act.

From a public, postal workers and other worker safety perspective the current situation is unsustainable. This issue cannot be put off any longer and the Government needs to take action now. It is long overdue. I trust this information will be of assistance to you during the forthcoming debate. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need further information.

Some Facts:–

1. There are around 9–10 million dogs in the UK.

2. Around a quarter of a million people are bitten or attacked by dogs each year. No records are kept of those treated in A&Es, Minor Injury Clinics or GP Surgeries.

3. There are fewer than 1200 successful Dangerous Dogs Act convictions annually.

4. New dangerous dogs legislation has been introduced in Scotland on 26 February 2011.

5. New dangerous dogs legislation has been introduced in and Northern Ireland on 8 March 2011.

6. New dangerous dogs legislation will be consulted on later this year with a Bill introduced in early 2013.

7. The cost to the NHS of Dog Attacks is a huge £9.5 million a year.

8. The Metropolitan Police Service has an annual budget for kennelling of seized dogs of £2.5 million a year. 1,000-plus dogs are seized by the Metropolitan police every year. West Midlands Police spent £500,000 on kennelling in 2010. Merseyside Police spent £300,000 on kennelling in a year.

9. The total estimated costs to the taxpayer per annum for irresponsible dog ownership is now over £80 million pa. (RSPCA Report: £14 million pa for road traffic accidents caused by dogs, £9.5 million from attacks by dogs on humans, £3 million for attacks by dogs on farm livestock, £42 million pa for stray dog services).

10. There are 5,000–6,000 Dog Attacks on Postal Workers every year plus 400 on British Telecom Engineers. Colleagues in other Trade Union report a whole number of workers are also attacked and bitten eg Police Officers, Gas, Water, Electricity workers, Meter Readers, Refuge Collectors, Street Cleaners, Gardeners, District Nurses, Home Helps, Meals On Wheels, Council Officials and Workers, Leafleters, Newspaper Delivery staff etc.

11. 70% of the Dog Attacks on Postal Workers occur on Private Land (private land, roads, drives, car parks, lanes, paths, gardens, farms, commercial premises, unadopted land etc). Where the Law doesn’t apply and irresponsible owners are immune from prosecution!

12. The injuries to postal workers range from small nips and minor bites to serious bites and puncture wounds, arms nearly severed, fingers bitten completely off, severe facial injuries, testicles bitten off, legs, arms, trunk bites, loss of flesh and tissue, severe psychological injury etc, through to two Postal workers nearly killed (Sheffield 2007, Cambridge 2008),

13. Sick Absence due to Dog Attacks costs Royal Mail around £500,000. With indirect costs of covering the absence plus individuals losses, the figure doubles to a million pounds a year.

14. 88% of the public who responded to the 2010 Defra public consultation on dog control legislation indicated that they believed the legislation and its enforcement was not effective in protecting public safety.

15. In response to the Defra Consultation 97% of the key organisations supported extending the law to cover private land (as in the new Scottish and Northern Irish Acts).

Find attached for your information a number documents, correspondence for your information prior to the forthcoming debate at Westminster on Wednesday:

Letter from Prime Minister David Cameron to Dave Joyce dated 30 April 2010 promising to change the law to protect children and postal workers.

CWU Case File Photos and Reports of Children injured and killed in Dog Attacks plus adults killed in Dog Attacks.

CWU Press Release—New laws backs Postal Workers in their daily dog fight, detailing the New Dangerous Dogs Laws introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

CWU response to Defra Dangerous Dogs Consultation.

CWU Response to Sentencing Council Dangerous Dogs Offences Consultation.

Letters to James Paice Minister, Lord Henley Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Lord Taylor Parliamentary Under Secretary of State.

‘Joint Briefing Paper signed by: Communications Workers Union, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Blue Cross, Kennel Club, RSPCA, British Small Animals Veterinary Association, Mayhew Animal Home, UNISON, British Veterinary Association, National Dog Wardens Association, USDAW, Police Federation, Unite, Dogs Trust, Prospect, Wood Green Animal Shelters, GMB, Royal College of Nursing.

Background

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) is one of the UKs largest Trade Unions, representing 220,000 workers including those employed by Royal Mail Group and British Telecom Group. Of those workers—70,000 Royal Mail and Parcelforce Worldwide delivery workers and 30,000 BT Engineers are vulnerable and are exposed to the risk of Dog Attacks on a daily basis. In 2008–6,500 Postal workers and 400 BT workers are attacked by Dogs bringing about the launch of the CWU’s high profile “Bite-Back” Campaign with the objective of modernising, updating and strengthening the Dangerous Dogs Laws in the UK, improving enforcement, calling for harsher penalties, introducing preventative measures and improving compensation for those injured.

Last year around 4,000 Postal workers are attacked by dogs in the UK whilst delivering the Mail, packets and parcels as well as around 100 British Telecom Engineers. Many require hospital treatment and many receive serious disabling injuries and disfigurement. Some are forced to give up their job. Two Postal workers (one in 2007 and one in 2008) were nearly killed in savage attacks. Around 50 Postal Workers have lost fingers or parts of fingers in dog attacks through letter boxes over the last four years and there was a total of 23,000 Postal Workers attacked and bitten.

In the majority of cases, irresponsible dog owners are not held to account and are immune from criminal prosecution. Additionally many owners are immune from civil litigation and workers receive no compensation for what in many cases are severe injuries and loses.

It has been apparent for many years that the existing Dangerous Dogs Acts of 1989, 1991 1997, the 1871 Dogs Act, the Guard Dogs Act 1975 etc are totally ineffective in controlling dangerous dogs and dealing with irresponsible owners leaving many victims with no remedy in criminal or civil law. The law urgently needs revising to help protect the general public, workers and children, rebalancing the law in favour of the victims as well as improving dog welfare. The CWU has been lobbying the UK Governments of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for these changes through the CWU “Bite-Back” Campaign and has succeeded in getting the Law changed in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Following continued campaigning, lobbying and meetings, the Welsh Government have just last month announced the intention to introduce a “Dog Control (Wales) Bill”.

The CWU firmly believes that the Government must take prompt action to tackle dangerous dogs, which includes making changes to the current dangerous dog legislation. The current legislation is outdated and ineffective in combating the growing problem of dangerous dogs. The CWU calls upon government to introduce tougher punishments for owning a dog which is dangerously out of control and causing injury and calls upon government to extend the Dangerous Dogs Act to private land plus introduce new Dog Control Notices (DCNs), giving Police and Dog Wardens extended, proactive enforcement powers to enable them to take action against careless, irresponsible owners of aggressive dogs before they kill, cause injury and damage.

The scope of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 must be extended to cover private property where dogs are permitted to be. 70% of the thousands of Dog Attacks on Postal workers every year occur on private property (private land, roads, drives, lanes, paths, gardens, car parks, farms, commercial premises, unadopted land etc) amounting to over 4000 of those attacks in which the owners are immune from prosecution because the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 doesn’t apply on private property. There is a very large gap in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 where there is a lack of protection against attacks on private property. This means that Postmen and Women, or any worker visiting the dog’s home can be attacked, without criminal charges being brought against the owner. A new Law needs to visibly close that loophole with the result that if a Postal worker, Telecom worker or any worker is attacked by a dog on private property, the owner should be able to be prosecuted and held legally responsible and so provide the victims with a remedy in criminal law.

Preventative Measures

Q. Are the approaches proposed by Defra in its announcement on “Tackling Irresponsible Dog Ownership” on 23 April 2012 sufficient to ensure that there is a reduction in the number of attacks by dogs on people and animals?

The CWU has been campaigning and lobbying for the introduction of “Dog Control Notices” as genuine preventative action which would allow authorities to take swift action against irresponsible dog owners at the first signs of their dogs displaying aggression. These pre-emptive measures would mean that “problem dogs” and indeed, problem owners, could be addressed before a serious incident occurs. Dog Control Notices (DCNs) have been introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Welsh Government also intend to introduce DCNs. The CWU and many other organisations are dismayed and disappointed that Defra’s proposed package of measures does not do more in the area of prevention to hold irresponsible owners to account for their actions.

The CWU believes that pre-emptive measures are a more effective solution than the current legislation which ties up police resources in seizing specific breeds deemed to be dangerous regardless of the behaviour of the individual dog, rather than focusing resources on dogs of any breed, or type, that have actually displayed aggressive behaviour.

There is a need to give the Police and Dog Wardens more preventative powers to deal with the behaviour or any dog. Instead the government to date have rejected and “specific measures” and instead are relying on the Home Offices’ reform of Anti-Social Behaviour proposals.

It has been suggested to the CWU by Defra Ministers that the changes proposed by the Home Office may be sufficient in themselves to tackle the growing and out of control problem of Dangerous Dogs and irresponsible owners. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) however does not believe that Crime Prevention Injunctions, Criminal Behaviour Orders and Community Protection Orders are the solution to dealing with the problem of Dangerous Dogs and the unacceptable number of Dog Attacks in the UK other than possibly assisting with the “Status-Dog” aspect along with Dog Barking Noise nuisance and Dog Fouling.

The proposals for example suggest that in respect of Dangerous Dogs a Community Protection Order (Level 2) would be the order selected from the revised list of various Orders which could be invoked, so enabling a local authority or the police the power to place controls on an Irresponsible Dog Owners. However this is the same Order that would be used to close down a property linked with persistent anti-social behaviour (eg Crack House Closure Orders, Premises Closure Orders, Brothel Closure Orders). Such measures are hardly suitable to use against an irresponsible dog owner who has an aggressive dog that he or she is failing to control and is clearly a menacing animal that could a child, another animal or attack and seriously injure a Postman whilst delivering the Mail on a private front garden path or the drive of a residential or commercial premises!

Where as a “Dog Control Notice” is simply filled out by an authorised, trained Enforcement Officer, ie Council Dog Warden or Police Officer, the requirements, time, cost and resources required to get a Community Protection Order (Level 2) issued is a far more complex and costly process. A Dog Warden or Police Officer would need to place evidence before a senior officer of the rank of superintendent or above, or the appropriate person at the local authority before being able to take action would not be appropriate for example in the immediate aftermath of a vicious dog attack where immediate, prompt action is necessary. In cases of more serious or persistent disorder, evidence is provided by the police or the local authority to the Magistrates’ Court to request an order.

The CWU does not believe that the proposal is appropriate or that it will be effective.

Another worrying aspect of this is the fact that senior police officers have been questioning the effectiveness of the ASBOs for some time and that to simply “re-badge” them as Crime Prevention Injunctions, Criminal Behaviour Orders and Community Protection Orders is may be more of a political stunt than an effective tool.

The new orders will not deal with the dangerous dogs law deficiencies. To offer this up as a solution to the deficient Dangerous Dogs Act is nothing more than a “cop-out” for necessary changes in dangerous dogs legislation and it will be a missed opportunity and grave mistake.

Q. Is there a need for a more fundamental overhaul of dog legislation, and its enforcement, including that relating to dog attacks on people, livestock and pets?

Yes. What is needed is new modernised, comprehensive Dangerous Dogs Legislation (eg the Bill produced by RSPCA/ACPO/NDWA) which has been submitted to Defra, replacing a number of current ineffective pieces of legislation (Eg DDA, Dogs Act, Guard Dogs Act and several others listed in the CWU’s Defra Dangerous Dogs Consultation response). The “Private Members” Dog Control Bill introduced by Lord Rupert Redesdale in the House of Lords and Caroline Nokes MP in the House of Commons offers another alternative.

A number of Acts and sections of Acts could be considered for consolidation such as:–

The Dogs Act 1871.

Animals Act 1971.

Guard Dogs Act 1975.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1989.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

Control of Dogs Order 1992.

The Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997.

Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.

Litter (Animal Droppings) Order 1991 of the Environmental Protection Act (1990).

Metropolitan Police Act 1839.

Town Police Clauses Act 1847.

Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The government however propose to amend the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 which is a flawed Act. An example of which is the following case:

Dangerous Dogs Act 1991—R v Stewart and Stewart [Near Fatal Attack by the Stewarts two Rottweiler Dogs on Postman Keith Davies December 2008]

The above case which demonstrates a serious weakness in the current Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and I promised to write to you with the summary details of the case.

The Keith Davies Dog Attack

In December 2008 Postman Keith Davies was delivering mail to the Stewart family residence in Cambridge. The property has a solid wood perimeter fence and gates. The Mail Box is secured to the Fence by the property’s Main entrance Gates. The two Rottweiler’s escaped when a door in the fence near the main gates broke open. The dogs launched a vicious and sustained attack on Keith Davies, dragging him along the private road and on to a neighbours property where he was severely injured and nearly killed. He was fortunate not to lose an arm.

Two of the Stewart family, the owner Mr Stewart and the person in control at the time his daughter were prosecuted for DDA 1991 offences as the owners and keepers of the two Rottweiler Dogs which attacked and badly injured Keith.

Although the Road was a Private Road it had no gates and had unrestricted Public access. Richard Crowley Chief Crown Prosecutor explained to me that initially consideration was given to a prosecution under the DDA 1991 Section 3 Sub-Section 1 (If a dog is dangerously out of control in a public place and injures a person) but the problem was that it was very clear that the scene of the attack wasn’t a public place and the act doesn’t apply on private land. There were signs up, clearly displaying the fact that it was a “private road”. There was the evidence of other residents that it was a private road. There was the deeds confirming it was private. Community surveys confirmed that the road was not adopted by the local authority and was private. Photographs of the premises also showed it was private land and property. The CPS, after consideration, did not believe they could convince the Court that it was a public place against the weight of evidence and no doubt felt they could not satisfy the definition of a public place as established in R v Bogdal[00].

Richard Crowley said it was therefore decided to prosecute under Section 3 Sub-Section 3 (if a dog enters a place which is not a public place but where it is not permitted to be and it injures any person ie a neighbours property).

Richard Crowley said the problem was the (technical) difference between S 3 (1) which states “and/or” and S 3 (3) which states “if/or”. Under S3(1) the CPS can prosecute the Owner and/or person in charge of dog/s. However, under S3(3) the CPS can only prosecute the Owner or/if different the person in charge) and by prosecuting both the owner and person in charge in this case, the defence lawyers challenged this and subsequently the judge dismissed the case.

Richard Crowley added the Stewarts displayed a lack of co-operation throughout the enquiry in respect of confirming who was in charge of the Dogs. Mr Stewart would only confirm he was the dog’s owner and no more. He wouldn’t say who was in charge. Clearly the defence lawyers were advising the Stewarts to be vague and they were exploiting the loopholes in the DDA 1991.

Richard Crowley said the Police and CPS concluded that in spite of Mr Stewart being out of the country at the time of the attack, he had a duty of care and so he was prosecuted on that basis.

Richard Crowley added that in respect of the daughter Ms Stewart, she was in residence at the home at the time of the attack and eventually came out of the house and took control of the situation. She therefore must be presumed to be in charge of the dogs at the time and was therefore prosecuted also, on that basis.

Richard Crowley said the decision to prosecute both of the Stewarts—the Father and Daughter became the problem as detailed above. The DDA 1991 is a very complicated Law which is not clear. The CPS prosecuting Counsel though it was correct and that the CPS/Police could prosecute both and that it should be put to a Jury to decide. The Crown Court Judge however did not accept this and found that S 3 (3) only allows one person to be prosecuted and bringing a prosecution against two people was an “abuse of process”.

Richard Crowley explained that the CPS were in a “catch 22” situation. If they elected to go against Mr Stewart alone, he would claim that he was out of the country and wasn’t in charge. If they elected to go against Ms Stewart alone, she would claim that she wasn’t the owner and neither had she been left in charge. The wife Mrs Stewart who was in the house claimed she was neither the owner or in charge. The Son and a second daughter were in the same situation, claiming the same as Mrs Stewart, as did the Housekeeper/Cleaner who was present on the day of the attack also. So it could only be Mr Stewart or the daughter to be considered for prosecution.

Richard Crowley said the Judge’s conclusion was that the CPS had overstepped the mark by prosecuting both and because the CPS couldn’t decide which one to prosecute, it was an “abuse of process” and a criminal court has the power to stop a prosecution when there is an abuse of the process of the court to secure fair treatment for those accused of crime. The Judge therefore dismissed the case against both defendants.

Richard Crowley Chief Crown Prosecutor concluded that this was a “terminating ruling” with no appeal or way back in. The CPS isn’t allowed two bites at the Cherry because they got it wrong in the first place.

This failed prosecution exposes yet another major flaw in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 which allows more than one person to be prosecuted under Section 3(1) but only allows one person to be prosecuted under Section 3(3) which is ludicrous as in the R v Stewart and Stewart case. This needs to be remedied with a new consolidated, improved and modernised bill.

Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

Section 3—Keeping dogs under proper control

(1) If a dog is dangerously out of control in a public place:

(a)the owner; and

(b)if different, the person for the time being in charge of the dog, is guilty of an offence, or, if the dog while so out of control injures any person, an aggravated offence, under this subsection.

(2) In proceedings for an offence under subsection (1) above against a person who is the owner of a dog but was not at the material time in charge of it, it shall be a defence for the accused to prove that the dog was at the material time in the charge of a person whom he reasonably believed to be a fit and proper person to be in charge of it.

(1) If the owner or, if different, the person for the time being in charge of a dog allows it to enter a place which is not a public place but where it is not permitted to be and while it is there:

(a)it injures any person; or

(b)there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will do so, he is guilty of an offence, or, if the dog injures any person, an aggravated offence, under this subsection.

Q. Will compulsory microchipping of puppies improve dog welfare and help prevent dog attacks at an affordable cost to dog owners? Should a dog licensing scheme also be considered?

The CWU supports the benefits of the introduction of a requirement for compulsory microchipping of all dogs and as part of the “Microchipping Alliance” we collectively support the proposal that permanent identification should form part of any new dog control legislation. CWU strongly supports compulsory microchipping of dogs as a means of improving dogs’ welfare and improving owner responsibility in relation to dogs dangerously out of control. That improvement would be brought about by the rapid return of stray dogs to their owners, the ability to trace a dog to the breeder, and the ability to identify an owner who fails to comply with the Animal Welfare Act 2006 or the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) and its subsequent replacement Dog Control legislation. In itself compulsory microchipping will not have any direct effect on the prevention of dog attacks but because the ability to identify a dog and its owner, it is our belief that it will assist in making dog owners more responsible and will make them accountable should they fail to control their dog and it carries out an attack.

Microchipping is now recognised as the most effective and secure way of permanently identifying a pet and owner. A unique identification number is registered to the animal and the owner’s details are placed on a national database. In many dog attack cases, identifying ownership becomes an issue as individuals attempt to avoid prosecution and civil litigation and a registration scheme would certainly assist in such cases. as well as reinforcing the responsibilities of the owner under Animal Welfare Legislation as well as allowing stray dogs to be quickly returned to their owners.

The CWU would also support the RSPCA’s call for the reintroduction of a national dog license and believes that both measures could be introduced in tandem as has been implemented by the Northern Ireland Government who have backed up the requirement with a simple enforcement regime of “fixed-penalties” for those caught without a Licensed, Micro chipped Dog and Prosecution for those failing to pay the fixed penalty, as with other fixed-penalty offences (Parking, Smoking, Public Order offences etc).

Microchipping is a cheap and effective means of registration and identification of a dog involving a small one-off fee. This is likely to be publicly more acceptable than Dog Licensing alone although both Dogs Trust and RSPCA commissioned Public Opinion Surveys which both returned high levels of public support amongst those surveyed.

The survey conducted by Dogs Trust showed that 88% of dog owners would be in favour of a law including compulsory microchipping; and

The survey commissioned by RSPCA found that 76% of people asked said that a dog license should be introduced and enforced.

However Microchipping will not generate ongoing funding for enforcement whereas the Dog Lincense, which involves an annual fee would generate enforcement funding and forms the basis of enforcement and administrative costs in Northern Ireland with the annual dog licence fee set at £12.50p.

CWU is of the view that registration alone is not “the solution to all the problems” but CWU does support permanent identification for dogs. CWU is also of the view that without effective enforcement no scheme will be effective. Additionally, these measures taken alone however will not deal with the preventative or educational Law changes required to deal with the unacceptable number of cases of irresponsible owners or dogs who attack, injure and even kill workers, children and people in general.

We have noted that some argue against a dog registration scheme on the same basis as the argument against compulsory third party insurance. The CWU believes that a false dichotomy between freedom and necessity is being presented when in fact the majority of the public and workers represented by Trade Unions support the changes which can both protect the interests of dogs, dog owners and the victims of irresponsible dog owners and aggressive dogs.

Microchipping is a physically robust method of identification. The process should only need to be done once in the lifetime of a dog. In our view the benefits of microchipping should be considered as an important component in relation to a package of necessary new Legislative measures in any new legislation for the control of dogs.

The key benefit of compulsory microchipping of all dogs is improved animal welfare, the encouragement of better owner responsibility and owners to take greater responsibility for their dogs’ behaviour and welfare, including the provision of better traceability of owners and owner identification following dog attacks and for disease control purposes.

The introduction of Compulsory Microchipping would:

Enable the Police to more easily trace and identify an owner, linking owner with dog when an investigation is underway and prosecution is being considered following a dog attack.

Enable lost or straying dogs to be reunited promptly with their owners—meaningless dogs will be put to sleep at council pounds.

Permanently identify a dog in such a way that is virtually impossible to alter or remove—a clear advantage for dogs that are stolen.

Enable clear identification of the dog’s owner when prosecution is being considered for dog thieves and antisocial behaviour.

Significantly decrease the workload of all those dealing with stray dogs.

Costs to local authorities would be reduced as returning strays rapidly incurs less kennel costs and, in many instances, the local authority officer will spend less time with the dog.

Allow puppies bred illegally or inappropriately on puppy farms to be traced to their source.

Abandoned dogs’ owners could be identified and pursued for costs.

There are around 10 million dogs owned in the UK. Many dogs have responsible and caring owners who control and care for their dogs which are in turn good natured and sociable. However, there are an increasing number of dogs of all shapes and sizes being acquired by irresponsible owners which become aggressive, are in turn not properly controlled and pose a serious threat to the safety of Postal workers, other workers, children and members of the public as well as other dogs including guide dogs (seven guide dogs are attacked each month).

Many of the abandoned animals do already have microchips, but inadequate and out of date records mean owners are unreachable or can simply claim that they “gave the dog away years ago. The RSPCA have continued to call for the reintroduction of a mandatory dog registration scheme to run alongside compulsory microchipping, as is the case in Northern Ireland where the Dog License was retained and remains in force having been reinforced in the new Dog Control Laws introduced in 2011. The CWU would support the RSPCA suggestion and very much supported the Northern Ireland Dog Control Legislation, which the CWU played a great part in its introduction. It is vital that owners details be centrally held in an up to date Government run database if compulsory microchipping is to be effective. Compulsory Microchipping and Dog registration would go a huge way to improving the lives of millions of dogs and holding the irresponsible owners to account for dog attacks and for acts of cruelty or neglect against the animal. We believe that microchipping will encourage responsible dog ownership and will help prevent owners of dangerous dogs from simply denying responsibility if a dog carries out an attack.

One option that has is to microchip new puppies and dogs only when they transfer ownership. Under this option, it would take 10–12 years for all dogs to be microchipped, which is far too long. Simply micro-chipping new puppies and other dogs on a transfer of ownership would be difficult if not impossible to enforce.

Royal Mail and Parcelforce Worldwide delivery workers visit the UK’s 29 million addresses six days per week, 52 weeks a year and as such are vulnerable and are exposed to the risk of Dog Attacks on a daily basis. Around 5000 Postal workers and 100 BT workers are attacked by dogs every year in the UK.

Attacks on guide dogs by other dogs is an issue that Guide Dogs For The Blind is increasingly concerned about and the CWU shares their concern. These attacks are growing in number and are deeply distressing for our guide dogs owners. If a guide dog is attacked by another dog, their owner will be left relying on friends and family to do the everyday things that the rest of us take for granted. If a guide dog has to be retired after an attack, the guide dog owner can be left unable to get out and about independently. With guide dogs costing around £50,000 to breed, train and look after through their working life, it’s also costly for the Charity that relies on the generosity of the public.

The CWU firmly believes that the Government must take prompt action to tackle dangerous dogs, which includes making changes to the current dangerous dog legislation as a whole. Compulsory Microchipping is a step in the right direction but the current legislation is outdated and ineffective in combating the growing problem of dangerous dogs.

Q5. Should the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 be extended to include offences committed on private property?

On average 12 postal workers would be attacked every day in the UK, 23,000 attacks in the last five years with the majority having no protection in law as 70% of attacks took place on private property where the owners were immune from Criminal prosecution. Thousands of postal workers and telecom engineers—along with other workers who go on to private property and parents of small children– desperately need the private property loophole closing so that they have legal protection and irresponsible owners are made accountable for their dogs. Government action is well overdue and thousands of people have suffered debilitating injuries while government have dragged their feet. Not all dog owners take full responsibility for the impacts their dogs have on society. A considerable number of dog attacks occur on private property belonging to the owner, many of which result in serious injury or even death. Whilst the law makes it an offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place (or a private place where it has no right to be), with a maximum penalty of a fine and/or two years imprisonment, it is not a criminal offence if the incident takes place on the private property belonging to the owner of the dog. Existing law in this area is totally inadequate and Civil Law is of little help. The 1871 Dogs Act has failed because, there are no criminal sanctions, there is no power of seizure, If an owner transfers the dog to someone else prior to a Court hearing, they may be able to avoid the proceedings, and the Court has no power to require the owner to pay compensation or issue a dog ownership ban.

Q. Are Defra’s proposals for wider community and educational approaches to support responsible dog ownership sufficiently ambitious?

Whilst the CWU welcomes local authority and wider community educational and training projects and initiatives to promote responsible dog ownership and the government’s commitment to invest in such measures. However £50,000 will make little impact in improving the current scale of the problem which continues to grow.. Dog Charities have put up more than that (Dogs Trust, The Kennel Club, RSPCA etc). £50,000 shared throughout the UK’s 420 LAs is therefore unlikely to provide local authorities with sufficient resources towards improving measures to prevent dog bite incidents and protect the public from aggressive dogs and their owners.

Q. Is there a need for a more fundamental overhaul of dog legislation, and its enforcement, including that relating to dog attacks on people, livestock and pets?

Dog attacks are of great concern to the Guide Dogs Charity and to guide dog owners. The number of guide dog owners who are reporting dog attacks on their dogs is increasing. Latest research shows the number of reported attacks on guide dogs has risen from three a month to over eight dog attacks a month within a 24 month period from June 2010 to May 2012. In most cases the cause of the attack was unprovoked, and the aggressor dog was uncontrolled and off the lead. Dog attacks can have a devastating impact on both the people and dogs involved. Three guide dogs have been permanently withdrawn, and two others are currently being assessed to see if they are able to continue working. The other major impact is that blind and partially sighted people are left without a guide dog, their mobility aid, and become housebound until they can be matched with a suitable dog. Some guide dog owners have been left too frightened to go out as a result of an attack. One guide dog owner wanted to move house due to the response of the owners of the attacking dog, who in some cases used verbal abuse against blind and partially sighted people. Some appeared to be under the influence of drink or drugs, and in one case, the owner of an aggressive dog laughed at a guide dog owner during an attack on his guide dog. The Law must be amended to make these attacks an offence.

Q Do local authorities, the police and animal welfare charities have the right roles in managing stray dogs under the current legislative regime?

Police and Dog Wardens Powers should be extended and strengthened as outlined elsewhere in relation to DCNs and changes to seizure rules giving Enforcement Officers more discretion. Status dogs are a growing issue in terms of numbers and animal welfare particularly in deprived area. RSPCA, Dogs Trust and other Charities should continue their work with Local Authorities and the P:olice supported by Government to continue research and projects to organise events, gain an accurate understanding of the attitudes and perceptions of the owners of such dogs and develop interventions to promote animal welfare, better training and increasing levels of neutering, working directly with young dog owners in particular.

Footnote

CICS Payments For Dog Attack Victims

To our surprise and shock, the Coalition Government via the Ministry of Justice launched a Public Consultation on “The Reform the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS)” Consultation Document CP3/2012, and hidden away, buried in Paragraph 186 it stated that the Minister intends to exclude in future claims “from applicants attacked by dangerous dogs not kept under proper control. The CWU responded clearly that is we are totally opposed to this proposal for very important reasons and strongly requested that the Minister reviewed and withdrew the proposal. The government response entitled “Compensation for victims of violent crime in Great Britain” was published last week on Pages 40 and 41, paragraphs 156 and 160 state as follows:-

As an aside and to our surprise, the Ministry of Justice launched a Public Consultation “Reform the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS)” Consultation Document entitled Getting It Right For Victims & Witnesses” Ministry Of Justice Consultation Paper CP3/2012, issued January 2012.

In Paragraph 186 of the Consultation Document, it listed the things that the Minister proposes or intends to exclude in future. The 6th bullet point states:

“Where a person has been the victim of an animal attack, unless the animal itself was used deliberately to inflict an injury on that person. This is a tightening of current policy under which claims have in some cases been considered from applicants attacked by dangerous dogs not kept under proper control.” The CWU is totally opposed to this proposal for very important reasons and strongly requested that the Minister reviewed and withdrew the proposal. Sadly he refused to do so.

23,000 Postal Workers have been attacked By Dogs in the last five Years. 12 Postal workers on average are attacked by dogs every day, amounting to around 5,000 injured every year in dog attacks. Many are never able to return to their job due to the physical and psychological effects of the attack.

Many are scarred and receive facial disfigurement for life. Many have lost fingers through dog bite amputations and many others have sustained dog bite injuries leading to painful lacerations and puncture wounds, nerve, ligament, tendon damage, fractures, serious infections, disability, and disablement.

This group of workers who suffer the disproportionate majority of violent dog attacks now need the support of the Law, the Enforcing Authorities the Judges and Courts in dealing with the problem as well as the support of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) which in many cases is the only remaining avenue for obtaining Personal Injury Compensation for many Postal and BT workers who have suffered personal injury through violent Dangerous Dogs Act crimes, caused by irresponsible, reckless and negligent Dog Owners who are both uninsured and are individuals who do not have the financial means to pay any compensation and cannot therefore be obligated in law to do so. This is known as the doctrine of the “Man of Straw”. The injuries to Postal workers may be physical or mental, or both and in some cases have resulted in near-death.

Despite calls from the CWU and other organisations, the Government has repeatedly rejected the introduction of Compulsory Third Party Insurance for Dog owners to protect themselves as defendant’s in such circumstances where personal injury compensation is appropriate to be paid to a victim (plaintiff). Until such time as Dog Owners are obliged to own a suitable policy of insurance to protect themselves in such Dog Attack injury circumstances the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme must in our view remain open to claims from victims in circumstances where an offence is caused by irresponsible ownership and leads to a dog attacking and injuring an innocent individual worker going about their job or an innocent child or member of the public.

At a time when the UK Dog Population has reached nine to 10 Million and continues to rise, along with the significant increase in Dog Attacks, (around 250,000 a year in the UK) it would be totally wrong of the Government to close the door in the face of Dog Attack victims. The proposal, if not withdrawn will totally eliminate the last avenue for dog attack victim’s injury compensation claims.

Although the Criminal Courts have the ability to issue Compensation Orders to the value of thousands of pounds, they are rarely ever awarded at this level and in most cases if Compensation Orders are made, they are small amounts at most reaching several hundreds of pounds. The Ministry of Justice’s view is that Compensation Orders should be linked to the ability to pay. The combined effect of the Government and its Ministers decisions is therefore that a Dog Attack victims ability to obtain compensation will be determined by the Owner’s substance which is grossly unfair.

This can and regularly does result in cases where an irresponsible dog owner’s vicious aggressive and uncontrolled dog severely injures a Postal Worker who receives no compensation at all.

In the government response to the Ministry of Justice consultation CP3/2012 entitled “Compensation for victims of violent crime in Great Britain—The scope of the Scheme” on Pages 40 and 41, paragraphs 156 and 160 states as follows:

A small number of respondents expressed concern about the proposal to expressly exclude injuries resulting from an animal attack (unless the animal was intentionally used with intent to cause injury). Those respondents argued that the circumstances in which victims (such as postal workers) who sustain injuries from an attack by an animal are compensated should be broader, not narrower. We have considered all of the responses and acknowledge the complexity of defining a crime of violence. We believe that eligibility should be tightly defined and should not allow for payments to be made outside the core purpose of the Scheme, which is to make awards to those who suffer serious physical or mental injury as the direct result of deliberate violent crime. We have considered again injuries resulting from a trespass on the railway, those injured or killed in road accidents and those injured as a result of an animal attack (unless the animal was used with intent to cause injury), but we believe that these cases involve injuries sustained in incidents outside the core purpose of the Scheme and that the proper redress in these circumstances would be found elsewhere—through an insurance claim, a compensation order as a result of criminal proceedings or a civil claim.

This response from the Ministry of Justice is flawed for the following reasons:

If the owner has no Third Party Insurance—no compensation is recoverable through an Insurance Claim.

If the owner has no Insurance, no money in the bank, no possessions of value—no compensation is recoverable via a civil litigation claim.

If the owner is sent for trial at a criminal court but has no ability to pay a criminal compensation order (which are based on the ability to pay)—little or no compensation will be recovered there either.

At the moment in such circumstances, the victim would go finally to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as a last resort but the proposals before parliament will result in no compensation being recovered here either if the Government/Ministry of Justice’s proposals are not changed.

It is also worth noting that Pay-outs from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme contrast starkly with the amounts awarded by the civil courts, which often run into five or six figures. Many people who have suffered physical and psychological harm as victims of dog attacks receive substantially reduced compensation payments in comparison with compensation paid by Insured Dog Owners.

The proposed 2012 Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme changes will restrict access to a form of justice for those who have been injured in dog attacks through no fault of their own. Most victims of serious dog attacks suffer financially with sick pay often much less than their normal rate of pay and again these proposals will penalise those unfortunate victims.

The public would not welcome the proposal to stop CICS claims for Dog Attack victims and the government should instead be introducing changes that rebalance the law in favour of the victim not in favour of the offenders which is what is being proposed.

We had hoped that our response to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme consultation document would have been taken into account and the proposed exclusion of Dog Attack Victims Claims from the CICS Scheme withdrawn.

The government therefore intends to go ahead and implement their proposals. As stated above the government has consistently opposed “compulsory third party insurance” for dog owners but this response states that victims should get redress “through an insurance claim” it also suggests that other avenues would be a civil claim or a criminal compensation order when they ought to know that these options offer no recompense .

As stated previously, Civil Claims only succeed if you are suing a person with money or an Insurance Policy and likewise criminal compensation orders are based on the ability to pay and therefore if the owner of a dog that has injured a victim has no money and no insurance then the compensation order will be nothing or at best a pittance.

Therefore the government are facing both ways and are in a complete mess. As a result dog attack victims who have to settle for CICS payments (which are far lower than Insurance payments) are now facing losing the last available avenue for personal injury compensation.

A further suggestion made by the Ministry of Justice is that postmen and women injured in dog attacks could sue their employer Royal Mail and hold them to account for failing in their duty of care. This suggestion is however, preposterous as Royal Mail can demonstrate that they have worked closely with CWU in discharging their duty of care to reduce the risks so far as so reasonably practicable by way of information, instruction, training, supervision and provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) and it is therefore highly unlikely that a Court would hold Royal Mail responsible or the irresponsible actions of a blasé dog owner.

Additionally, it is virtually impossible to secure personal injury compensation from an employer in a civil court in respect of criminal injury with employers liability insurers resisting such claims vigorously and the courts when tested holing that the employers are not liable.

It should also be noted that CICS claimants cannot receive recompense from any other source. The CICS already only makes awards to those who cannot receive compensation from any other source in respect of dog attacks, eg from (a) The Dog Owner, (b) An Insurer, (c) An employer.

The draft scheme has been laid before Parliament under section 11(1) of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 1995 for approval by resolution of each House of Parliament.

The CWU calls upon the House of Commons to amend the “Draft” Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2012 as currently proposed and to continue include the victims of Dog Attacks as well as maintaining the present level of payments to such victims as a minimum.

September 2012

Prepared 14th February 2013