The DEFRA draft practitioners’ manual “Tackling irresponsible dog ownership” outlines the measures that can be taken to deal with people and their dogs, introduced and consolidated by the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. This is the same act that extends the Sec 3 Offence of “dog dangerously out of control” to private places and introduces the offence of “attack on an assistance dog”.
There is a range of measures; starting with the lowest level of behaviour right up to the main offences.
In order of severity we now have available:
Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (ABCs) these are a signed agreement to behave – not legally binding, but a breach of one is evidence towards an offence. Cases may include instances where the behaviour is caused by a simple lack of dog training and control, it may be the first incident involving the dog, and there may be reasonable engagement from the dog owner. They can be used by local authorities, the police and social landlords to reduce anti-social behaviour.
Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO): these replace Dog Control Orders, but with a wider remit. They allow local authorities to tackle anti-social behaviour that adversely affects other people using the same public space, whether it is a park, town centre or rural footpath, by making a PSPO in consultation with the police and interested parties. PSPOs are renewable every three years.
A local authority may make a PSPO if satisfied on reasonable grounds that two conditions are met:
1. activities carried out (or are likely to be carried out) in a public place are having or have had (or are likely to have) a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality,
2. the effect, or likely effect of the activities is or is likely to be of a persistent or continuing nature, is or is likely to be, such as to make the activities unreasonable, and justifies the restrictions imposed by the notice.
Breach of an order can be dealt with by way of Fixed Penalty Notice (up to £100) or at Magistrates Court a fine of up to £1000.
Community Protection Notices (CPN): these are a low level statutory notice that can require an individual to stop and address the cause of their anti-social behaviour, and can be served local authority officers, police officers and, if designated, registered social landlords and community support officers (PCSOs). A CPN can be served to an individual aged 16 or over, or a body, if satisfied on reasonable grounds that the conduct of the individual is having a detrimental effect, of a persistent or continuing nature, on the quality of life of those in the locality, and the conduct is unreasonable. Before a CPN is served a written warning must be issued. This could be part of an APC (above) and is sufficiently flexible to consist of a piece of paper handed to an individual in a park giving them five minutes warning to control their dog, or a longer timeframe to allow them to repair a broken garden fence. Breach of a notice is dealt with either by way of Fixed Penalty Notice (not exceeding £100) of a summons to Magistrates Court.
Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNA): these are a civil power, which can be applied for at the county court against individuals who are engaging or threatening to engage in conduct capable of causing nuisance and annoyance (“anti-social behaviour”) to any person. For dog-related anti-social behaviour, the injunction can be used to tackle incidents of a more serious nature than where a Community Protection Notice would be issued, but where the threshold of a dog being “dangerously out of control” in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 has not been met. The injunction still permits authorities to request prohibitions and requirements but also recognises the greater severity of the incident. It may be used for cases such as dog attacks on other animals or where prior engagement with the owner about their behaviour has failed and there is cause for concern. A wide number of organisations can apply for one, including police, housing providers, local authorities, the environment agency and NHS Protect. They can be made “with notice” and “without notice2 being given to the respondent, although in dog cases they are likely to be “with”. Breach of an injunction is considered a civil contempt of court – punishable by up to 2 years imprisonment.
Criminal Behaviour Order (CBO): these are orders to tackle the most serious and persistent offenders where their behaviour has brought them before a criminal court. The prosecutor can apply to the court for a CBO to require individuals subject to it to abide by specific prohibitions and/or requirements to stop and prevent future behaviour as well as address the underlying causes of their behaviour. The court must be satisfied that the offender has engaged in behaviour that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as the offender AND the court considers that making the Order will help in preventing the offender from engaging in such behaviour. The offender must be convicted and the hearing for the Order will happen immediately after sentencing for the offence, however a CBO is a civil order. Breach is an offence punishable by 6 months imprisonment (up to 5 years) and/or an unlimited fine.
And we still have the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, which now also applies to private places (and the Dogs Act 1871).
The really positive aspect is that DEFRA recommends that any training or behaviour modification specified in the orders (yes, they can tell you to get your dog trained!) should be carried out by a member of the Kennel Club Instructor scheme or a registered member of the Animal Behaviour and Training Council http://www.abtcouncil.org.uk/