Petition Make dogs attacking other pets a specific criminal offence

We want people to be held accountable for dogs that attack other pets. At the moment a dog attacking another pet isn't an offence unless it's deemed to be out of control. We want this to be made a specific offence, like worrying livestock.

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It has been reported that dog on dog attacks are on the increase, and we are concerned that this has been exacerbated by a lack of knowledge of owners about the heritage of their dogs and needs for training.

People’s pets are being hurt or killed and we believe the Government needs to change the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 in order to make dogs attacking other pets a specific offence. If a dog attacked a flock of sheep or chickens the owner would be guilty of an offence and the dog could be put down, but if a dog attacks and kills a pet, and isn't judged to be out of control this wouldn't be an offence. We believe this is not fair and needs to be changed

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Government responded

This response was given on 24 August 2023

Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 already provides for offences to be dealt with. We do not consider it necessary to introduce another offence.

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We recognise that dog attacks on other pets can have horrific consequences, and we take this issue very seriously. We consider that current dog control powers and our ongoing work to improve their application are sufficient to address this issue without the need to introduce a specific offence.

Police and local authorities have a range of powers available to tackle dangerous dogs and irresponsible dog ownership across all breeds of dog, including in cases where a dog attacks another pet.

It is an offence under section 3(1) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control in any place. The law does not specifically exclude an attack by a dog on another animal from the offence of allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control.

Case law supports the possibility of prosecutions being brought under section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 in relation to dog-on-dog attacks. Successful cases have also been brought for dog-on-cat attacks using section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. It will, however, be for the Crown Prosecution Service to assess, on a case-by-case basis, whether to proceed with a prosecution under the legislation.

Section 2 of the Dogs Act 1871 also allows a complaint to be made to a Magistrates’ 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.

Under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 the police and local authorities can issue community protection notices (CPN) to address anti-social behaviour involving dogs and prevent dog control issues becoming more serious. A CPN could require the owner of a dog to stop or start doing certain things to reduce the impact of the dog’s behaviour on the community. This could include specific requirements such as wearing a lead or muzzle in public, attending dog training, or ensuring that a garden is securely enclosed so a dog cannot escape.

Under this legislation, enforcement authorities also have powers to make Public Spaces Protection Orders excluding dogs from certain areas, insisting they are kept on leads, or restricting the number of dogs that can be walked by one person at any one time.

We are working in partnership with police forces and local authorities across England and Wales to ensure the full range of existing dog control powers mentioned above are effectively applied. As part of this, we have been collaborating with enforcers to deliver sessions to share best practice in preventive dog control enforcement and encourage multi-agency working to ensure dog control issues are addressed before they escalate.

In December 2021, Defra also published research in collaboration with Middlesex University investigating measures to reduce dog attacks and promote responsible dog ownership across all breeds of dog.

In response to this research, we are working with police, local authorities and animal welfare organisations to consider how the recommendations could be taken forward and to identify ways in which to improve the application of the full range of existing dog control powers.
We are also considering the role of education and training (for both dogs and their owners) in reducing the risk of dog attacks, as well as considering how we can improve data collection and recording and enforcement practices.

Conclusions from this work are expected later this year. These should address all aspects of tackling irresponsible dog ownership effectively, from prevention to robust, consistent enforcement, focussing on owners as well as on their dogs.

If a Member of Parliament introduces legislation through a Private Members’ Bill, we will consider it carefully.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

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