The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has called the Government’s response to the recommendations put forward by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee’s Controlling dangerous dogs report ‘disappointing’ in its refusal to ban breed-specific legislation. However, BVA has welcomed the research commissioned into the effectiveness of such legislation as an encouraging first step towards an evidence-based overhaul of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
Commenting on the Government’s response, BVA President Simon Doherty said:
“We are disappointed that the Government has not listened to the evidence provided by us and other animal welfare organisations against the effectiveness of a breed-specific ban on dogs. However, it is at least encouraging that it has commissioned research to assess the effectiveness of current dog control measures and examine factors that may cause dog attacks. We view this as a positive first step towards developing more robust, evidence-based and fit-for-purpose legislation that better protects both public safety and animal welfare, and look forward to seeing the research findings published later this year.
“We welcome the Government’s commitment to centralised data collection on dog attacks and a focus on preventing dog attacks through the promotion of responsible dog ownership and dog safety education for children. Any dog of any size has the capacity to be aggressive and dangerous, particularly when it is not properly trained or socialised, which is why BVA has always stressed that the problems caused by dangerous dogs will not be solved until owners appreciate that they are responsible for the actions of their pets.
“We hope that this research will identify ways to overhaul current dog control legislation so that it effectively tackles individual acts of aggression rather than banning entire breeds.”
BVA has campaigned for many years for consolidated, effective and evidence-based dog control legislation that recognises the principle of ‘deed not breed’. In both its oral and written evidence to the EFRA committee in June last year, BVA emphasised that a dog’s behaviour, including how and when it displays aggression, is largely dependent on its socialisation, rearing, training and environmental circumstances, and called for the government to take a more holistic approach to minimising the occurrence of dog bites.
The EFRA Committee report, published in October 2018 and welcomed by BVA, recommended a dog control model that focuses on prevention though education, early intervention, and consistently robust sanctions for offenders. In the absence of sufficient evidence to back breed-specific legislation, the report also called on the government to conduct a comprehensive independent evidence review into the factors behind canine aggression and to introduce a centralised database to record information on dog bites.