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MPs set to reopen discussion of ‘Dangerous Dogs Act’

MPs are planning to reassess the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, seeking to examine whether or not the piece of legislation is effective. The push to question the usefulness of the act set up almost three decades ago has been occasioned by recent figures which suggest that the number of dogs attacking people has increased of late.

According to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee in fact, the instances of such attacks leading to hospital admissions have increased by 76% in the last ten years. The reassessment, then, presupposes the notion that the blanket banning of the pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo Argentino and fila Brasileiro is an insufficient or irrelevant response to concerns of human welfare.

Ineffective and Unjust

Meanwhile, the RSPCA have long made the point that this law is not only ineffective but also unjust, for of course a key consideration with regard to the safety of people should also be how well dogs are trained, not simply whether they have the capacity to attack.

In this way, the examination of the act will take both the issue of attacks and the issue of animal welfare into account in coming to conclusions on three main points:

  1. Whether the law is preventing dog attacks.
  1. What lessons can be learned from other countries.
  1. Whether any changes are needed.

Neil Parish, who chairs the committee, picks up on perhaps the most striking piece of information that suggests changes do need to be made and that sharply focuses on what is the main discrepancy in the governments approach thus far and the results it has yielded: ‘Four types of dog were banned in the UK in 1991, but since then 70% of dog-related deaths have been caused by those not prohibited by legislation.’

Time for a new approach

Parish goes on then to set forth one of the potential shifts in approach that may need to take place both to ensure the safety of UK citizens and to be fair when it comes to which dogs should and should not be allowed: ‘Our inquiry will look at whether the government should be taking a more individualised approach to judging the threat posed by dogs, or whether blanket bans remain the most appropriate means of regulation.’

This point in time marks the culmination of a growing pressure which has built up over many years since the banning of four specific breeds from organisations such as the RSPCA who suggest, in line with some of the introductory hypothesis that the current review seems to be seeking to verify, that behaviour of dogs is primarily a result of how they are treated by their owners and indeed that evidence that some breeds are more aggressive than others remains scant at best.

The argument recently has been echoed not only by the ‘Kennel Club and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home’ but also by MPs such as Andrew Rosindell, who called for a review two years ago, similarly claiming that the act was 'simply not effective' and furthermore that the problem was not with the dogs but with their owners.

Education over Discrimination

At present, we are clearly in a situation whereby people are being attacked more often, but also more dogs are being put down or kennelled. This is without doubt a sign of the 1991 approach failing in all respects. All those invested are hopeful that this decision to review the act at long last will lead to legislation which better protects the public whilst also valuing dog welfare.

And indeed it seems that the answer of how one should better protect the public might come through an increased valuing of dog welfare, an approach which focuses on teaching and training rather than blanket discrimination and what essentially in some cases amounts to violent retribution.





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