The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, to which I was privileged to give oral evidence back in June, today published their report Controlling dangerous dogs, calling for a full-scale review of current dog control legislation and policy to better protect the public, under the banner headline:
Dangerous Dogs legislation fails to protect the public while harming animal welfare (Their words, not mine)
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 are:
- 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.
The full fifty pages of the report include the details and reasoning behind the recommendations and also, hidden away at para 64, is the following: It is important that any efforts to encourage attendance at educational training courses are not undermined by bad practices in the private industry. As part of the review we have called for, the Government should investigate the impact of poor dog training practices in the private industry, and the merits of stricter regulations to ensure all trainers are properly accredited according to a standardised framework.
No, it isn’t the total solution, but yes, it is several steps in the right direction.