Opinion Former Article

RSPCA: New Government dog measures lack bite

Coalition breaks promise to “target irresponsible owners”

The Government has wasted the best opportunity to tackle irresponsible dog ownership in more than 20 years, claimed the RSPCA today.

The country’s biggest animal welfare charity has accused Defra of ignoring the advice of the country’s dog law enforcement agencies, and instead launching yet another unnecessary consultation.

The RSPCA’s believes the coalition has broken its promise, set out in its ‘programme for government’, to “promote responsible pet ownership” and that it “will ensure that enforcement agencies target irresponsible owners of dangerous dogs.”1

An extension of the law to cover private property, as well as public land, is a step in the right direction. However, along with compulsory microchipping of puppies, it is a purely reactionary measure that fails to prevent dog bites and attacks from happening in the first place.

The RSPCA also fear suggestions of an increase in the fee to have dogs put on the exempted register from £24 to more than £70 could lead to more people choosing instead to have their dog put to sleep rather than pay costs of up to an estimated £850 for it to be exempted.2

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: “Britain’s dogs deserve better. Too many are abandoned and abused, demonised and dumped. All owners need to be accountable to their dogs, the irresponsible deterred and the abusive prosecuted. That is the approach we need to take. These proposals need to go a lot further to achieve that.

“It has been 21 years since the disastrous Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced. After years of watching the problem of irresponsible dog ownership spiral, this was the perfect chance for the current Government to make huge strides forward for dog welfare. Instead they have taken only the smallest steps and merely tinkered with a piece legislation that many people widely acknowledge is one of the biggest failures of modern politics.

“These measures not only lack bite, they raise major questions about how exactly they expect to effectively tackle the danger of irresponsible ownership to both people and animals.

“Animal rescue centres are filled to breaking point with unwanted, neglected and cruelly treated dogs. Irresponsible owners are continuing to make money from breeding dogs with little care for their health or welfare. Meanwhile, people continue to be put at risk of being attacked or injured by out of control dogs and their irresponsible owners.

“The proposals set out by the Government in Westminster today do not appear to fundamentally address these growing problems of irresponsible dog ownership.

“Instead, Defra has only papered over the cracks of much more serious matters than this response gives credit to. The RSPCA believe enough is enough.”

The launch of a new consultation puts England once again on the back foot in tackling irresponsible ownership, compared to other home nations.

Northern Ireland remains the last part of the UK to retain a dog licensing scheme, while the Welsh Government is currently working on proposals for the control of dogs and Scotland has just updated its dog control legislation providing for earlier intervention. This leaves England trailing in last place again.

Defra’s announcement today also ignores the 78% of respondents to the previous Government’s consultation on dangerous dogs who said they believe current legislation should be consolidated and updated into one law.3

Mr Grant added: “They do not appear to understand what the people want and what the dogs need.

“It has not listened to those who deal with this problem on the frontline – the police, the local authorities and the RSPCA and other animal charities and vets.

“There has been more than two years since the last consultation to ensure the Government got this right. The RSPCA, along with the other law enforcement agencies, have stated on numerous occasions the measures we believe are vital to solve what is a huge social, public safety and animal welfare issue.

“Yet here we are again, and the Government has once more ignored the advice of those who deal with irresponsible dog owners every day.”

 

-ends-

 

Notes to editors

 

1. http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/resources/coalition_programme_for_government.pdf (accessed 21.04.12)

2. At present owners of dogs that are suitable for exemption under section 4b of the Dangerous Dogs Act are required to pay for the process in most cases. However, the owners need to find funds for the following: court fees of £200 (if not contested) or £500 (if contested); microchipping, neutering and tattooing costs circa £200; third party insurance circa £75; registering their dog on the exempted index £70+.

3. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110202125928/http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/dangerous-dogs/101125-dangerous-dogs-responses.pdf (accessed 21.04.12)




 

RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS
Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288 Fax: 0303 123 0099
Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel 08448 222888 and ask for pager number 828825
Email: press@rspca.org.uk Website: www.rspca.org.uk

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