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New Crackdown On 'Dangerous Dogs' Planned - Does DEFRA Have A Clue What It Is Doing?

Mon, 17 Mar 2008
Not content with spreading chaos and confusion over the implementation of sec 68 of the Clean Neighbourhoods & Environment Act 2005 that deals with stray dogs out of hours, DEFRA appears set to issue more guidance on matters canine. This time the Whitehall mandarins are telling the police and local councils how to enforce dog related legislation.

According to the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, the government is planning a new crackdown on ‘danger dogs’ that amongst other things includes, welfare agencies, police and local authorities setting up local projects to meet people with dogs that may pose a risk and offer advice?

In reality that could be any size, shape, type and breed of dog ranging from a Chihuahua to an Irish Wolfhound. The government already enforces breed specific legislation, these projects may also be BSL if they target certain breeds of dog.

Why is the government advising that welfare groups take the lead over the police and councils, who has advised DEFRA to set up these projects, was it welfare groups?

The major problem for both police and councils is yet again a simple seven letter word F-U-N-D-I-N-G! In both organisations, some enforce the legislation some do not.

If the government bothered to ask people from the police and councils why certain dog legislation is not enforced, the answer will be resources both financial as well as material are stretched and there is no money to spare.

DEFRA Minister Mr Rooker adds that ‘there is no need for further legislation or registration schemes, but that existing legislation requires vigorous enforcement by the police and they have been ordered to protect the public from dog attacks’.

Who reviewed the legislation, if it was only the police, this would be a first with none of the governments advisors getting a word in although the lead role offered to welfare organisations shows this may be otherwise.

Was the consultation document merely for police use, a number of local authorities are far more pro active than some police forces, so the views of those councils would have been invaluable.

In regard to Mr Rooker commenting on a reason for not introducing compulsory registration measures, he said “As a large section of British dogowners already choose to microchip their pets, it would be virtually impossible for every veterinary practice, police station or animal shelter to be stocked with all the microchip readers they would need.”

The police will no longer have any dealings with stray dogs (although they probably wish it was to do with any dog) from the 6th April 2008, something Mr Rooker should have been aware of?

I have never known a police station in the county I work in to have had a scanner anyway, so what is the minister getting at? Additionally what about all those microchips that show incorrect information, having the wrong information is the equivalent of having no collar and tag. If the aim of a compulsory registration scheme is to get as near as possible to a 100% target, why would ‘a large section of British dog owners’ mean it would be impossible to stock enough microchip scanners?

Also Mr Rooker, you fail to mention that dog wardens also carry microchip scanners and if a council employs more than one warden, then any one council may have 2,3 or even 4 scanners each!

Even more bizarrely, the minister went on, ‘with regard to stray dogs, the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 had powers to make Dog Control Orders. Owners can be fined or given Fixed Penalty Notices for such offences’.

Eer, hello Mr Rooker, have you ever heard of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, it deals with stray dogs! Why would you want to bring in a Dog Control Order and what would it cover as the EPA90 deals adequately with stray dogs?

Mr Rooker concluded “It is at the discretion and the responsibility of the local authority to establish and enforce these control orders, which is why effective guidance for local authorities is crucial in enforcing already existent powers to control dogs in public places.”

Yes minister (excuse the pun) both the police and councils know what they need to do, but lack the resources to deal with incidents as well as clear and concise instruction from your government.

When the guidance comes out, please do not make it as ambiguous as your guidance for out of hours stray dogs.

This article first appeared on the K9 Magazine website on Monday 17th March 2008

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