New Clause 20 - Review of Dangerous Dogs Act

Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 18th November 2021.

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“(1) The Secretary of State must carry out a review of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

(2) In conducting the review the Secretary of State must—

(a) review the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991;

(b) take into consideration the recommendations of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee’s 2018 report ‘Controlling dangerous dogs’;

(c) examine the factors behind canine aggression, the determinants of risk and whether the canine breeds prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 pose an inherently greater threat than other breeds; and

(d) consult the public and such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate on the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

(3) The Secretary of State must, no later than three months from the date on which the review concludes, publish a statement on the future of canine policy.”—

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to carry out a review of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Olivia Blake Olivia Blake Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I am both a lover of dogs and a firm believer in science-driven policy. Unfortunately, it is hard to see any credible scientific evidence to support the breed-specific legislation and breed-specific approach taken in the 1991 Act. We have to learn how we go on these issues, but it is clear now that the legislation has failed to deliver what it was designed to do. It has not reduced hospital admissions due to dog bites, has not improved public safety, and not reduced the types of breeds it legislates against.

Between March 2005 and February 2015, the number of hospital admissions in England due to dog bites increased by 76%, from 4,110 to 7,227. The figure rose yet again in 2016 to 7,719. The legislation has led to the euthanising of thousands of healthy dogs. The law does not currently permit prohibited dog types for new owners, regardless of the individual dog’s behaviour, so the only option permitted is euthanasia.

The new clause is in line with the findings of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s 2018 inquiry, which showed that the current dangerous dogs legislation fails to protect safety and can harm animal welfare. The EFRA report recommended instead

“a comprehensive review of existing dog control legislation and policy,” and spoke of the need for an alternative dog control model

“that focuses on prevention though education, early intervention, and consistently robust sanctions for offenders”.

I am therefore proposing that the Bill be adapted to ask the Secretary of State to undertake a review into the future of this canine policy, so that we might move on from breed-specific legislation to breed-neutral legislation, and have policies that improve public safety and reduce some dog bite incidents.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I agree that we would benefit from improved data collection on dog attack incidents, and I can confirm that we are already discussing with the police how this can best be achieved. We also recognise that more could be done to support responsible dog ownership, which is why we commissioned a review by Middlesex University to look at responsible dog ownership across all breeds of dog. The Middlesex University research will be published very shortly, in December—in just a couple of weeks’ time—and will provide the basis for the consideration of further reforms in this area, alongside the EFRA Committee’s 2018 recommendations.

Turning to the breed-specific elements of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, since around 2005, about one in six fatal dog attacks have been by pit bull terriers, despite the prohibitions we have in place, which have significantly limited the number of pit bull terriers in the community. We saw the devastating consequences of a dog attack only last week, with the tragic death of 10-year-old Jack Lis in Caerphilly. We are still waiting for the police to confirm the breed of dog involved in this awful incident and, whatever the upshot of that conclusion, we firmly believe that these restrictions play an important part in our overall approach towards tackling dangerous dogs.

I understand the sincerity with which Members across the House have spoken many times, both privately and in debate, about this difficult issue. We take the issue very seriously. The Middlesex University report will move us further and, in those circumstances, I respectfully ask the hon. Lady to withdraw the new clause.

Photo of Cherilyn Mackrory Cherilyn Mackrory Conservative, Truro and Falmouth

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I wanted to draw attention to my interest in this new clause, because when I was doing A-level politics, way back when, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was seen as a piece of legislation that had not worked very well. That was in the early to mid-1990s—I am showing my age now. I have paid close attention to it, and the reason it did not work very well was because it did not include cross breeds, which was where all the trouble first started.

Earlier this year, I was able to visit a dogs’ home called K9 Crusaders, on the outskirts of Truro in my constituency. The amazing owner, Sue Smith, looks after typed dogs once they have been taken from their families. I learned a lot about how dogs are often seized from families in the middle of the night, which is quite distressing for the families. I met a dog named Eric, a pure-bred American pit bull—believed to be Cornwall’s very first. He was an absolute beauty—an absolutely gorgeous dog. I was also on the other side of the bars from lots of Jack Russells, crosses and all sorts of other scary dogs, for want of a better phrase.

I am certain that the legislation needs huge reform. I welcome the research that is coming in December. I have huge sympathy for the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam and all of her comments. I hope that we can do something in the future, as we advance, but I do not think this Bill is the place to do it. However, I am pleased to hear that the Minister is thinking about it.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I wish briefly to make the point that we all agree that something needs to be done. We have had debates about it in Westminster Hall and so on, but if we do not do it through this process, it will be very hard to get a legislative slot, which is frequently the explanation given to us. My worry is that there will not be legislative slots for some time to allow this to be dealt with. That is why the new clause is relevant.

Through the extensive discussions we have already had in Committee, a pretty good system has been established for dealing with dogs under livestock worrying. That could quite easily be applied to other circumstances. The Bill goes a long way to dealing with a range of issues to do with dogs. It is a missed opportunity not to finish the piece.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Division number 15 Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill — New Clause 20 - Review of Dangerous Dogs Act

Aye: 6 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.