Draft Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Bill - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Contents

1  Introduction

Our inquiry

1.  On 9 April 2013, the Government published the Draft Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Bill and invited us to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny.[1] On 9 May, it published the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill which included provisions to amend the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.We welcome Defra's swift response to our Dog Control and Welfare report, in which we called for legislation to be introduced urgently to tackle the growing problem of irresponsible dog ownership. We also welcome the introduction of new measures, given wide concern about the adequacy of the Government's proposals to tackle out-of-control dogs set out in our report in February, and we discuss below points which remain to be clarified in the Bill.

2.  We were disappointed that the Government published a Bill including dangerous dogs measures without waiting for the Committee to publish this report on the draft Bill only a matter of days later. When asking us to conduct scrutiny of the draft Bill, Defra requested a response within only eight sitting days. We informed the Department that this deadline was an impossible one to meet; it did not provide an adequate opportunity for pre-legislative scrutiny, and Defra should not use this Bill as an example of such scrutiny. Subsequently, the House Prorogued earlier than anticipated which meant that the Committee was unable to meet to agree its report until after the House returned on 8 May. We are reporting at the very earliest opportunity but Defra must in future allow sufficient time for proper scrutiny of draft legislation. We expect the Government to put down appropriate amendments during passage of the Bill to reflect the recommendations in this report.

Case for action

3.  Our previous report highlighted the need for concerted action to tackle dangerous dogs. Dog ownership is increasing in popularity in the UK, with some 7.3 million dogs kept as pets in 2011.[2] At the same time, however, a record number of dogs are being destroyed by animal shelters and the incidence of dangerously out-of-control dogs has risen. Some 210,000 people a year are attacked by dogs in England alone, including around 6,000 postal workers. There have been eight fatal dog attacks in homes since 2007 (six on children). The most recent death, of teenager Jade Anderson in March 2013 in a private home, occurred since publication of our report and again raised questions as to the adequacy of current powers.

4.  This report focuses on the clarity, proportionality and adequacy of the draft clauses in the draft Bill. These aim to:

  • extend offences under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991(DDA) to attacks which take place on private property where the dog is permitted to be;
  • extend offences to attacks on assistance dogs as well as people; and
    • amend the means of determining how dangerous a dog is.

5.  The first two of these were key recommendations of our February report and we welcome the Government's prompt acceptance of them. Our report also called for wider measures to prevent and respond to dog attacks, but the Government has made no commitment to pursue these either in its draft Bill or in its response to our report.[3] We address below the need for the Government to introduce wider measures since, as we stated in our previous report, current dangerous dogs laws have comprehensively failed to tackle irresponsible dog ownership.[4]

1   HM Government, Draft Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Bill, Cm 8601, April 2013 http://www.officialdocuments.gov.uk/document/cm86/8601/8601.pdf (referred to in this report as 'the draft Bill') Back

2   Pet ownership statistics on dog news website www.dognews.co.uk Back

3   Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Sixth Special Report, Dog Control and Welfare, Government Response to the Committee's Seventh Report of Session 2012-13, HC 1092 Back

4   Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2012-13, Dog Control and Welfare, HC 575, Summary [referred to as EFRA Committee, Dog Control and WelfareBack

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 16 May 2013