5 Missing measures |
32. Our previous report concluded that current
dangerous dogs laws had comprehensively failed to tackle irresponsible
dog ownership and that Defra's belated proposals for improvement
were inadequate. We made recommendations on a number of issues
which we considered require urgent legislation, but the Government's
response to our report made it clear that there were no plans
to proceed with these. Key missing elements include targeted Dog
Control Notices to help prevent dog attacks, and consolidation
of legislation into a single, comprehensive set of measures.
Consolidation of legislation
33. Dog control legislation is currently contained
in around two dozen key Acts and a large number of ancillary statutory
measures. Our earlier report noted that Defra's 2010 consultation
included the option of consolidating dog control legislation but
that this did not appear as an option in the 2012 consultation.
A number of witnesses suggested that consolidation should be the
Government's top priority action on dog control.
The advantages of bringing together all the legislation relating
to a subject into a single unified Act of Parliament would include
reducing the number of overlapping provisions and providing enforcement
agencies with clearer powers. We recommended that Defra undertake
urgently a comprehensive consolidation of the legislation relating
to dangerous dogs, first consulting the Law Commission.
34. The Government's response was that consolidation
would diminish the range of remedies available, possibly by removing
civil remedies, and represent a "mechanical exercise"
which would "take up precious Parliamentary time" but
not change the law. Ministers consider that "enforcers of
dangerous dogs legislation are fully aware of all relevant legislation"
which is "easily accessible to all who wish to consult it".
35. We noted in our previous report that consolidating
legislation need not take a great deal of Parliamentary time,
but we accept that major amendment of the law would not be possible
under the accelerated process. We
are disappointed that the Government has not recognised the benefits
to the public and law enforcers of consolidation of the myriad
legislative measures on dog control and breeding. While we recognise
Defra's concerns about the need to retain remedies under both
statute and at common law, the Department has not convinced us
that consolidation must necessarily diminish the range of legal
options available. A single unified Act would provide a clear
and holistic set of measures for those tasked with enforcing dog
36. A key point made in our report was that poor
breeding and rearing practices and loose regulation of the sale
of puppies and dogs were contributing to the number of aggressive
and out-of-control dogs, and that there was a need to bring these
issues together in law.
Further evidence was submitted to this inquiry about problems
caused by those who breed dogs irresponsibly, often for profit,
with low welfare standards and little regard to the impact of
poor socialisation on the adult dog's propensity to become aggressive.
We recommended that the threshold for licensing a breeder be reduced
from five to two litters per year, per breeder. Although, as the
Government's response notes, there are provisions to tackle poor
animal welfare, for example through the Animal Welfare Act 2006,
it is more cumbersome to acquire sufficient evidence to secure
convictions under such measures than simply determining that a
breeder has breached a threshold. Setting a lower threshold sets
an appropriate trigger point where the authorities may intervene
to prevent irresponsible breeding.
37. Breeding regulations should
be brought together with dog control measures in recognition that
irresponsible breeding and poor early rearing can cause some dogs
to become aggressive or out-of-control. We repeat the recommendation
in our previous report that anyone breeding more than two litters
of puppies per year should be licensed by their local authority.
38. Internet advertising of dogs has also been
raised by witnesses as an issue requiring further Government attention.
The ease with which puppies may be traded has led to increasing
numbers of poorly bred and reared dogs entering the community,
with negative outcomes for the welfare of the animals, for their
purchasers and those living around them. We recommended in our
previous report that advertisers should abide by a Code of Practice
embedding responsible methods for the sale of puppies and dogs,
and that puppy contracts advising that purchasers should always
see a puppy with its mother be promulgated.
We endorse the Government's
work with the Pet Advertising Advisory Group on the development
of a Code of Practice to support good welfare for animals sold
Dog Control Notices
39. Some witnesses criticised the Home Office's
draft Anti-Social Behaviour Bill,
for proposing a 'one size fits all' type of regime to deal with
everything from crack houses to dangerous dogs.
However, others considered that it would help to streamline processes
and enable authorities to take more preventative action.
40. Our previous report was critical of the Government's
planned reliance on general measures to tackle dog-related problems.
Currently local authorities have powers to impose Dog Control
Orders which prohibit, for example, dogs from entering certain
areas, but these powers would be removed under the new approach.
Witnesses such as the Dogs Trust were concerned that this would
reduce the ability of local agencies to tackle dog-related problems
before injury or harm was caused.
41. We previously recommended that Defra and
the Home Office should legislate to introduce Dog Control Notices,
using as a model the Notices introduced in Scotland. This would
give police and local authorities comprehensive and tailored powers
to tackle all aspects of dog-related crime and anti-social behaviour
ranging from the illegal breeding of dogs, including so-called
'status dogs', to the training of aggressive dogs.
The Government did not accept this recommendation as it considered
that "new, flexible powers to tackle anti-social behavior
will give professionals the ability to protect victims from a
wide range of problems, including those involving dogs".
However, many witnesses highlighted the absence of preventative
measures in the Government's proposals and called for tailored
provisions to be introduced, in particular Dog Control Notices.
42. We have considered the Government's response.
We consider there to be strong evidence that targeted measures
would be more effective in tackling dog-related problems than
the general powers proposed under the Government's anti-social
behaviour and crime legislation. We recognise that enforcing such
measures will require resources to be found at a time when local
authorities are under financial pressure. However, the costs of
prevention are likely to be lower than the costs of treating those
injured in dog attacks and the wider costs to society of crime
and anti-social behaviour associated with irresponsible dog ownership.
We recommend that the Government
reconsider its rejection of our recommendation and legislate to
introduce Dog Control Notices to provide law enforcers with tailored
powers to tackle aggressive dogs before they injure people and
other animals. Further, Defra must assess the current costs of
managing out-of-control dogs so as to compare these with the benefits
of introducing measures such as Dog Control Notices. The public
needs to be reassured that such up-front investment will in the
long-run be recouped by savings to the police, local authorities,
health service, individuals and the community from reduced numbers
of dog attacks.
43. One specific issue which witnesses have flagged
up as impacting on the management of dog-related crime and anti-social
behaviour, is the need for properly resourced dog warden services.
The increasing number of aggressive dogs being abandoned are adding
to the burdens on already overstretched local authorities and
dog charities. Although
the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 places a duty
on local authorities to receive stray dogs, current Defra guidance
requires the provision of out-of-hours dog warden services only
"where practicable." This has enabled some local authorities
to view such services as optional and to allocate insufficient
resources for their effective provision.
It is vital
that dog warden and enforcement services are properly resourced
by local authorities. We recommend that Defra remove from its
guidance the qualification that local authorities must provide
an out-of-hours dog warden service only 'where practicable'.
44. During our previous inquiry we received evidence
from those who consider that banning specific types of dog helped
to tackle out-of-control dogs, but received equally strong views
from witnesses opposed to such breed-specific legislation. Witnesses
to this inquiry again offered opposing views, with ACPO telling
us that the banning of Pit Bull types was necessary due to the
threat they posed to society,
whilst dog welfare charities remained implacably opposed.
45. We accept that the current
ban on certain dog types in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 has not
prevented attacks by dogs either of a banned type or those of
types not banned. It is not helpful for policy to focus on the
breed type since any dog may become aggressive in the hands of
an irresponsible owner. Rather, the policy focus should be on
preventing attacks through improving the behaviour of breeders
45 EFRA Committee, Dog Control and Welfare,
para 14 Back
As above, paras 17 and 18 Back
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Sixth Special Report
of Session 2012-13, Dog Control and Welfare: Government Response
to the Committee's Seventh Report of Session 2012-13, HC 1092,
para 2 Back
EFRA Committee, Dog Control and Welfare, see for example
para 77 Back
Q 88, Steve Goody Back
EFRA Committee, Dog Control and Welfare, paras 97, 101 Back
Home Office, Draft Anti-social Behaviour Bill, December
EFRA Committee, Dog Control and Welfare, para 69 Back
EFRA Committee, Dog Control and Welfare, para 73 Back
EFRA Committee, Dog Control and Welfare, Ev 82 Back
EFRA Committee, Dog Control and Welfare, para 73 Back
For example, RSPCA, Ev 19 Back
Ev w24 Back
A Dogs Trust press release in September 2012 noted that numbers
of stray 'status dogs' had increased by 148% in Greater London
in the previous year Back
Defra, Stray Dogs Guidance, October 2007, p2, states that
from April 2008 local authorities will be "solely responsible
for discharging stray dog functions, with the minimum that where
practicable local authorities provide a place to which dogs can
be taken outside normal office hours [...] Local authorities are
not expected to provide a round-the-clock call out service" Back
Q 51 Back
Q 81 Back