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Reform of UK Dangerous Dogs Legislation

03-15-2010


A new consultation on dangerous dogs has been launched March 9 by the government ahead of the British general election. The aim is to change the existing Dangerous Dogs Act, which became law 19 years ago and has been widely condemned as one of the worst pieces of legislation ever drafted.

It was introduced in an attempt to curb the growing population of pit bull terriers, which were being linked with increasing number of attacks on people at that stage. The idea was that all such dogs should be neutered and, therefore, hopefully, they would not only be less aggressive but also would die out within a decade. Three other breeds--the Japanese toso, the fila Brasileiro and the dogo Argentino (all of which were almost entirely unknown in the U.K.)--were banned as well, as were crossbreeds.

In reality, however, this law has never had a significant impact, partly because of persistent and costly debates in court about trying to define what actually constitutes a pit bull terrier--given that the breed was unrecognized by the Kennel Club in the U.K. and no breed standard existed. Unfortunately, now, the problem has increased dramatically, thanks to so-called "status dogs” often descended from pit bull lineages and kept by gangs in inner city areas, bringing an increased threat of injury to people and other dogs alike. Last year, the police seized 900 aggressive dogs in London alone, and 100 people are hospitalized nationwide in the U.K. every week from dog-caused injuries.

The government is now proposing that all dogs should be microchipped, effectively creating a nationwide register. Owners will also have to pay for compulsory third-party insurance to provide protection for both people and other dogs. Initial views on these proposals were mixed, however, although the idea of reform itself has generally been welcomed. The impending election has led the British Veterinary Association to issue a warning to politicians not to let the matter become a party issue during the forthcoming election campaign.

Note:  The consultation runs until June 1, 2010, and can be found online. Next week, I’ll report in the Pet Care Trust’s reaction to the consultation.



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