Closed petition Exempt dogs assessed by experts as safe from breed specific legislation

Amend the breed specific legislation to create a clause where by dogs that have been expertly assessed and found to be no more risk to the public than any other breed, to be exempted from breed specific legislation and allowed to live by the same laws as any other dog.

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There are many dogs that are known to be reactive, but it is at present determined by breed if a dog is deemed to be dangerous. Public safety must always be paramount, BUT dogs that have been expertly assessed and found to be well behaved, surely are not the ones that need restrictions for public protection.

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The Petitions Committee decided not to debate this petition

The Petitions Committee has decided not to schedule a debate on this petition.

The Committee recognises the support that the petition has received. However, the issue raised by the petition was recently debated in the House of Commons on 5 July in response to a petition making a related request.

Read a transcript of this debate: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-07-05/debates/814EF953-52F7-4499-953C-447928FF71DB/BreedSpecificLegislation

You can also watch the debate here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRtSMPH_zuc

Given the significant support for petitions about prohibitions for certain dog types, the Committee has written to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, highlighting support for petitions on this subject.

The Committee has called on the Government to:

- Establish a new framework for responsible ownership of dog types which are currently prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act
- Commission new research to consider the evidence base for current prohibitions
- Look at alternatives to current prohibitions on certain dog types

In the letter, the Committee has said the Government should publish the outcome of this work, followed by a Government review of the prohibitions set out in the Dangerous Dogs Act.

You can read the Committee's letter here: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/7403/documents/77570/default/

The Committee will publish the Government's response when it is received, and notify petitioners by email.

Government responded

This response was given on 19 October 2021

The Dangerous Dogs Act places restrictions on certain types of dogs bred for fighting. Individual dogs can be kept under strict conditions if a court judges that they are not a risk to public safety.

Read the response in full

Public safety is at the heart of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. The 1991 Act prohibits four types of fighting dog – types traditionally used for dog fighting (pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo argentino, fila braziliero). This approach is supported by the Police.

The statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs provides owners with information on how to provide for their dog’s natural needs as required by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The Code of Practice clearly sets out that all dogs need to be trained to behave well, ideally from a very young age and should be introduced gradually and positively to different environments, people and animals.

In this country, pit bull types have been traditionally bred for dog fighting to accentuate any aggressive tendencies and therefore the Government considers that they pose an inherently greater risk to the public. We fully recognise that pit bull terriers are crossbreeds, which is why we refer to them as “type” rather than “breed” and base identification on physical characteristics. Identification of pit bull terriers is made by Dog Legislation Officers who are police officers specially trained to recognise the four prohibited type dogs.

The Government considers that a lifting of the restrictions on these types of dogs would more likely result in an increase in dog attacks, rather than contributing to any reduction in such incidents.

Despite the general prohibitions on these types of dog, individual prohibited dogs can be kept by their owners if a court judges that the dog is not a danger to the public, that the dog can be kept in a suitable environment, and that the proposed owner is a fit and proper person. If the court considers these criteria to be met, the dog can be listed on the Index of Exempted Dogs and must be kept under strict conditions, including being on a lead and muzzled in public. The Government considers that these conditions, which include assessment of the dog’s temperament, are proportionate and should be maintained to provide the necessary degree of public safety required and to provide assurance to the public.

Under section 3 of the 1991 Act, it is an offence to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control. For the purposes of the 1991 Act, this includes any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that the dog in question will injure someone, whether or not it actually does so. The maximum penalty for such an offence is fourteen years’ imprisonment if it results in the death of a person; five years in the case of injury; three years if it is an attack on an assistance dog and six months where no injury is caused to a person or assistance dog.

Defra has commissioned further research in collaboration with Middlesex University to look at responsible ownership across all breeds of dog. The research will consider different approaches and the effectiveness of current dog control measures. The report will be published later this year.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/592813)

Other parliamentary business

Original Government response

The Dangerous Dogs Act places restrictions on certain types of dogs bred for fighting. Individual dogs can be kept under strict conditions if a court judges that they are not a risk to public safety.

Public safety is at the heart of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. The 1991 Act prohibits four types of fighting dog – types traditionally used for dog fighting (pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo argentino, fila braziliero). This approach is supported by the Police.

The statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs provides owners with information on how to provide for their dog’s natural needs as required by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The Code of Practice clearly sets out that all dogs need to be trained to behave well, ideally from a very young age and should be introduced gradually and positively to different environments, people and animals.

In this country, pit bull types have been traditionally bred for dog fighting to accentuate any aggressive tendencies and therefore the Government considers that they pose an inherently greater risk to the public. We fully recognise that pit bull terriers are crossbreeds, which is why we refer to them as “type” rather than “breed” and base identification on physical characteristics. Identification of pit bull terriers is made by Dog Legislation Officers who are police officers specially trained to recognise the four prohibited type dogs.

The Government considers that a lifting of the restrictions on these types of dogs would more likely result in an increase in dog attacks, rather than contributing to any reduction in such incidents.

Despite the general prohibitions on these types of dog, individual prohibited dogs can be kept by their owners if a court judges that the dog is not a danger to the public, that the dog can be kept in a suitable environment, and that the proposed owner is a fit and proper person. If the court considers these criteria to be met, the dog can be listed on the Index of Exempted Dogs and must be kept under strict conditions, including being on a lead and muzzled in public.

Under section 3 of the 1991 Act, it is an offence to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control. For the purposes of the 1991 Act, this includes any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that the dog in question will injure someone, whether or not it actually does so. The maximum penalty for such an offence is fourteen years’ imprisonment if it results in the death of a person; five years in the case of injury; three years if it is an attack on an assistance dog and six months where no injury is caused to a person or assistance dog.

Defra has commissioned further research in collaboration with Middlesex University to look at responsible ownership across all breeds of dog. The research will consider different approaches and the effectiveness of current dog control measures. The report will be published later this year.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

This response was given on 12 August 2021. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.

Government responds to request to review prohibitions on certain dog types

The Government has responded to a letter from the Petitions Committee, which called on the Government to review prohibitions on certain dog types.

Read the Committee's letter: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/7403/documents/77570/default/

Read the Government's response: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/7727/documents/80575/default/

In the response, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, George Eustice MP, outlines a report the Government plans to publish on responsible dog ownership, written by Middlesex University. He says the report will:

  • covers all breeds and types of dog
  • assess the evidence base relating to breed specific legislation
  • consider a range of measures and interventions apart from the prohibition of certain dog types

In the letter the Secretary of State says the Government feels it is important for the UK's overarching framework to apply to all breeds and types of dogs, because, depending upon the circumstances, it is possible for a dog of any breed or type to act dangerously.

The Secretary of State says he hopes to publish the report by Middlesex University shortly. We will let you know when this report is published.

Request to review prohibitions on certain dog types

On 21 September the Petitions Committee wrote to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about prohibitions on certain dog types.

The Committee called on the Government to:

  • Establish a new framework for responsible ownership of dog types which are currently prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act
  • Commission new research to consider the evidence base for current prohibitions
  • Look at alternatives to current prohibitions on certain dog types

Read the Committee's letter: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/7403/documents/77570/default/

MPs ask Government about its plans to review dangerous dogs legislation

The Petitions Committee has written to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to ask what work the Government is doing to review laws governing dog ownership, including dangerous dogs legislation that prohibits certain types of dog.

Read the Committee's letter: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/8712/documents/88366/default/

The letter, from the Chair of the Committee Catherine McKinnell MP, follows the publication of Government-commissioned research by Middlesex University on responsible ownership across all breeds of dog.

Read Middlesex University's report: http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=19861

The Government has said this report will provide the basis for its consideration of reform of dog ownership laws, and that it is already working with the police, local authorities, and stakeholders to consider the recommendations made in this report.

The Committee has asked the Secretary of State to provide more information about this work, and if and when it expects to publish proposals for reform of existing legislation governing dog ownership, including dangerous dogs legislation.

We will share the Government's response with you when this is received.

Steering group on responsible dog ownership created by the Government

The Government has set out details of a new steering group that has been established to provide advice on policies aimed at reducing dog attacks and promoting responsible ownership of dogs.

Read a letter from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, setting out details of the new steering group: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/9393/documents/161039/default/

The Secretary of State has said that the steering group held its first meeting on 24 February, and work is underway to form specialist subgroups to help inform the steering group's advice to the Government.

The Government has said it expects the work of the steering group to be concluded in early 2023, at which point the Government will consider its advice.

Why has this steering group been established?

This steering group has been established following the publication of Government-commissioned research by Middlesex University on responsible ownership across all breeds of dog.

Read Middlesex University's report: http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Default.aspx?Module=More&Location=None&ProjectID=19861

The Government has set out details of the steering group in its response to a letter from the Petitions Committee asking what work the Government is doing to review laws governing dog ownership, including dangerous dogs legislation that prohibits certain types of dog. The Committee's request for more information about the Government's work in this area followed a number of petitions, including the one you signed, calling on the Government to review the law relating to dog ownership.

Read the Committee's letter: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/8712/documents/88366/default/

What happens next

A petition calling on the Government to repeal breed specific provisions in dangerous dogs legislation is currently waiting to be scheduled for debate.

As soon as the Committee has scheduled a debate on this petition, we will let you know.

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