Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Written evidence from Cats Protection (ASB 08)

Evidence to the Scrutiny Committee examining the Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill regarding Dangerous Dogs (Part 7).

Summary: Reports of dog attacks on cats appear in the press weekly and evidence at least two attacks on cats per week – all fatal. The current criminal law under the Animal Welfare Act (2006) is inadequate. Cats Protection asks the Committee to support an extension of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill (ASBCPB) to include attacks by dogs on "protected animals" (as defined in Section 2 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006). We are proposing an amendment to Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. We are also supportive of measures within the ASBCPB that will help prevent attacks on protected animals (in line with measures to prevent attacks on people and assistance dogs).

1. Cats Protection: Cats Protection (CP) is the UK’s leading feline welfare charity. We have approximately 7,000 cats in our care at any one time across the UK. We have over 8,700 volunteers and supporters. There are over 10.3 million owned cats in the UK and 26 per cent of households own more than one cat.

2. Dog attacks on cats: There is no centrally held data evidencing the number of attacks by dogs on protected animals. The scale of the problem is therefore hard to establish but CP has been logging press reports of attacks on cats for the last four months. Our log shows that 32 cats have been reported killed since March 2013. All dog attacks on cats were fatal with cats either being mauled to death on the spot or dying later as a result of their injuries. Reports therefore evidence at least two fatal attacks by dogs on cats per week. This is likely to be an under-reporting of the problem. Additionally:

· Every incidence of a serious, often fatal, attack on a cat is a tragedy for the cat and its owner and is very traumatic for all witnessing it

· Press reports indicate that where the family pet is attacked a person(s) was too. An attack on a cat may be the precursor to an attack by a particular dog on a person, particularly on a small child

· Reported attacks show instances of dogs being deliberately set upon cats.

3. Recent reported attacks 2013
We list below some examples of reported dog attacks on cats:

· 12 year old cat mauled to death on doorstep by dogs – 73 year old owner "heartbroken" (June)

· Pet cat mauled to death in the street – motionless in the road – elderly owners "devastated" (June)

· Owner of 15 year old cat witnessed its being savaged by a Lurcher off the lead – the cat later died. The owner was extremely distressed as the cat " had lived with me all her life" (June)

· Cat savaged on bridge witnessed by lady walking with two children – eldest son now too afraid to walk down the same road (May)

· Terrier forced its way into garden, cornered and attacked cat and bit the owner "attack was horrendous" (May)

· Local men allegedly training their dogs to attack cats – eight cats gone missing, Kingsley area (May)

· Cat attacked (later died) attacked by two dogs in the street - witnesses feared for the "kids on the street who could have been the first to be attacked" (May)

· 11 year old cat found covered in blood on owner’s drive – cat rushed to vets but later put down. Dog owners appeared on the scene "holding the lead" and reported as saying "I didn’t know you had a cat" (May)

· 3 cats killed in the Walsall area "savagely set upon" dog described as a Lurcher (April)

· 2 cats savaged in the Lancashire area, dog was a French Mastiff (April)

· 2 cats killed in the Middleborough area by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier (April)

· Kitten savaged to death, Birmingham area – 2 Rottweilers (a spokesperson for west mid police was reported as saying he "had supported moves earlier this year to make an attack on protected animals by dogs, to include cats a criminal offence" (March)

· Fatal attack on a 13 year old cat owned by a pensioner in Basingstoke - dog described as a "pit-bull type" (March)

4. The current criminal law is ineffective

The Animal Welfare Act (2006) requires proof not only that the suffering was unnecessary (as determined in the Act) but also that the dog owner knew or ought reasonably to have known that his/her act or failure to act was likely to cause unnecessary suffering. This gives too much latitude to dog owners to claim that they were not responsible for the actions of their dogs even when they were clearly not under control at the time of the attack. This is not acceptable given the horrific nature of many attacks on cats and the enormous distress to their owners.

5. Amendment needed to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 under part 7 of the ASBCPB

The ASBCPB presents an opportunity to strengthen preventative measures and reduce the number of dog attacks on cats. It is also an opportunity to strengthen the law and make an attack on cats and other protected animals a criminal offence under the DDA (1991). CP seeks an amendment to section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 within the ASBCPB (part 7) in line with the model of the Northern Ireland offence which appears to remove the need to prove that someone knew or ought reasonably to have known that their actions or omissions would cause unnecessary suffering. The Dogs Amendment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 contains two relevant offences: it is an offence to set a dog on "any other animal owned by another person". It is also an offence if a dog "attacks and injures any other animal owned by another person".

6. We believe that similar provision should be included in section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 with specific reference to attacks on protected animals. The current law is proving ineffective in its stated aims of preventing harm, injury and death to cats and other protected animals.

7. We urge the Government to support the following EFRA committee recommendation:

"We recommend that Defra, in commissioning work from the Law Commission on consolidation as recommended in our previous report, request that the Commission examine the potential to extend the law to an attack which causes injury to any protected animal. Defra should also liaise with the Sentencing Council to consider what level of penalty it would be appropriate to impose upon anyone convicted of such an offence." (Efra first report – Draft Dangerous Dogs Amendment Bill May 2013).

8. We have set out suggested specific amendments within the ASBCPB (Part 7) to section 3 and related provisions of the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) in the Annex to this evidence. We hope the Committee will feel able to support these amendments.

9. Finally: CP is not seeking to demonise any breed of dog. Many of our supporters are also dog owners or love dogs as well as own cats . Most dog owners are responsible and keep their dogs under control. We are supportive of any measures within the new ASBCPB that will strengthen prevention of attacks on people, assistance dogs, other dogs, cats and other protected animals including livestock. Clearly prevention is the priority to avoid injury (usually fatal) to pet cats and other protected animals. Failure to control a dog which results in a cat being seriously injured or killed by a dog is unacceptable.

10. Our suggested amendments to the ASBCPB/Dangerous Dogs Act seek to strengthen current criminal legislation (AWA 2006) to reflect the severity of the offence. It would also give a clear message to irresponsible dog owners.

June 2013

Annex to the evidence submitted by Cats Protection to the Scrutiny Committee examining the Anti-social behaviour crime and policing bill - June 18 2013

Four suggested amendments (highlighted) to the Anti-social behaviour crime and policing bill

DANGEROUS DOGS - Part 7

98 Keeping dogs under proper control

(1) The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 3 (keeping dogs under proper control)-

(a) in subsection (1)-

(i) for "a public place" there is substituted "any place in England or

Wales (whether or not a public place)";

(ii) after "injures any person" there is inserted "or assistance dog";

Amendment 1.

After "or assistance dog," insert "or protected animal"

(6) In section 10 (interpretation)-

(a) in subsection (2), after the definition of "advertisement" there is

inserted-

""assistance dog" has the meaning given by section 173(1)

of the Equality Act 2010;"

Amendment 2. – after "Equality Act 2010" insert ""protected animal" has the meaning given by section 2 of the Animal Welfare Act (2006)".

(b) in subsection (3)-

(i) after "injure any person" there is inserted "or assistance dog";


Amendment 3. – after "or assistance dog" insert "or protected animal"

(ii) after "injuring a person" there is inserted "or assistance dog".

Amendment 4. – insert after "or assistance dog" "or protected animal"

END

Prepared 20th June 2013