I share your concerns about dog attacks that have taken place in recent weeks. They are extremely distressing and I would like to express my deepest sympathy to all the families of those who have died due to dogs that have been out of control.
I recognise the strength of feeling regarding the existing provisions around dog breeds in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. However, I am also aware that any changes to current legislation would require careful consideration to ensure that public safety remains at the heart of the regime.
I am aware that simply repealing the breed specific provisions contained in the Dangerous Dogs Act with no other changes may increase the risks to public safety. The Government firmly believes that these restrictions play an important part in tackling dangerous dogs.
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act, it is an offence to allow any dog to be out of control in any place. Furthermore, the Dogs Act 1871 allows a complaint to be made to a Magistrates’ court by any individual, the police, or local authorities where dogs are dangerous and not kept under proper control. The court may make any order it considers appropriate to require owners to keep their dogs under proper control.
In December 2021, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (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 report made recommendations relating to improved data recording and collection, consistency in enforcement practice, the quality of dog training and dog awareness courses, and improved awareness of appropriate behaviour around dogs.
Defra established an expert Responsible Dog Ownership working group with the police, local authorities and animal welfare experts to identify additional measures to reduce dog attacks and promote responsible dog ownership across all dog breeds. I look forward to reading more about the group’s recommendations in due course.