Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Written evidence from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home (ASB 13)

1. Executive Summary

· Battersea welcomes the Government’s decision to tackle irresponsible dog ownership by extending legislation to cover keeping dogs under proper control to private places.

· We remain concerned about the use of breed specific legislation. The measures set out in the Bill do not offer the necessary solutions.

· We are also concerned about the replacement of Dog Control Orders with Public Spaces Protection Orders.

· We would like a renewed focus on preventative measures in the Bill and have called on the Government to introduce Dog Control Notices which will do more to provide for effective early intervention and prevention.

· Battersea still believes that a consolidated piece of dog legislation is needed going forward. Consolidation of existing legislation has a broad support throughout the sector and was recommended recently by the EFRA Select Committee.

2. Background

Battersea Cats and Dogs Home is one of the oldest and best-known animal welfare organisations in the world. Our expertise has been developed over 150 years due to our work on the front line of animal welfare and our non-selective animal intake policy.

3. Comments on Clauses 98 & 99

Keeping Dogs under proper control (Clause 98)

Battersea welcomes the extension of the law to all places. However, we believe it will not reduce the number of dog attacks on people or other animals. If an incident occurs, there will be no opportunity for preventative approaches. At present, action will only be taken once an incident has occurred.

4. For prevention of dog attacks to be effective, there needs to be a sustained education and engagement campaign to advise people on how to be safe around dogs and to keep dogs under control around people in both public and private places

5. Battersea accepts the need for householders to defend themselves against intruders in the home. The Committee needs to examine this clause very closely, get clarity on the so-called ‘householder case’ and the nature of the exemptions and possible defences available for householders.

6. There is no mention of "trespass with intent" and it does not include potential mitigating circumstances e.g. "a young child kicks a football across a garden fence and seeks to retrieve it from a neighbouring property and then is attacked by a dog".

7. It raises questions on the legitimacy of visitors to private property and whether they are trespassing or not, i.e. a family member or a friend with a verbal agreement to be within the property at the time, but later this visit could be deemed by householder as a "trespasser" to try and avoid prosecution when the dog attacked. We would expect in such cases that the police would investigate them thoroughly.

8. We agree that the rights of enforcement officers should be extended to seize dogs from both public and private places.

9. More early intervention powers should be extended to these enforcement officers, to intervene before an incident takes place on private property. We would urge the Government to introduce Dog Control Notices in England, which can provide authorisation to intervene to prevent dog control problems on private property. The main strength of Dog Control Notices (DCNs) is that they are attached to an owner, similar to an improvement notice.

10. Battersea is concerned that if any police constable, PCSO or Local Authority officer could undertake this work without some basic (and suitable) training and demonstrable competency in dog welfare and behaviour. We believe that the results could lead to compromises in animal welfare or even make dog behaviour worse due to lack of understanding in these areas.

11. Clarity within the legislative guidance is still required as to who will be undertaking this work, as dangerous dogs are currently a matter for the police, but the explanatory notes mention local authorities only.

Assistance dogs

12. We agree with the Government’s intention to make it an offence under Section 3 for a dog to be dangerously out of control when there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure an assistance dog, whether or not it actually does so.

13. Whilst extending the legislation to what are essentially dog-on-dog attacks on assistance dogs, we would like the Government to go further and include measures to allow Section 3 to cover deliberate dog-on-dog attacks or attacks on protected animals.

14. Battersea frequently sees dogs that have deliberately been used for fighting and dogs that have deliberately been goaded by their owners to attack other dogs in a public place. We believe further consideration should be given to tackle these issues.

Clause 99 – ‘Whether a dog is a danger to public safety’.

15. This Clause aims to amend the Dangerous Dogs Act following a judgement in the High Court "The Queen on the Application of Sandhu v Isleworth Crown Court and Defra".

16. Battersea is opposed to breed specific legislation as it predicts a dogs behaviour based upon its appearance; however we accept that the Sandhu judgement does not provide the necessary solutions to the current problems with Breed Specific Legislation.

17. Sandhu does not provide a long-term solution for dogs that do not present a risk to public safety and that could be re-homed responsibly.

18. We agree that dogs that pose no danger to public safety should remain with an owner of good character, whilst an application for an exemption to the Court takes place. This amendment seeks to clarify this aim.

19. In 2012, 155 dogs arrived at Battersea, which were later deemed by the Metropolitan Police Service to be Section 1 Dogs under the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991). Battersea has no right of appeal against any decision to section a dog under the law.

20. In 2012, 94% of the dogs that were deemed by the Police for being a banned type at Battersea we believed as a result of our observational and behavioural assessments posed no risk to public safety. These dogs could have been re-homed had it not been a banned breed of dog.

Anti-social Behaviour measures in the Bill

21. Battersea is very concerned about the proposed replacement of Dog Control Orders (DCOs) with Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs), as the new orders will not be dog specific. We do not believe that dog control should be included within powers that are designed to tackle such a wide range of anti-social activities, as this may ignore or impact upon the welfare of dogs.

Public Space Protection Orders

22. PSPOs will replace DCOs. They are intended to deal with a particular nuisance or problem in a particular area that is detrimental to the local community’s qualify of life, by imposing conditions on the use of that area. The order could also be used to deal with likely future problems.

23. Dog Control Orders have very specific requirements (fouling; lead; lead by direction; exclusion; limit on numbers) and local authorities have informed us that they have found DCOs useful as a prevention tool. We support the current powers to restrict owners from visiting certain locations with their dogs providing that the orders are consulted upon appropriately, used proportionately and enforced consistently and effectively.

24. These new measures will be used for a variety of anti-social behaviour problems and very serious dog control problems. However, we remain concerned about how the new measures will provide for effective early intervention and prevention.

25. It remains unclear, how these proposals will effectively tackle irresponsible dog ownership, how enforcers will be able to prioritise dog control over other serious anti-social behaviour and how they will identify the most appropriate power in each case.

Community protection notices (CPNs)

26. In our Home Office anti-social behaviour consultation response, we expressed our support for the streamlining of anti-social behaviour powers, but sought clarification on how this will tackle irresponsible ownership in the community.

27. CPNs will be used for a variety of anti-social behaviour problems and we are concerned about how these proposals will effectively tackle irresponsible dog ownership and how enforcers will be able to prioritise dog control over other serious anti-social behaviour.

28. Scotland has already implemented Dog Control Notices, which we believe are an effective means of ensuring responsible ownership of dogs. It would be helpful to get a full assessment of how CPN’s will operate in comparison with DCNs.

Labelling dog owners as anti-social

29. In our view, owners may be irresponsible with a lack of understanding of their responsibilities, but are not necessarily anti-social and to label them in this way appears to be unfair and a disproportionate response to the problem.  

30. We believe a different, more positive approach using education on and advice (more akin to the concept of advice notices) about the needs of their pet and their duties as a responsible owner should be followed in order to break the cycle of irresponsible or undesirable behaviour.     

31. These proposals could result in some local authorities and others using these powers to respond to perceived problems or fears about specific dogs or even breeds/types of dogs in the community rather than dogs and owners whose behaviour is genuinely problematic and requiring intervention.

June 2013 

Prepared 28th June 2013