The National Dog Warden Association like the rest of the United Kingdom was shocked to learn of the death of school girl Jade Anderson and we offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Jade.
The true facts of what happened may never be known and it is wrong to speculate whilst the police investigation is ongoing. What is known however is that the lack of political will and clear direction from governments of various political makeup has resulted in this important issue being kicked into the long grass for a variety of reasons, writes NDWA Chairman Neil Burton.
It is now plainly clear that legislation must be amended to protect the public wherever they are be it in a public or private place from dogs. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 should be amended to include private property to protect workers and the general public who are visiting a private property for a bona fide reason.
NDWA called for some type of dog licensing scheme with third party insurance liability back in 2009 but this idea was scoffed at by some. NDWA again calls for a dog licence scheme that includes a requirement to have appropriate insurance (which many responsible dog owners already have) as well as a mandatory requirement for a dog owner to show an element of dog knowledge and the ability to control their dog. A scheme such as the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme being an example of such proof of competence.
The issue of dog control should also look at the number of dogs that can be housed at a social housing property as part of a tenants occupancy agreement and the local authority or Registered Social Landlord should enforce the rules.
Local Authorities and Police Forces need to work more closely on dog related issues and there should be a consistent approach across all council and police areas around the country. The current patchwork approach is a postcode lottery and dependent upon which area the incident occurs and whether the local police or the council deal with the incident.
The loss of experienced Dog Wardens and their replacement by council officers needs to be addressed by Local Authorities as a matter of urgency. Those councils who are aware of the statutory minimum requirement for a council to collect stray dogs may think they are being clever and saving money by reducing the role of their Dog Warden to a multi-roled job which may have pest control or the issuing of Fixed Penalty Notice as the primary role, this can be a dangerous false economy.
Unfortunately though this is unlikely to happen due to Dog Warden Services being an easy target for budget savings. Without closer cooperation between councils and police, clear guidelines on who deals with what and the protection of the public through a combination of robust education and enforcement, nothing will ever change.
The government appears unwilling to deal with dog owners or encroach upon the hearth and home of citizens for fear of being seen as interfering. Somebody needs to advise the government that dogs can be out of control in public and that there is a culture of irresponsible and anti-social dog ownership amongst a minority of dog owners. It ranges from failing to clear up after their dogs through to having dogs that are a danger to other animals and people.
Tougher dog controls are needed but people need to be aware that whatever legislation is brought in, without appropriate resources or political will to enforce such legislation robustly, there will be no increase in public protection. The government needs to remember that any legislation brought in needs to be made mandatory otherwise it will go the way of Out of Hours Stray Dog Services, something not complied with by many Local Authorities because DEFFRA used the words ‘where practicable’.
Hopefully Local Authorities will not have to consider that the protection of human life from dogs is only required ‘where practicable’ and will take a managing position to protect the public.