Little clarity from the Coalition as to when they will make improvements in the workings of the dangerous dogs legislation

My oral question on the Dangerous Dogs Act was the second question in Lords Question Time today. Despite pressure from a number of colleagues, the Minister, Lord Henley, gave little away about what changes (if any) the Coalition Government might make to the arrangements for dangerous dogs or even what the timetable was likely to be.

The full exchange was as follows:

“Dangerous Dogs Act 1991



2.58 pm  

Asked By Lord Harris of Haringey  

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to amend or to improve the operation of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. 

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): My Lords, on 1 June a wide-ranging public consultation on dangerous dogs laws closed. This consultation received 4,250 responses, which will need to be analysed before any action relating to dangerous dogs legislation is considered. 

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, given the explosion in the number of attack dogs in London, with the number seized by the Metropolitan Police—I declare an interest as a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority—rising 22-fold in five years and with the Met having to budget £10.5 million for kennelling costs alone, when can we expect the Government to complete this review of the legislation? What, in the shorter term, is going to be done to expedite the processes that can often mean that dogs have to be held for many months before a final decision can be taken by the courts on their disposal? 

Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord is right to draw attention to the growth in such attacks and in the number of people who have to seek hospital treatment as a result of attacks by dogs. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is not the only piece of legislation available to local authorities and others dealing with those matters. There is the Dogs Act 1871, the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and the Animal Welfare Act 2006. We will certainly consider carefully the consultation started by the previous Administration and make appropriate decisions afterwards. 

Earl Cathcart: Is not one of the problems of the Dangerous Dogs Act the unintended consequences of listing four types of dangerous dogs? Thousands of responsible owners have had their pets destroyed not because of how they behave but because of how they look. Surely new legislation should concentrate on irresponsible dog owners rather than on only the breed. 

Lord Henley: My Lords, we will certainly look at the problems of irresponsible owners, but there are certain advantages in breed-specific legislation. The police are of the view that without the restriction that that legislation gives, particularly on pit bulls, there would be many more serious dog attacks. 

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: Does the Minister agree that many of the dangerous dogs are imported from overseas, especially from Europe? They are imported into Ireland initially, and from there go to Northern Ireland and then to the mainland. If the dogs were microchipped, as they are under the Pet Travel Scheme on the importation of dogs, it would be known to whom they belonged and whether people were training them to be attack dogs. The ownership and movement of those dogs could be followed by a simple procedure of microchipping. It would also help to identify, as has been mentioned, whether the dogs are dangerous. 

Lord Henley: My Lords, compulsory microchipping was considered in the consultation. I do not think that it would necessarily solve all the problems because those who possess such dogs might not bother to get them microchipped and they would still be in breach of the law. The evidence from abroad is that where there is compulsory microchipping only 50 per cent of the dogs are microchipped. 

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that one of the problems facing the police in dealing with dogs which they suspect to be pit bulls is the pit-bull-type dog? It can take many months for the police to establish exactly the breed or the type of dog and at enormous cost to public funds. Some of the dogs’ homes are considering refusing to take these dogs because of the time taken and the cost to the charities. Is that part of the consultation? 

Lord Henley: My Lords, there have been problems with dogs being kept in kennels for rather a long time as a result of the legal processes. We will certainly want to talk to colleagues in the Ministry of Justice about whether the legal processes can be speeded up so that the dogs need not be kept in kennels for so long. We have heard from the Metropolitan Police in particular that the costs are very high and rising. 

Lord Elton: My Lords, what action is available to the courts for disposal of dangerous dogs and prohibited breeds? While the owners await decisions of the court, is it the case that a number of the dogs disappear? 

Lord Henley: My Lords, I am not aware that any have disappeared from kennels while waiting for the court’s decision. If my noble friend has any evidence of that, we would be grateful if he would pass it on to us. The Dangerous Dogs Act deals not only with specific breeds but, under Section 3, allows action against a dog of any type or breed if it is deemed to be behaving dangerously. 

Baroness Quin: My Lords, following my noble friend’s point about timing, can the Minister tell us when the Government will respond to the consultation and whether they will publish the results? 

Lord Henley: My Lords, as regards timing, I do not think that I can help the noble Baroness much more than by saying that we will do that as soon as is possible—we have all said that before—but we will certainly publish the results of our consultation when we make the appropriate decisions about how we should respond to it. 

Lord Elton: My Lords, I asked my noble friend what disposals were available to the courts respectively for dangerous dogs and prohibited breeds. Perhaps he could remind me. 

Lord Henley: My Lords, the courts can order the dog to be put down if they find that it is a prohibited breed or if it is dangerous, but that will be done in the most humane manner possible. 

Lord Addington: My Lords, has the noble Lord considered that resources and the number of people trained to deal with the Act might be one of the most important factors in whether this or any other piece of legislation works? 

Lord Henley: My Lords, Defra offers guidance to police forces, and all police forces have to have a designated dog legislation officer who knows what the law is and how it can be used to best effect. We certainly assist in providing training for those dog legislation officers, so that local authorities can enforce the law in the most appropriate manner.”

9 thoughts on “Little clarity from the Coalition as to when they will make improvements in the workings of the dangerous dogs legislation”

  1. Someone will be along in a minute to write that the police know nothing, dogs can safely be armed, their DNA ignored, and those who object should wait to be attacked before we are revenged in the civil courts, or similar.

  2. There are no bad dogs merely bad owners. I missed Part One of this controversy. Has it crossed the mind of the thick blue line that if they actually did their job (catch criminals) we may not have to suffer a million Tyson Rottweilers in Peckham?

  3. Perhaps, O Broxted, you would like to read it? Still available.

    Try the first comment after Toby’s blog post.

    People are not all sweet gun toting loons like yourself, some take their aggressions into the fields of private gain, and unwarranted violence.

    Wait til the dog lovers turn up, and you’ll see some of what I mean.

  4. In a disconnected age canine companionship is all some folks have. Amend the Bill to “No dawgs for chavs” and I’ll support it.

  5. Can someone swear under oath to me that the intelligent British people voted these Morons into power,have never read such garbage.
    Apart from these gin-swilling lords kissing each other’s backsides referring to each other as “Honourable something or others all the time” what I appear to understand from this waffle is Henley stating the police like BSL because they can murder people’s family pets indiscriminately whether the pet has done anything wrong or not.Well why not exand this policy,it is common knowledge that nearly all the Terrorists are Muslim why not a genocidal attack on
    them,if they are all killed then there will be no more terrorism,the same applies to violent crime mostly perpetrated by black people lets wipe them off the planet,no more violent crime,I am sure we can find fault with most different cultures,Jews next just think once this program is compete only these Gin-Swilling lords will be left sadly though no-taxpayer’s will be around to keep these useless bastards in their chaffeur driven

  6. There is no evidence to study that bsl has prevented any attacks, in fact dog attacks have increased by 50%. The police statement is a personal opinion (must likely based media reports) not a fact.

    There is a good reason why the police like breed specific legislation, section 1 of the DDA reverses the burden of proof, aka on the owners and not on them. Meaning the police don’t need any proof that a dog is a ‘Pit Bull’ (and therefore very little or no investigation) to sized the dog, so it is easier to enforce than having to find and provide sufficient evidence that a dog is dangerous.

    There are far better alternatives that have proven to work and have proven to be enforceable, Calgary is a good example.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *