The British Government has today published its reply to the committee which has been looking into the Dangerous Dogs Act, how it works and how it could be improved by education. The committee published its report last October and encouraged the Government to take various steps, including introducing new training, similar to a speed awareness course for drivers, for low-medium level offences and new education initiatives for local authorities and officers.
They also examined Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act which states that four breed types are illegal to own breed, sell, gift or allow to stray in the UK.
The committee learnt from animal welfare experts in the rehoming industry that as a result of the legislation, dogs were being put to sleep because they could not be rehomed.
The committee concluded that: “We are concerned that Defra’s arguments in favour of maintaining Breed Specific Legislation are not substantiated by robust evidence. It is even more worrying that non-existent evidence appears to have been cited before a Parliamentary Committee in support of current Government policy. This lack of clarity indicates a disturbing disregard for evidence-based policy-making.”
“The prohibition on transferring Section 1 dogs has resulted in the unnecessary destruction of good-tempered dogs that could have been safely re-homed. Defra’s position is both illogical and inherently unfair. Whether a dog is euthanised or not can depend entirely on whether it ‘looks like’ a Pit Bull Terrier. It is unnecessarily cruel to forbid good-tempered dogs from being transferred to responsible owners willing to comply with the stringent provisions attached to keeping a Section 1 dog.”
On this point, the committee recommended the Government: “remove the ban on transferring Section 1 dogs to new owners. This should be accompanied by adequate regulation of animal centres and appropriate safeguards to ensure the re-homing of Section 1 dogs is conducted responsibly and safely.”
The Government responded saying:
“Any proposals to amend the law here, for example to allow prohibited dogs which have no previous court approved owner to be rehomed, or to transfer a prohibited dog to people who have had no contact with the dog, would require an amendment to the DDA and the supporting secondary legislation. The Government does not consider that it is a priority to amend legislation at this time. We would also need to consider the implications for public safety and the increased burden on the Courts before any legislative change could be made, as well as the implications for rescue and rehoming centres themselves.”
And continued that it: “recently invited comments from the public and stakeholders on the issue of licensing such establishments in connection with a possible ban on the third party selling of puppies and kittens. The Government considers that, should a decision in future be made to amend the DDA around rehoming prohibited dogs, licensing would be a necessary prerequisite before considering whether such establishments could have a formal role in any rehoming.”
Dr Samantha Gaines, RSPCA dog welfare expert and lead author of the ‘Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner’ report, gave evidence to the committee’s review last year.
Commenting on the Conservative Government’s response she said, “We are extremely disappointed that the Government is still suggesting that prohibited types of dogs are more dangerous than other types of dogs and that they are involved in a disproportionately high number of attacks on people, including fatalities. The RSPCA, in its evidence to EFRA, made it very clear that in the absence of robust data around the dog population such claims cannot be made and it is misleading to do so.
“We are also hugely disappointed that despite EFRA recommending changes which would mean that friendly and rehomeable banned types of dogs could avoid being put to sleep, the Government is unwilling to do so. For the past 27 years thousands of dogs have paid the ultimate price as a result of this draconian and unjust legislation which penalises dogs simply for the way they look. This has lead to the unnecessary destruction of hundreds of friendly and well-behaved family pets and dogs that organisations like ourselves could rehome.
“We’re looking forward to the conclusions of the research project currently being undertaken by Middlesex University. Our own research has shown that there is a lack of scientific evidence to support BSL and positive evidence against it. We remain confident that the outcome of the research will be one which recommends breed neutral legislation and that Government will act on this.
“The Government urgently needs to act on this; public safety and the lives of thousands more innocent dogs in the future rely on it.”
Full access to the Government’s response is available here.
In a nutshell, nothing is set to change for the dogs most at risk of losing their lives due to how they look, rather than act, because of the law.