The RSPCA has today welcomed an inquiry by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee into the current legislation on dangerous dogs.
The announcement comes almost two years after the RSPCA – the country’s largest and oldest animal welfare charity – launched its high-profile #EndBSL campaign, calling on the UK Government to review Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) 1991 which, under Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), prohibits the ownership of four types of dogs: pitbull terrier, fila Brasiliero, dogo Argentino, Japanese tosa.
Today, EFRA has launched an inquiry into this legislation following considerable debate about the effectiveness of banning dogs based on their breed or type.
RSPCA dog welfare expert and lead author of the charity’s report – Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner – Dr Samantha Gaines welcomed the move: “We are really pleased that Parliament has listened to the concerns raised by us and dozens of other animal welfare charities and organisations, not only here in the UK but also around the world.
“Launching this inquiry is an important step towards the ultimate goal of our #EndBSL campaign – to repeal Section 1 of the law and replace it with legislation that not only better protects dog welfare in this country, but also effectively protects public safety.
“Since this legislation was brought in almost 27 years ago, hospital admissions in England due to dog bites have continued to increase showing that the targeting of certain types of dogs simply isn’t working.
“Not only is the legislation failing to protectthe public, but it is also failing dogs. Thousands of dogs have been kennelled unnecessarily and huge numbers put to sleep over the years simply for looking a certain way and that’s a serious welfare and ethical issue.”
Data collected by the RSPCA has shown that of 37 people who have died in the UK in dog-related incidents since 1991, 28 involved breeds/types not prohibited by law*.
“There is no scientific basis to BSL,” Dr Gaines added. “There’s no robust scientific evidence to suggest the types that are banned pose a heightened risk to the public compared to other types and no research that shows dogs traditionally selected for fighting are inherently aggressive or that their bite style could cause more serious damage than another dog.
“The simple fact here is that the way a dog looks is not a predictor of whether he or she is a risk or is likely to be aggressive. Aggression is a much more complex behaviour than that and any dog, regardless of its breed or type, has the potential to be dangerous if they are not properly bred, reared or given the right experiences in life.”
More than 67,000 people have signed the RSPCA’s #EndBSL petition – calling for the launch of an inquiry – and organisations around the world have stood side-by-side with the charity.
“The Dangerous Dogs Act was brought into force in 1991 following a number of high-profile dog attacks but, since it’s launch, has proven to be ineffective at protecting public safety and unjust for thousands of dogs who have lost their lives just for looking a certain way,” RSPCA public affairs manager, David Bowles, said.
“Our campaign has had support from organisations around the world and, in many countries, there is now a trend to repeal BSL with a focus on encouraging responsible dog ownership and improving education around dog safety.
“The RSPCA has long been calling for a legislative framework that uses effective laws and enforcement to tackle dog-related issues regardless of the dog’s breed or type; encourages responsible dog ownership; ensures better education, particularly targeted at children, who are most vulnerable to dog bites; and gains a better understand of why dogs bite so steps can be taken to address the reasons and reduce risk.”
The RSPCA will now be working on a submission for the Committee’s consultation and will continue to work tirelessly to bring about a change in the law.