Petition Repeal the current Dangerous Dogs Act and replace with new framework

We want the Government to repeal the Dangerous Dogs Act and replace it with legislation that focuses on early intervention to prevent dog bites and tackle dog-related issues regardless of breed or type, based solely on their behaviour.

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The Government commissioned a steering group to provide advice on policies aimed at reducing dog attacks and promoting responsible ownership of dogs. However, their report is not due until next year.

In view of shocking and tragic events that continue to result from the current legislation, urgent action is required NOW, in the interest of public safety and the welfare of dogs. Organisations involved in the Government's steering group oppose Breed Specific Legislation and agree breed is not a prediction of aggressive behaviour. We believe the current legislation is enabling more fatalities and failing to prevent the dog attack trend. It needs repeal immediately.

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Government responded

This response was given on 9 November 2022

Repealing breed-specific controls with no other changes may increase risks to public safety. Any reforms would require careful consideration so that public safety remains at the heart of the regime.

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We recognise that dog attacks can have horrific consequences, and we take this issue very seriously.

We recognise that some people are opposed to the prohibitions placed on the four types of dog under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. However, HM Government must balance the views of those who want to repeal or amend breed specific legislation with our responsibility to ensure that the public is properly protected from dog attacks.

Simply repealing the breed specific provisions contained in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 with no other changes may increase the risks to public safety, which HM Government is unwilling to do. Any changes to current legislation would require careful consideration to ensure that public safety remains at the heart of the regime.

Police and local authorities already have a range of powers available to tackle dangerous dogs and irresponsible dog ownership across all breeds of dog.

Under section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (“the 1991 Act”), it is an offence to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control in any place. 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.

Section 2 of the Dogs Act 1871 allows a complaint to be made to a Magistrate’s court where a dog is “dangerous and not kept under proper control”. The court may make any Order it considers appropriate, to require the owner to keep the dog under proper control, or if necessary, that it be destroyed. 

Additionally, the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 includes specific powers to enable the police and local authorities to tackle irresponsible dog ownership. These powers can help prevent situations involving irresponsible owners of dogs becoming more serious by facilitating intervention earlier on.

The main tool to tackle this form of irresponsible dog ownership is the Community Protection Notice (CPN). These notices can be issued by local authority officers or the police to dog owners, or anyone temporarily in charge of the dog at the time. Failure to comply with a CPN is a criminal offence.

Under the 2014 Act, local authorities can also use Public Space Protection Orders to deal with a particular nuisance or problem arising in an area by imposing conditions on the use of that area. For example, a Public Space Protection Order may be used to exclude dogs from designated spaces (e.g., a children's play area in a park), require dogs to be kept on leads, or restrict the number of dogs that can be walked by one person at any one time. 

HM Government is determined to crack down on irresponsible dog ownership and to that end we are encouraging police forces and local authorities across the country to use these powers.

In December 2021, Defra published research in collaboration with Middlesex University investigating measures to reduce dog attacks and promote responsible dog ownership across all breeds of dog. The research considers the effectiveness of current dog control measures and makes several recommendations. These relate to consistency in enforcement practice and greater use of preventative enforcement models, improved knowledge and awareness of appropriate behaviour around dogs, strengthened accreditation of dog trainers, improved data recording and collection, as well as the introduction of new legal requirements of dog ownership.

In response to this research, Defra has established a Responsible Dog Ownership working group involving police, local authorities and animal welfare organisations to consider the recommendations made in the Middlesex University report in more detail. We expect the working group to report next year and that its conclusions and recommendations will address all aspects of tackling irresponsible dog ownership effectively, from prevention to robust, consistent enforcement, focussing on owners as well as on their dogs.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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Petitions Committee requests a revised response from the Government

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