RSPCA Cymru joins calls for overhaul of Dangerous Dogs Act
A coalition of animal welfare and veterinary organisations, including RSPCA Cymru, has called for a major overhaul of dangerous dog legislation.
The group has warned that moves to stop serious dog bite incidents are being hijacked by calls to ban one breed of dog – and public safety will pay the price.
In recent months, there have been growing calls to add the XL Bully to the list of dogs it is illegal to own in the UK – joining the pit bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero.
However, such a move has been labelled “flawed” and “knee-jerk” – with the coalition saying this will not make the public safer and risks.
The Dog Control Coalition – made up of the RSPCA, Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Blue Cross, the British Veterinary Association, Hope Rescue, the Kennel Club and the Scottish SPCA – have joined forces to urge decision-makers to overhaul the UK’s dangerous dog legislation.
They want to end the “discriminatory” focus on certain types of dogs, instead supporting solutions dealing with the root causes of the tragic cases of dog aggression incidents that continue to hit the headlines.
The call comes as the controversial Dangerous Dogs Act marks 32 years on the statue book on Saturday (12 August).
Despite breed specific legislation having been in force for more than three decades, the number of dog bite incidents is going up – suggesting a focus on breed, rather than individual acts of aggression and irresponsible dog ownership, is already failing.
In 2022/23, NHS data suggests there were a provisional 9,366 dog bites recorded – an increase on the 8,819 recorded the previous year.
The coalition has warned adding more breeds of dog to the ‘banned list’ will see even more innocent dogs destroyed just because of the way they look – while failing to deal with the root causes of aggressive and dangerous dogs.
They believe the debate has for too long focussed on how dogs look, rather than how they behave – and, with a UK General Election looming, they instead want decision-makers to focus on evidence-based solutions which prevent bite incidents from any dogs.
Speaking on behalf of the Coalition, RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “Breed specific legislation has been in force now for 32 years, and is still failing.
“We have been devastated by some recent dog bite incidents, which have been tragic events and highlight the need for urgent action and a change in approach.
“But simply adding another dog breed type to the already flawed approach of banning certain types of dog because of how they look clearly isn’t the answer.
“Any such move will just force charities to put to sleep more innocent dogs, and offer another layer to the false sense of security to the public that hasn’t worked for 32 years – and won’t suddenly start working now.”
The Coalition believes the solution is to overhaul breed-focussed legislation – replacing it with solutions which promote responsible ownership and breeding, wider public education and provide for early intervention and ways of preventing incidents from occurring or escalating in the first place.
The RSPCA – has now launched a new campaign urging supporters to email their Member of Parliament and support an overhaul of the Dangerous Dogs Act, and a replacement of breed specific legislation.
Dr Gaines added: “Sadly, this important debate has been rather hijacked by a desire to add one more breed to the list – but this knee-jerk response fails to recognise the complexity of aggressive dog behaviour. We fear that without evidence-based solutions there will be a failure to make the public safer, and we won’t deal with the root causes of this problem.
“Put simply, breed is not a reliable predictor of aggressive behaviour in dogs. Any dog has the potential to bite. So instead, we need solutions that aren’t discriminatory – but promote responsible pet ownership, and include opportunities for early intervention to educate owners, introduce mitigations and stop incidents taking place in the first place.
“Breed-specific legislation had a clear purpose: to reduce the number of dog bites but it has failed both dogs and the public it vowed to protect; while tragic fatalities have continued unabated.
“We need to stop unfairly judging dogs because of how they look. With a General Election looming, it’s time politicians get serious about tackling dangerous dogs.”
More information on the campaign can be found on the RSPCA website.
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