dangerous dogs act


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It is all about the looks

Just read an interesting article in the Guardian about the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) in England you can read the full article here http://bit.ly/wHPwCJ  It is widely acknowledged that this piece of legislation was rushed through in response to media pressure surrounding some serious attacks on kids by ‘pit bull’ breed dogs.  The legislation was meant to get rid of banned breeds and reduce the number of dog attacks - the legislation has done neither and has in fact led to a boom in cross breeding to create so called 'status dogs.’

Should a dog be judged on how it looks?

The DDA names a set of band breeds bred for fighting including 'pit bull terrier’ types however there are more on the 'banned breed list:

  • Pit Bull Terrier
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Braziliero

source: direct.gov

There is very little guidance as to what constitutes a 'Pit Bull Terrier’ direct.gov suggests that you contact your local police force (which incidentally my owners did) but it is primarily about how a dog looks.  The actual guidance to enforcers is from Defra and is based on the American Dog Breeders Association standard you can view the info here. If you have read my blog before you’ll know that I do not support this type of legislation - the way a dog looks is no indicator of how it will behave, so why should a 'type’ of dog be banned?

Now I’m not a full Staffy, I’m a cross breed and I do have some characteristics that make me look a little 'pit bull.’ in fact the reason I have been vetted by the police is that my owners were told by a stranger on the street they had a banned dog.  Had this person been an enforcement office I could have been taken from my owners without having done a single thing wrong. Simply because of legislative ambiguity and how I look - not based on behaviour, or temperament, simply aesthetics. Try a quick web or social media search and you’ll see a growing number of cases where perfectly behaved family pets have been confiscated - Lennox being the most high profile, but there are more.

Now the police argue that this legislation allows them to do their job when it comes to trophy or status dogs used by gangs and other such ner-do-wells, and I am sure that it does help, but that isn’t really a good enough reason for keeping a legislation that isn’t helping a situation that is getting out of control.

Keep people safe

Part of the legislation relates to a dog that is 'dangerously out of control’ which I do think is a sensible starting point, subjective, but a good starting point.  I can give you plenty of examples of having encountered 'out of control’ dogs with no owner in sight, being backed into a corner by 2 snarling German Shepherds whilst my owner shouted for their owner who was nowhere to be seen was not fun.  I hid behind my owner, and I’m potentially the 'Dangerous Dog’ here. the fact is that incidents like this should not happen - you should not be fearful of a dog, it should be properly under control when off the lead, or it should always be on the lead.

So how to proceed?

The answer isn’t simple, but it involves amending the current law and ensuring that responsible ownership is encouraged and irresponsible behaviour outlawed.  Here are some ideas:

- Licence owners, it happens with cars, dog owners need to know the basics at least and be competent.  Prove you CAN own a dog and then you CAN. 

- Compulsory Microchipping, why wouldn’t you want your dog microchipped? It is your best chance of getting them back if they go missing

- Deed based, forget the breed let’s worry about the dogs that are causing threat and/or harm.

- Context should be a consideration, what led to the deed?  Should a dog that is being beaten by a burglar be destroyed for being aggressive towards the tormentor?

- Innocent until proven guilty, Without evidence for dangerous behaviour, don’t confiscate dogs

- Punish bad ownership - it is rare for dogs to be naturally aggressive (especially towards people) this comes form poor ownership and bad training. This should extend as far as breeders - we might loose some puppy farms then.

- Help owners to improve, people make mistakes, take on dogs that are beyond their skills and most with help will improve.Any legislation should be progressive enough to help people get better (like the speed awareness courses)

- Compulsory Annual Vet Visits,  This is more to help protect the dog, but will ensure vaccinations are up to date, that there are no health problems that would lead to any issues and allow owners the opportunity to ask for help.

This should help the police crack down on dodgy breeders, irresponsible owners and begin to stamp out the trophy dog culture, if you have no microchip and no license then your dog can be confiscated.

Until we stop seeing some breeds as naturally 'bad’ then things won’t change.  Let’s make sure that any change to the law is one that improves the situation and encourages responsible ownership, whilst punishing those who treat their dogs badly and encourage aggression.

These might not be all the answers - but it certainly feels like it addresses more than the current legislation. what do you think?

updated: 24/01 - Had another little thought on this and I have added in another idea to make things a little better (Compulsory Vet visits)

Compulsory Microchipping - is it enough?

The government today is set to introduce new legislation to ensure that any newborn puppy is microchipped.  The idea is that this will ensure that all dogs can be traced back to an owner, seemingly the logic is that this will encourage owners to take responsibility for their pets and we’ll see a reduction in the number of dog bite / attacks (whatever you want to call them).  Although the sentiment is clearly right, and I don’t think anyone would disagree that an approach that encourages responsibility of owners is the right course, I’m not sure that compulsory microchipping is the ‘magic bullet.’

Obligatory costs argument

Some will argue that this simply adds cost to people wanting to own a dog, I’m not so sure that this is a bad thing - if you aren’t willing to spend £35 on a safety net for locating your pet then I’m not so sure that you should own a dog. The problem really is that it is an expense for legitimate breeders and the source of the real problem, the cottage industry breeder with no experience, no motivation other than a fast buck isn’t likely to do this and I suspect the type of person who buys or takes one of these puppies isn’t likely to care either.

And there is the real problem

This legislation, although well intentioned actually doesn’t address the problem, that the people that really need targeting will be missed, won’t adhere and won’t care.  They don’t care about the dog and it’s welfare and in all of this the focus needs shifting to solve the problem of poor ownership.

Then the privacy argument

Another point that will inevitable be levelled at this legislation is that of privacy and data protection.  Ok it does add the the 'big data’ pile, but let’s face it access to this information isn’t going to be that easy and there is a benefit to most owners of having the information available - the tag around my neck with my owners mobile is much less secure data storage.  The biggest concern I have for this data is how easy it is to keep it up to date - a move of house, different phone number, a change of ownership, what are the ramifications for not keeping the data up to date? and who has responsibility for checking and maintaining this?

Neither the cost, nor the privacy argument stack up and compulsory microchipping as a starter can only be a good thing, but more need to be done to address the problem.

Status dogs and a poor law

The last conservative government compounded the problem and now it has gotten out of hand.  They tried stamping out a problem by banning a breed based on media pressure, and without proper consideration the dangerous dogs act was amended to include a set of banned breeds, including 'pit bull type’ dogs.  And over the past 20 years it has become fashionable to own a 'banned dog’ within a certain segment of society.  This has led to cross breeding in backyards, an explosion in staffie crosses in rescue centres and a spiralling of unsuitable owners and terrible incidents.

The solution is not simple

There is no sticking plaster, no magic bullet. What is required is a range of measures and more power to enforce where necessary.  Any dog can be a dangerous dog in the wrong hands.  And I’m not just talking about the status dog underclass here, I’m talking about Jack Russel that 'just gave him a little nip’ or the doberman x that you cannot control.  The important thing is that people respect their dog, take care of his/her welfare, ensure that they raise a nurture a well adjusted, well mannered pet - and anyone that doesn’t is given the help to put it right, and if they won’t has their rights taken away.

I’ve blogged about what is necessary before - you can read a bout it here but I believe that we need a multifaceted approach that at the very least considers the following:

  1. Licence owners
  2. Compulsory Microchipping
  3. Compulsory Annual Vet Visits
  4. Deed based
  5. Context should be a consideration
  6. Ensure a Dog is Innocent until proven guilty
  7. Help owners to improve
  8. Punish bad ownership

We need to focus on a solution to the problem rather than delivering small thinking 'do something’ legislation.  With an emphasis on personal responsibility and education where necessary we can get things back on track.

Sadly I’m sure compulsory microchipping alone is not enough and for all the arguments of affordability and data protection, the reality is it doesn’t address the whole problem.

*Note: fact checked my History and have amended the Dangerous dogs act bit (Conservative Govt. and 20 yrs not 15)

Dangerous Dogs

While I was in Wales lambing, a 6 day old baby was found dead after a suspected dog attack in a town nearby. The breed accused was an Alaskan Malamute and it really got me thinking about the Dangerous Dogs Act and media attention surrounding it.

I have never worked with any of the breeds listed under ‘Specially Controlled Dogs’ so can’t say from experience whether their temperament is hugely different to other breeds. In my opinion both genetics and the environment affect how a dog behaves. Some breeds have been intensively bred for fighting or hunting; meaning genes that could provoke ‘dangerous’ behaviour have been engrained in their genetic fingerprint. Saying this, I know thick, muscular staffys that will give you a hug and lick your face and cute fluffy terriers that will snarl as soon as look at you. Not all animals of the same breed are the same. Each dog is a different cocktail of genetics and life experiences.

As in the case of the malamute, any breed of dog can attack and kill. Dogs have strong genetic instincts that can be triggered by, for instance, the noise a baby makes.  I feel that each attack should be looked at on a case by case basis. Instead of just destroying the animal we should look at why the attack happened, what provoked it and what we can learn from it to prevent the same happening again. There is a huge responsibility that comes with owning a dog of any breed, and I just wish there was a way of ensuring that all dog owners have this understanding before purchasing an animal.

I’d be interested to hear what you guys think about the act, ‘dangerous’ breeds and what can be done. Drop me a message, let’s get a discussion going!

That’s a like a minute, not to mention their whole timeline is flooded with people complaining about the terrible piece they did about “dangerous” dogs. If you live in the UK, please boycott The One Show until they stop sending out the message that it’s ok to kill innocent creatures simply for their looks.