Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Written evidence from BVA and BSAVA (ASB 28)

1. The British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) welcome the opportunity to comment on the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.

2. The BVA is the national representative body for the veterinary profession in the United Kingdom and has over 13,000 members. Its primary aim is to protect and promote the interests of the veterinary profession in this country, and it therefore takes a keen interest in all issues affecting the veterinary profession, be they animal health, animal welfare, public health, regulatory issues or employment concerns.

3. The BSAVA is the largest specialist division of the BVA and of the veterinary profession. It represents over 8,500 members, the majority of whom are in general practice and have an interest in the health and welfare of small animals, namely dogs and cats.

4. In our previous submissions, BVA and BSAVA have repeatedly called for consolidation and simplification of the legislation relating to dog control. This remains our position; however, we acknowledge that it is the content of legislation which is the most important issue. For this reason, if the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill is to become law, it is critical that the content of the Bill enables enforcers to deal with issues surrounding dog control effectively.

5. Although we can appreciate, in principle, the Government’s rationale for simplifying the powers used to combat anti-social behaviour, we believe that targeted powers for Dog Control Notices would be preferable to general powers that will require extensive guidance to make them workable in the case of dogs and ensure that they are applied consistently. We therefore ask that the Committee amend the Bill to include Dog Control Notices and that the Government develop proposals, building on the experiences gained from the use of Dog Control Notices in Scotland. The experience gained from Dog Behaviour Contracts, such as those trialled in Eastleigh, should also be considered.

6. As it currently stands, the Community Protection Notice (CPN) is cited as the power closest to a Dog Control Notice; however, as drafted, the Bill leaves much open to interpretation. For example,

a. The trigger for a CPN is conduct, which affects the locality rather than individuals.

b. The provisions relating to dogs are an adjunct to the provisions relating to humans who participate in anti-social or criminal behaviour. While we understand that many of the provisions can require the person to undertake or refrain from certain activities, including those involving dogs, we are concerned about how some of the potential requirements of a CPN (such as neutering) would be applied if the person subject to the order were not the legal owner of the dog. By contrast, in Scotland, Dog Control Notices are only issued to the owner of the dog or the person who has day-to-day charge of the dog.

c. There is no requirement that those issuing CPNs have appropriate training or have appropriate guidelines available to them. In the case of dog control, issuing officers should have appropriate training or should be working to guidelines drawn up by those who have knowledge and understanding of dogs, their owners and the problems that are likely to be encountered. Where the issuing officer meets a situation that they do not feel confident to deal with, they should have ready access to those with specialist training who can advise on the appropriate measures to take.

d. Clauses 47 and 48 deal with the forfeiture and seizure of items used in the commission of the offence of breaching a CPN. The seizure of dogs should be considered as part of dog control measures, should the behaviour of the owner or keeper and/or the dog give sufficient concern that the remedial action is not deemed appropriate. However, these sections are written in a way which presumes that the items used are inanimate objects and not animals. Specific and more detailed considerations will apply when dealing with dogs. The need for suitably qualified individuals to assess the health, welfare and behaviour of the animal, the welfare implications of kennelling animals for periods of time, and the possibility of rehoming animals are all important considerations. (Similar issues would arise from clause 35 in relation to dispersal powers).

7. As stated above, in its current form the Bill would need comprehensive guidance to make it effective; enforcers will need to be provided with a set of clear, specific and achievable measures. We believe that in order to ensure that this guidance is followed, it is essential that it is statutory guidance, as is the case in Scotland.

8. The Bill also seeks to amend the Dangerous Dogs Act in a number of ways. We have supported the extension of the law to cover private property and also to extend protection to assistance dogs.

9. In the context of calling for consolidated legislation, we have also called for legislation to cover attacks on other protected animals. We remain concerned about attacks on other animals and ask that the Government further investigate this area.

10. The legislation will need to be simple to understand and apply so that the public can learn what is and is not acceptable. We believe that if the legislation is too complex and subjective, it will capture some people but not educate the remainder. Legislation should capture an element of reasonableness so that responsible owners are afforded a degree of protection. The overall aim of legislation in this area should be to prevent dog attacks and encourage responsible ownership.

July 2013

Prepared 5th July 2013