Dangerous Dogs — [Nadine Dorries in the Chair]
Chris Evans (Islwyn, Labour)
I welcome the Government’s guidelines to crack down on such people, who are completely outside the law. To respond to Angie Bray, yes, we had 13 years, but two years is too long and the Government have a responsibility. We are where we are.
On average, 12 postal workers are attacked by dogs every day. Many do not return to their job because of the physical and psychological effects of the attack. Even Members of this House have been victims of dog attacks. When I came in with a big bandage on my hand, a number of people told me that they knew of party workers who had been chased or bitten by dogs. Everybody I spoke to had some experience on the doorstep of being chased by dogs, although I do not know whether the dogs were Tory or Labour. A recent RSPCA survey underlined that fact and found that more than half of MPs had been bitten or chased by dogs while delivering leaflets over the past five years, while almost 80% of Members have seen one of their constituency team bitten or chased. Perhaps it is unsurprising that, according to the same survey, more than half of MPs believe that the current dog legislation is ineffective.
To return to the point made by Gareth Johnson, we often talk about dangerous dogs in the context of being bitten or chased, but the cost of dangerous dogs cannot be underestimated. Last year, police forces in England and Wales spent £3 million kennelling dogs seized under the 1991 Act. My concern is that, after two years of waiting for worthwhile legislation, the Government’s proposals do not go far enough. Frankly, they are a missed opportunity and we must wonder how much of a priority tackling irresponsible dog ownership really is. However, we have to be careful—it is no good blaming the dogs. In many cases it is often not so much problem dogs, but problem owners. Although it is important that we enforce new, more effective legislation, it will only work if a number of steps are taken to influence owners and better educate the public.