Call for full scale review of dog controls

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The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s report Controlling dangerous dogs is calling for a full-scale review of current dog control legislation and policy to better protect the public.

The inquiry was launched to investigate Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) and wider dog control, amid concerns that the current approach was not protecting the public adequately. The Committee said an alternative dog control model should be developed that focused on prevention though education, early intervention, and consistently robust sanctions for offenders.

Among its recommendations to Government:

- Removing the prohibition on transferring banned breeds to new owners. The Committee found the prohibition to be misguided, as it results in the unnecessary destruction of good-tempered dogs that could have been safely re-homed.

- An independent review into the factors behind dog aggression and attacks, and whether banned breeds pose an inherently greater threat. The Committee raised serious concerns about the robustness of the Government’s evidence base on BSL, and highlighted evidence showing that some legal breeds can pose just as great a risk to public safety as illegal breeds.

- Mandatory dog awareness courses for owners involved in low to mid-level offences. A compulsory training course, similar to speed awareness courses for drivers.

- Awareness campaigns to encourage responsible ownership and improve childhood education on staying safe around dogs.

- A new Dog Control Act to consolidate the existing patchwork of legislation and provide enforcement authorities with new powers.

Neil Parish, Chair of the Committee, said: “The Government’s current strategy for tackling dangerous dogs is well intentioned but misguided. Existing laws and the breed ban have not stemmed the rising tide of injuries and deaths from dog attacks. Children and adults are suffering horrific injuries, many of them avoidable.

“This is unacceptable. The public must be properly protected, and we are therefore calling for a full-scale review of existing dog control strategies.

“We carefully considered the merits of the breed ban under the Dangerous Dogs Act. Our evidence was clear that the law is riddled with inconsistencies, harms animal welfare unnecessarily, and offers false reassurances to policymakers and the general public. All dogs can be dangerous, and we can’t ban all dogs that might one day bite someone. Evidence from across the world shows that the Government should focus instead on encouraging responsible ownership, improving education, and ensuring offenders face robust penalties.

“Some aspects of the law are utterly indefensible. In particular, the ban on transferring Section 1 dogs to new owners is cruel, illogical, and unnecessary.

“In line with its commitments to improving animal welfare, Defra should repeal the transfer ban for dogs that have been behaviourally assessed and deemed safe. Failure to act will show a calculated disregard for dog welfare.”