THE KENNEL Club, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and Dogs Trust have welcomed plans by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee to examine the Government’s policies on irresponsible dog ownership and welfare issues related to breeding.
The EFRA Committee wants to find out whether the Government’s proposed measures on tackling irresponsible dog ownership do enough to tackle the problem, or whether a more fundamental overhaul of current legislation is needed.
It will also look into the response by the Government and breeders to Professor Bateson’s independent enquiry into breeding. This coincides with the release of a Government Anti-Social Behaviour White Paper which includes proposals for tackling irresponsible dog ownership.
"We welcome EFRA’s consideration of the problem of dangerous dogs and the urgent need for new legislation, as well as the topics surrounding health and welfare of dogs bred for sale – both important issues which have huge implications for dog welfare,” said KC spokesman Caroline Kisko.
"The KC has long been campaigning for an overhaul of current dangerous dog law. Police resources should be freed from seizing particular dogs purely because they are a certain breed, and more time and effort should be spent on penalising the owners of any dog that shows early signs of aggression, in the form of Dog Control Notices. We hope that EFRA will take this into account.
"We are glad that the Government’s White Paper related to irresponsible dog ownership seems to recognise the importance of tackling irresponsible owners at the early stages of a problem emerging. We are also pleased that it recognises the importance of actions by community groups and charities and organisations, such as the KC, in helping to promote responsible dog ownership. This educational work is vital in ensuring that dog owners know the full extent of their responsibilities and we all have to work together in order to make a real difference.”
The KC is pleased that EFRA is to examine the Government’s actions following Prof Bateson’s enquiry, which it and Dogs Trust founded.
"We are pleased that the committee will look at the serious issues related to breeding,” Mrs Kisko said. "We are continually campaigning for improvements which will protect the health and welfare of puppies and breeding bitches, and we would like to see all breeders adhering to the standards followed by the 8,000 members of the our Assured Breeder Scheme, who take steps such as giving their dogs the appropriate health screens for their breed, and providing a suitable breeding environment.
"Current legislation is not effective in stopping the worst excesses in the dog breeding world, and so we all have to come together to educate puppy buyers, so that they know where to find a responsible breeder.”
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home said it supported chairman Anne McIntosh’s view that is was the right time ‘to review every aspect of the Dangerous Dogs Act’, and consequent legislation which transferred the power to deal with stray dogs from the police to local authorities.
"It’s clear that current legislation is not working,” said the charity’s chief executive, Claire Horton. "Dog attacks and indiscriminate breeding continue and this is threatening the safety of everybody from the toddler, the young mother and the pensioner.
"It’s so important that those people who use and abuse dogs to intimidate the public finally understand the damage they are doing in their own communities and society as a whole.”
The charity also welcomed new Home Office plans to address the issue of anti-social behaviour with the introduction of new preventive measures to tackle seriously irresponsible dog ownership in our communities.
"Every day Battersea witnesses the consequences of anti-social behaviour through irresponsible dog ownership and the use of dogs as weapons,” Ms Horton said. "We are reassured to see a preventive approach to the issue by the Home Office, a proactive stance which was notably absent from DEFRA’s announcement on dangerous dogs last month.”
Dogs Trust recently expressed its disappointment and frustration that the Government’s recent proposals had failed to address effectively two elements it believes are vital to successful policy in this area – compulsory microchipping of all dogs, to connect owners with their animals, and preventive measures to reduce the number of dog attacks. Dogs Trust said it hoped that the issues would now be debated fully and that further recommendations will be made to the Government on future legislation in this area.
"We believe that compulsory microchipping of all dogs should form a central part of any future policy on tackling irresponsible dog ownership,” said chief executive Clarissa Baldwin. "Microchipping will not prevent attacks but we believe that it is the most effective way to link a dog to its owner and to make irresponsible owners accountable for the actions of their dog.
"Microchipping all puppies is a step in the right direction but will mean that the effectiveness of any policy will be delayed by upwards of ten years.”
The charity is also concerned that current Government proposals make little provision for the prevention of dog attacks.
"We would like to see the Government identify ways to deal with irresponsible owners before an attack takes place, which could take the form of Dog Control Notices to keep dogs on a lead or muzzled in public places where necessary.
"We are also pleased that EFRA is extending its discussion to look at the welfare of dogs bred for sale. Puppy farming is a huge issue of concern in the UK, with significant numbers of the public unwittingly buying ill and under-socialised puppies through classified adverts and pet shops. We believe that the licensing of breeders and the subsequent inspection process for licensed premises needs to be tightened significantly.”