Welsh Government seeks views on draft dog control law
THE Welsh Government is seeking views on its proposals for a Control of Dogs (Wales) Bill, which will aim to promote responsible dog ownership and help prevent dogs from becoming dangerously out of control.
Launching the draft Bill and associated consultation on November 23, John Griffiths, the Welsh environment minister, said the Welsh Government was determined to do more to protect communities from out-of-control dogs. ‘While the majority of dogs are kept under control and do not represent a risk to the public, dog attacks are on the increase, and children and animals, including guide dogs, are often the victims,’ he said.
‘Our proposals focus on early intervention when a dog is out of control and involve close working with dog owners to improve their dog's behaviour. We believe that by using legislation we can make a significant difference to the incidents of dog attacks in Wales.’
The Welsh Government believes that current animal welfare controls under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 are not sufficient to deal effectively with the promotion of responsible dog ownership and out-of-control dogs. Its draft Bill focuses on the action and behaviour of individual dogs and not on the breed or type of dog. It would amend the provisions of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to make it an offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control anywhere in Wales, including on private property. It would also amend the 1991 Act to make it an offence for a dog to attack another animal.
The draft Bill proposes the introduction of Dog Control Notices (DCNs), which would be issued by local authorities to dog owners when their dogs showed signs of being out of control. A DCN would include certain compulsory requirements and may also include optional requirements. The compulsory requirements being proposed include requiring that the dog is kept under consistent and effective control at any time when it is in Wales; that the dog is accompanied by the person on whom the DCN had been served or a ‘suitable individual’ when in any public place; and that the recipient of the DCN undertakes training to bring the dog under consistent and effective control. Under the proposals, the optional requirements would have to support the objective of bringing the dog under control or assisting in doing so; for example, by specifying appropriate types of leads and muzzles, or the types of person who may have charge of the dog, or the places that a dog may be taken.
In parallel with the main consultation document, the Welsh Government has published a version aimed at primary school children. It says that it is keen to raise awareness of the proposed legislation and to hear from children and young people about their views on the new law. ‘Today's children will likely to come into contact more with dogs as they progress in life and may, of course, become tomorrow's dog owners,’ it says.⇓
‘Right way forward’
The BVA welcomed the Welsh Government's proposals, saying that a preventive approach to dog control that sought to address an individual dog's actions before they became a problem was the ‘right way forward’. The BVA and its Welsh Branch will be responding in detail to the consultation.
Peter Harlech Jones, the BVA President, commented: ‘Once again the Welsh Government is taking a lead on canine issues by seeking a more preventive approach to dog control. The announcement clearly recognises that a dog's behaviour is primarily the result of the way it is reared, socialised and trained and not the way it looks, and that irresponsible ownership needs to be tackled in a constructive manner before it becomes a problem.’
He noted that many of the elements included in the draft Bill were changes that the BVA had been campaigning for together with dog welfare organisations, the police and others. ‘The BVA has championed the use of Dog Control Notices and we support the extension of the law to cover private property and attacks on other animals,’ he said. ‘The Dangerous Dogs Act, which focuses on a dog's breed, has failed and ultimately the BVA wants to see it repealed. We hope that these bold measures in Wales will be another step towards better dog control legislation across the UK.’
The Kennel Club also welcomed the Welsh Government's plans for new legislation. Caroline Kisko, its secretary, said: ‘We are pleased to see a focus on prevention, concentrating on responsible ownership, through dog training and education. At the Kennel Club, we believe Dog Control Notices are a good preventive measure that place more responsibility on the owner to ensure they are controlling their dogs in an appropriate way; whether this be through training, keeping the dog on a lead, muzzling, refraining from entering certain areas and so on.’
She added: ‘With this Bill, Wales has shown its commitment to dog welfare. The government is taking decisive action to help tackle the problem of dangerous dogs in a sensible and proactive way.’
■ The consultation documents are available at http://wales.gov.uk/consultations. Comments have been invited by March 1, 2013.
- British Veterinary Association