|Deed not breed; the new thinking behind dog legislation in the U.K.
A new dog control bill, designed to deal with irresponsible dog owners rather than their dogs, successfully passed its second stage in the English House of Lords, and is on its way to becoming law. Liberal Democrat Lord Redesdale outlined the coalition government’s intention to introduce major changes to the current rules set out under the Dangerous Dogs Act, which is widely considered the most ineffective piece of government legislation ever passed in British parliamentary history!
The proposed changes include:
- Placing more emphasis on the owner’s responsibilities. The bill supports the principle that it is the owner who has the potential to make a dog either well- or badly behaved. It gives authorized officers the power to issue Dog Control Notices to irresponsible owners at the first signs of a dog being aggressive.
- Legislation will no longer be breed-specific. Since the Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced in 1991, a huge amount of public money and resources have been wasted by already overstretched police authorities seizing dogs simply because they resemble a particular breed or type--not because they were aggressive. The majority of these were of a Pit Bull Terrier type, although ownership of the Dogo Argentino, Japanese Tosa and Fila Braziliero was also restricted under this legislation. These latter three breeds were virtually unknown in the U.K. however--there was only one Fila Braziliero in the country when the act itself came into force, and none can currently be imported.
Research now supports the principle of "deed not breed,” and indicates that genetics, as reflected by breed, plays only a limited role in influencing the temperament of an individual dog, with its environment and training having a far greater impact.
- Attacks which take place on private property will also become a criminal offense for the first time--a large number of dog attack incidents occur within the home and on private property. The bill includes various exemptions, such as being attacked by another animal, provocation and attacks on people committing an offense for which they could be imprisoned.
How the Situation Worsened
Existing legislation failed to reduce the number of dog-bite incidents in the U.K.—they rose in the past five years by 79 percent in London and 43 percent throughout the country. In addition, costs continued to rise—the Metropolitan Police in London spent $15 million during the past three years simply to implement Section 1 of the existing act, which relates to the seizure, kenneling and euthanasia of banned breeds.
Lord Redesdale’s work on the new bill is supported by the Dangerous Dogs Act Study Group (DDASG), which is made up of animal welfare organizations, veterinary professionals and local authorities. The DDASG has lobbied against the inadequacies of existing legislation for many years. It believes it has failed to protect the public while creating significant welfare concerns for many dogs that have caused no harm whatsoever.
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