Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Letter from Jeremy Browne MP, Minister of State (Home Office) to Stephen Phillips QC MP (ASB 48)


During the debate in Committee on 4 July on new clause 4, which seeks to provide for dog control notices, I indicated that I would write to you to provide further clarity on the position of children under 16 who own a poorly trained or socialised dog and which therefore present a risk to public safety (Official Report, columns 352 to 372). I am aware that you have since had an opportunity to discuss this issue with the Home Secretary.

You acknowledged in the debate that a Community Protection Notice could be used to impose all the requirements that could be imposed by a dog control notice under the legislation in force in Scotland. You rightly pointed out, however, that under clause 40 of the Bill a Community Protection Notice could not be issued to a person under 16.

The first point I would make is that a number of the requirements that could be imposed under either a Community Protection Notice or a dog control notice have financial implications for the dog owner (for example, requirements as to microchipping, neutering and compulsory training) and, as such, we consider that it would rarely, if ever, be appropriate to impose such requirements on a child under 16.

Second, irrespective of the provisions in section 3 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (the 2006 Act), we believe that a Community Protection Notice can be imposed on a responsible adult where the owner of the dog whose behaviour is at issue is under 16. A Community Protection Notice can be issued against a person if their conduct is having a detrimental effect, of a persistent or continuing nature, on a community’s quality of life, and that conduct is unreasonable (clause 40(1)). A parent or guardian’s unreasonable and persistent or continuing refusal to properly control or supervise their child’s control over a dog owned by that child would constitute conduct within the meaning of clause 40(1). Moreover, the words "persistent" and "continuing" allows for Community Protection Notices to be used flexibly as the context requires. For example, if a police officer warns a child to put a dog on a lead and the child refuses to do so, that could constitute "continuing" conduct – and a Community Protection Notice could be issued against the responsible adult. As I have made clear, this is an area where guidance is essential and we are working closely with the police, local authorities, the Welsh Government and others to ensure it covers the points raised here. I aim to have draft guidance available in time for Report stage in the Commons.

Having considered further the provisions in section 3 of the 2006 Act, I recognise that, contrary to the indication I gave in Committee on 4 July (at column 369), the effect of subsection (4) of that section cannot be carried across by inference to other legislation. However, as I indicated above, we do not believe that it is necessary to rely on the 2006 Act to enable a Community Protection Notice to be issued to a responsible adult in respect of their conduct in failing to properly control or supervise their child’s control over a dog owned by that child.

I hope that on this basis you will be assured that Community Protection Notices are a more than an adequate alternative to a dog control notice (and, together with the provisions in Part 7 of the Bill, will fulfil our Coalition Commitment to "ensure that enforcement agencies target irresponsible owners of dangerous dogs"). This view has again been echoed by the Local Government Association in their recent written submission to the Committee (ASB 35). At paragraph 35 of their submission they said:

" We are aware that there is continued pressure for specific dog control notices to be included in the Bill. The LGA remains to be convinced that separate tools are necessary as no details have been provided of the specific gaps in the provisions for the injunctions, community protection notices or public space protection orders that a dog control notice is needed to fill. "

I am copying this letter to all other members of the Committee.

July 2013

Prepared 17th July 2013