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

3  Clause 1: Dog attacks on assistance dogs

20.  Clause 1(6) amends the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to equate an attack on an assistance dog with an attack on a person, an approach we recommended in our previous report.[23] The Guide Dogs Association told us that there are more than eight dog attacks on assistance dogs a month.[24] It considered that this measure would, "more than any other, have the greatest impact on reducing the number of guide dogs that are attacked by other dogs".[25] Both ACPO and the Guide Dogs Association considered it appropriate, in the light of the likely significant impact on the daily life of the owner, for such offences to apply not only when an injury was inflicted but, as proposed in the draft Bill, when there was apprehension the assistance dog could be injured.[26] However, ACPO considered that whether a particular case was pursued should depend on individual circumstances so that the proportionality of taking action could be considered.[27]

21.  The draft Bill adopts the definition of assistance dogs used in the Equalities Act 2010. The Guide Dogs Association considered that this could open the measure to abuse since a dog is merely required to have received some form of training to qualify as an assistance dog. The Association noted that there had been so many instances of people attempting to pass off their dogs as assistance dogs in order to circumvent restrictions on taking dogs into, for example, restaurants or supermarkets that it had issued passes to all of its trained assistance dogs.[28] The Association sought a tighter definition, requiring a dog to have received training from an accredited body.[29]

22.  We support the extension of offences under section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to attacks on assistance dogs as well as people. However, an assistance dog should, for the purposes of this Bill, be defined as a dog which has been accredited to assist a disabled person by a prescribed charity or organisation.

23.  We did not have the opportunity to examine the wider potential for the Equalities Act definition of an assistance dog to permit misuse of concessions granted to owners of assistance dogs but the relevant Government departments should consider whether it would be appropriate to amend it in light of concerns from the Guide Dogs Association.

Dog attacks on protected animals

24.  The draft Bill does not extend offences to attacks on animals other than assistance dogs. A range of civil remedies exist for dog attacks on animals, including the Dogs Act 1871 and the Dangerous Dogs Act 1989. These require a civil burden of proof but the remedies available are more limited than sanctions available under criminal law. Criminal prosecutions may be brought against those whose dog attacks a protected animal under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 ,[30] and under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953.

25.  Some witnesses, including some dog welfare charities and ACPO,[31] recommended that clause 1 should apply to all protected animals, such as horses, livestock and llamas.[32] ACPO told us that current legislation leaves enforcement agencies "without adequate legislation to deal swiftly and proportionately with attacks by dogs on other animals".[33] Applying clause 1 to all protected animals would remove the need for some civil remedies, such as those under the Dogs Act 1871, and make it easier to consolidate the law since the DDA provisions would then apply to any attack by a dog on a human or protected animal.[34] However, ACPO considered that an attack must be aggravated (i.e. physical injury inflicted) before any offence would be deemed to have been committed so as to "keep the issue manageable with regard to enforcement" and make the measure "clear and unambiguous".[35]

26.  Extending Dangerous Dogs Act offences to all protected animals has the practical benefit of allowing a range of civil and criminal dog laws to be consolidated, giving enforcement officers a clear set of powers applicable to a dog attack on any livestock or domesticated animal. However, it would be disproportionate to define as an offence an incident where there was merely apprehension that a protected animal might be attacked. Furthermore, it would not be appropriate, save in reference to an assistance dog, if the tariff applicable on conviction for an offence on a protected animal were equal to that awarded for an attack on a person. We recommend that Defra, in commissioning work from the Law Commission on consolidation as recommended in our previous report, request that the Commission examine the potential to extend the law to an attack which causes injury to any protected animal. Defra should also liaise with the Sentencing Council to consider what level of penalty it would be appropriate to impose upon anyone convicted of such an offence.

23   EFRA Committee, Dog Control and Welfare, para 65  Back

24   Ev 15 Back

25   As above Back

26   Q 26 Back

27   Q 28 Back

28   Q 30 Back

29   Q30 Richard Leaman. The Guide Dogs Association proposed that secondary regulation should determine a list of prescribed organisations. Assistance Dogs International (www.assistancedogsinternational.org/) and International Guide Dogs Federation (www.igdf.org.uk/) operate an accreditation process which ensures that operational standards for assistance dogs are maintained to a recognised benchmark


30   See for example RSPCA, Prosecutions Department Annual Report 2013, April 2013. www.rspca.org.uk  Back

31   Q 77 Back

32   Section 2 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 defines an animal as protected if a) it is of a kind which is commonly domesticated in the British Islands, b) it is under the control of man whether on a permanent or temporary basis, or c) it is not living in a wild state Back

33   EFRA Committee, Dog Control and Welfare, Ev 89 Back

34   Q 34 Back

35   Q 31 Back

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Prepared 16 May 2013