Case Studies

MPs on dog attack law

by Mark Rowe

The Government has drafted laws to extend dangerous dogs offences to attacks on private property, on postmen and other workers. But a committee of MPs criticises the Government for failing to bring in wider measures, including Dog Control Notices, to tackle out-of-control dogs.

Launching the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s (EFRA) pre-legislative scrutiny report on the Draft Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Bill (HC 95) Committee Chair, Anne McIntosh MP, said: “Our February Dog Control and Welfare report concluded that current laws had comprehensively failed to tackle irresponsible dog ownership. Eight people, including six children, have died as a result of dog attacks since 2007; annual costs to the NHS of treating dog attack injuries are around £3 million; and some eight assistance dogs and hundreds of livestock are attacked each month.

“In February, our previous report said that the Government’s belated proposals for improvement were woefully inadequate. The draft Bill’s proposals are welcome, but are limited in scope and far short of providing a comprehensive and effective regime for tackling the increasing problem of out-of-control dogs. Strong measures to prevent dog attacks are conspicuously absent—in particular targeted Dog Control Notices. The Government must bring together the disparate dog control and breeding legislation into a single, comprehensive Act.”

MPs endorse the proposed amendment to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 making attacks on private land the same as attacks on public land.

Anne McIntosh said: “There is a gaping hole in the current law making it impossible to bring criminal charges against an owner whose dog attacks someone in a private place, such as a home. We welcome the proposal to enable action to be taken regardless of where a dog attack happens.
We also welcome the protection from prosecution given to someone whose dog attacks a trespasser in a home. This must apply whether or not the dog’s owner or their family are present at the time of the attack. Householders need to know they can leave their dog at home without fear of committing an offence should their dog attack an intruder.”

EFRA Committee agree with the Government that the protection from prosecution should apply only when an attack takes place on a trespasser in the house, not in a surrounding area such as the garden or drive. However, measures taken by the owner to minimise the likelihood of their dog acting aggressively toward someone unexpectedly in such places should be taken into account by enforcement agencies and the courts.

Attacks on other animals

MPs support the measures to extend offences to those committed against an assistance dog, such as a guide dog, in the same way as if the attack were on a person. This reflects the significant consequences such attacks have on the daily lives of people who rely on assistance dogs. The committee recommends that such offences should be extended to apply to any attack which injures a protected animal, such as a horse or livestock.

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