Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Written Evidence from the Kennel Club (ASB 45)

Executive Summary

· The Kennel Club welcomes the opportunity to give written evidence to the House of Commons Public Bill Committee regarding the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill.

· The Kennel Club believes that more targeted measures, such as Dog Control Notices (DCNs), are necessary as an alternative to the proposed Community Protection Notices (CPNs) and Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) which it believes are too community driven and not individually targeted enough to deal with specific incidents of problem behaviour and irresponsible dog ownership.

· DCNs would place a requirement on an owner to undergo detailed measures tailored to the needs of the individual and their dog. These could include the use of a muzzle at appropriate times, the maintenance of a dog-proof fence, or a requirement to undertake certain training such as the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme. 

· The Kennel Club has been assured that the principles of a DCN could be applied within a CPN. However the specific elements of the Notices will be contained within the accompanying Guidance as opposed to the regulations. The former would not be mandatory and therefore not guarantee that all local practitioners would follow them.

· The effectiveness of the new PSPOs due to replace Dog Control Orders (DCOs) under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (CNEA) 2005 is of concern to the Kennel Club. Where DCOs have been properly resourced and enforced they work well to reduce dog related problems locally, and promote responsible dog ownership. However, the current proposals for PSPOs are largely unlimited, which raises concerns about consistency and the proportionality of response in each case.

· The extension of dog control legislation to cover private property is welcomed by the Kennel Club. It does remain concerned however that current protection for owners of dogs that bite unlawful visitors to their home only applies inside a dwelling. If therefore, for example, a burglar was stealing property from a garden or farmyard and was injured by a dog, the owner could be prosecuted. The Kennel Club firmly believes that if someone enters onto private land without lawful authority to be present there should never be criminal liability for an owner if a dog bites them.

· Generally, the Kennel Club fears that the provisions in the Act are so wide that they could be abused.

About the Kennel Club

1. The Kennel Club is the largest organisation in the UK devoted to dog health, welfare and training. Its objective is to ensure that dogs live healthy, happy lives with responsible owners.

2. Within its wide remit, the Kennel Club runs the country’s largest registration database for both pedigree and crossbreed dogs and the Petlog database, the UK’s biggest reunification service for microchipped animals. The Kennel Club is also the only organisation in the UK accredited by UKAS to inspect breeders as part of its Assured Breeder Scheme, in order to protect the welfare of puppies and breeding bitches. It also runs the world’s greatest dog show, Crufts, and Discover Dogs, a family focused event that educates people about how to buy responsibly and care for dogs.

3. In addition, the Kennel Club invests extensively in welfare campaigns, dog training and education programmes and the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which supports research into dog diseases and dog welfare charities, including Kennel Club Breed Rescue organisations that re-home dogs throughout the UK.

4. The Kennel Club is involved in promoting responsible dog ownership at all levels and launched an on-going initiative last year to work more closely with local authorities and help them hold ‘Responsible Dog Ownership’ (RDO) days. The Kennel Club has worked with numerous councils throughout the UK offering help in organising RDO days by providing related literature, free merchandise and advice on all aspects of responsible dog ownership.

5. The Kennel Club also runs the Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme, the UK’s largest dog training scheme, and the Safe and Sound Scheme, the Kennel Club’s education initiative to teach children how to be safe and interact around dogs. It also provides extensive information guides covering everything from travelling with your pet to dog law, up to date access information for dog walkers and responsible dog ownership messages from a trusted source. The Kennel Club is committed to continuing this work now and in the future for the benefit of dogs and their owners alike.

Kennel Club position on the dog related elements of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Part 4 Community Protection:

Chapter 1 Community Protection Notices (CPNs)

6. T he Kennel Club has expressed concerns to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Home Office in regards to the provisions for dogs and their owners with in the draft Anti-Social Behaviour , Crime and Policing Bill. It feels that the suggested proposals and lack of specific mandatory dog related requirements fail to adequately address irresponsible dog ownership or introduce genuine ly preventative measures to effectively reduce the number of dog related incidents and prevent more serious attacks from occurring. The Kennel Club, RSPCA, Dogs Trust, British Veterinary Association, Blue Cross and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and enforcers share these concerns.

7. The measures within the Bill to tackle anti-social behaviour with dogs have been cited as being tools for dealing with low level scenarios to prevent more serious incidents from occurring. In any case where a dog has injured, or made an individual fear injury, the Dogs Act 1871 or the Dangerous Dogs Act should be used instead of the Draft Bill’s proposed tools. Yet CPNs require verbal communication and a written warning prior to their distribution. The Kennel Club does not agree that this is suitably pre-emptive and instead could allow problem behaviour to escalate further before being able to be dealt with effectively.

8. CPNs also allow enforcers to place unlimited requirements or conditions on an individual to improve or curb the problem behaviour. Understanding dog behaviour, and therefore a suitable requirement to prevent it, requires specific expertise. There is no such requirement within the current CPN proposals for enforcers to have any specific knowledge of dog training or behaviour when placing these requirements on dog owners. This could lead to ‘misdiagnosing’ of dog behaviour and therefore inappropriate Notices being placed on dogs and their owners – which would indeed be wholly ineffective and pointless.

9. It is also important to note however that implementation of dog specific CPNs and indeed the requirements which enforcers may place on dog owners would be the decision of the respective local authority or police authority, as these dog specific requirements do not form part of the mandatory regulations, only the accompanying Guidance. This, the Kennel Club believes is a fatal flaw in introducing any kind of effective dog control measures. Similarly, the power to issue these Notices falls on both the police and local authority. As no single body is required to enforce the provisions, both could choose not to take on the responsibility of issuing CPNs due to lack of resources etc.

10. Also of concern to the Kennel Club within the current draft proposals is the ability for dogs to be destroyed/euthanised if an owner fails to comply with their set provisions. The Kennel Club does not believe this to be appropriate for what is considered to be early and low level intervention.

11. The Kennel Club does not condone irresponsible owners who allow their dog to be a nuisance to other animals and people, and therefore believes that a provision creating a DCN, essentially working on the principle of a statutory improvement notice, to require measures such as leashing, muzzling or attending training would be ideal.

12. DCNs, as drafted within the New Clause 4 amendment tabled by David Hanson MP on 21 June 2013 would fulfil th e role of a preventative tool much more appropriately than CPNs and as such the Kennel Club would recommend that such provisions be considered within the B ill .

Chapter 2 Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

13. Under the proposals, PSPOs would serve as new powers to deal with community protection which would see the repeal and replacement of Dog Control Orders (DCOs) under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (CNEA) 2005. The Kennel Club has serious concerns regarding such proposals as it feels that DCOs, when implemented effectively, can have a positive impact in communities by promoting responsible dog ownership and reducing negative dog-related issues.

14. There are distinct differences between PSPOs and DCOs under the CNEA which raise concerns regarding how effective the PSPOs would be to actually deal effectively with issues of antisocial behaviour with dogs rather than just implementing blanket orders to penalise the many for the actions of a few. There are five different types of DCOs which include dogs on lead, dogs on lead by direction, dog fouling, dog exclusion and the maximum number of dogs permitted to be walked by one individual. These five orders allow the local authority to effectively deal with different issues surrounding irresponsible dog ownership. Under the PSPO however, there is no limit to what can be required which raises concerns on proportionate responses to antisocial behaviour and the consistency of these responses, especially in light of the reduced consultation requirements. It would therefore be much easier for less dog tolerant councils to implement particularly draconian Orders with no restriction.

15. The obligation to consult on the PSPOs would principally remain with the local policing body, chief police officer and any community organisation/representatives that the local authority believes is appropriate to consult with. Under the CNEA, when local councils propose to make DCOs to alter public paths in town or country, they have to notify a range of bodies, such as the Ramblers, British Horse Society etc.

16. The Kennel Club would therefore suggest in the case of PSPOs that councils should still be required to notify the relevant organisations as there is already precedent for this. The Kennel Club believes this should be included in the regulation rather than the guidance. For example there could be a provision in the Bill in which the Secretary of State can issue a list of organisations that need to be consulted with on certain types of proposed PSPOs.

17. There is a legal precedent in access law for this and similar requirements are found in the following pieces of legislation:

· Town and Country Planning (Public Path Orders) Regulations 1993 (S.I. 1993/10)

· Public Path Orders Regulations 1993 (S.I. 1993/11)

· Wildlife and Countryside (Definitive Maps and Statements) Regulations 1993 (S.I. 1993/12)

18. Under current proposals there will be no obligation for a local council to advertise in local newspapers, which would inevitably lead to a lack of informed consultation responses and an undemocratic method of consulting amongst the public and stakeholders. Whilst the Kennel Club understands that removing certain requirements within the consultation process is intended to help save costs, it would argue that the consultation process is a vital element to ensure a fair and democratic process.

19. As a minimum the Kennel Club believes Paragraph 32 of the Dog Control Order Guidance which accompanies the CNEA should be included in the new Guidance if it cannot be included within the regulations themselves:

20. Paragraph 32:

If an authority is considering making a Dog Control Order which would affect open access land (land subject to Part 1 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000) it must consult the appropriate access authority (the local highway authority or, the National Park Authority for land within a National Park); the relevant authority (the National Park Authority for land within a National Park; the Forestry Commission for land that has been dedicated as access land under section 16 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and which consists wholly or predominantly of woodland, or the Countryside Agency in all other cases) if it is not also the access authority; and the local access forum. There are already comprehensive dog control provisions which may be applied to access land, including if necessary the banning of dogs. An authority should therefore pay particular attention to the views of these bodies in deciding whether any proposed order affecting open access land is necessary.

21. The Kennel Club also believes that in terms of the consultation process, it is essential that a notice is placed advertising a planned PSPO on any paths/parks/beaches/other land affected and such a requirement must be included in the A nti-social B ehaviour , C rime and Policing Bill regulations themselves.

22. The Bill fails to clarify whether the current exemption of DCOs not being able to be introduced on Forestry Commission land will remain in place for PSPOs. The Kennel Club would ask that this exemption remains as the Forestry Commission has their own by-laws meaning that DCOs (or PSPOs) are not necessary on their land. Furthermore, whilst the Kennel Club welcomed recent clarification that existing Dog Control Orders (DCOs) under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 (CNEA) will remain in place for three years from the Bill enactment, the same assurances have not been given in relation to Council Bye-laws introduced prior to the CNEA. Further clarification is therefore needed in this regard.

Part 7 Dangerous Dogs

Clause 98 - Keeping Dogs under Proper Control

23. The Kennel Club’s primary aim is to ensure that any amendment to the Dangerous Dogs Act strengthen s and improve s current provisions to better protect the public and improve the welfare of dogs.

24. The original Dangerous Dogs Act was drafted as an urgent response to a perceived political and social crisis and is regarded by many animal welfare and professional bodies as wholly inadequate. T he Kennel Club is concerned that if the new proposals are not properly considered, the result would be to compound the original error and continue with ineffective legislation which fails to provide adequate safeguards for the public, responsible owners and innocent dogs.

25. The Kennel Club welcomes the general principles contained within the draft Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Bill which is intended to deliver Defra’s commitment to extending legislation to provide adequate dog control to private property. The measure will not significantly reduce the number of incidents within private households or land; but merely allow recompense to those who are victims of such incidents. The Kennel Club does however recognise the message this extension send s to dog owners to ensure that their dogs are adequately trained and under control when interacting with lawful visitors , and as the primary body for canine affairs in the UK, views this as very positive.

26. At the same time the Kennel Club would not wish to see such protection extended to anyone trespassing and involved in criminal activity and firmly believes that there should never be a criminal liability for an owner if a dog should injure someone who is in or on their property without lawful authority and undertaking unlawful activity . It is important that the emphasis is on the owner’s responsibility to avoid injury to anybody carrying out their lawful activities. In this regard, defences within the current proposals should be strengthened to ensure that responsible dog owners who can be seen to have taken reasonable steps to prevent an incident are not prosecuted. Furthermore, current provisions only apply inside a dwelling, therefore leaving landowners whose dogs injure a burglar, for example, whilst stealing property from a garden or farmyard without protection from prosecution or criminal conviction.

27. The Kennel Club therefore supports amendment 43 to clause 98 of the Bill tabled by David Hanson MP on 21 June 2013 , which strengthens the defence for otherwise responsible dog owners and states:

‘(1C) For the purposes of section 3, a Court must consider all the circumstances, and in particular if the owner, and if different, the person for the time being in charge of the dog at the time of the incident, took reasonable steps to prevent the dog being dangerously out of control in any place.’

Additional points

28. Whilst the Kennel Club recognises the intentions of the government to address the ongoing issues relating to irresponsible dog ownership, public safety around dogs and dog control, it remains disappointed with a policy of simply amending what is essentially fatally flawed legislation. A single consolidated Dog Control Bill would be much more effective in ensuring consistent enforcement of dog control legislation . This would also have the advantage of being seen to address the concerns of the general public and the media and indeed better serve the criminal justice system in having to comply with and adher e to one single piece of legislation.

29. The Kennel Club believes that breed specific legislation is unworkable and supports the principle of ‘deed not breed’. Most dog related incidents result from the actions/inactions of irresponsible owners, who have either not taken the time and trouble to train their dog appropriately , or have indeed trained them to behave aggressively. The Kennel Club believes that banning specific breeds simply pushes the problem underground, and/ or moves the problem elsewhere to other breeds or even other species. If breed specific legislation cannot be removed it should be time limited with a ‘sunset clause’ commitment from the government to reassess the issue at a specified period.

30. Finally, the Kennel Club feels that any legislative reform must go hand in hand with a commitment to educate the public, and in particular children regarding animal welfare and safety around dogs etc. The Kennel Club is a member of the An imal Welfare Education Alliance , a group of 20 charities and organisations lobbying to achieve this aim within the National Curriculum. Individually , members are invest ing substantial sums of money in to education campaigns to get these messages to a wide audience . Central G overnment cooperation is essential for this to be as far reaching as possible.

July 2013

Prepared 17th July 2013