Dangerous Dogs: Breed Specific Legislation inquiry - read our publication
Written evidence submitted by Cohen Cramer Solicitors (DDL0180) Dangerous Dogs: Breed Specific Legislation inquiry- Elizabeth West, Solicitor, Four Legs Law (Cohen Cramer Solicitors)
Since the introduction of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) it has widely been researched (by many welfare organisations) and there is no evidence to show any breed of dog is inherently dangerous.
BSL does not reduce the number of dog bites/attacks, which continue to rise, and therefore it is ineffective.
As a Solicitor dealing with dog bite/ incidents on a day to day basis, from my own experience, most incidents are not caused by those alleged to be ‘banned breeds’ or bull breeds (as the media would portray).
Breed Specific Legislation is an incorrect term as it discriminates against any dog with a ‘substantial number of characteristics of a banned breed’ (it doesn’t actually matter what the breed is). Therefore, in theory, for example, half the dogs from one litter could be typed, half not (which shows how ludicrous BSL is).
Dogs are seized in the majority of cases of a banned breed type have not actually done anything wrong/ been involved in an incident.
Breed specific legislation creates a false perception to the general public that all dangerous dogs are banned. Therefore, does not protect the general public.
There is no consistent approach to dealing with dogs under BSL. Some Police forces being more amenable to working with the owner than others (for example interim exemption).
The interim exemption scheme should be mandatory where conditions can be satisfied. It is not in the best interests of the dog, owner or public purse to hold a dog in police kennels. If a dog can be assessed by a DLO as not being a danger, why remove it?
Much time and money is spent on determining whether a dog is ‘of type’ or not. When either way, it is the same dog with the same behavioural characteristics, and this has little to do with whether it presents a danger to the public.
Any dog has the potential to be a ‘dangerous dog’, section 1 of DDA does not create this perception. ‘Banned breeds’ create a perception of public safety, which in reality is misleading and dangerous.
There is no consistent approach for dealing with dogs under section 3 of DDA (which could be any dog) many of which have been involved in an incident, again failing to protect the public. It is absurd that no action is taken against dogs who have done something wrong/ been involved in an incident, when dogs are seized under section 1 that have not done anything wrong.
Police forces across the UK spend millions enforcing this law, kennelling seized dogs, and on legal costs. A dog should quickly and easily be assessed, and where not deemed to be dangerous to the public, remain at home.
The removal of breed specific legislation would not prevent the Police from seizing a dog they still believe to be dangerous, but it would prevent them having to seize a dog they do not believe to be dangerous.
Many Police forces/ officers do not agree with this law, but they have no option but to enforce the law.
The general public are largely unaware that a ‘banned breed’ can be any dog ‘of type’, and the Police can seize a family dog who has not done anything wrong.
Even if a dog is exempted (therefore the Court agrees it is not a danger), a dog is destined to a life subject to restrictions.
BSL fails dogs typed under BSL who are found as stray dogs/ abandoned, which are shown to have great personalities but cannot be rehomed.
BSL fails dogs whose owner’s circumstances change, but cannot be rehomed.
Holding a dog in Police kennels for long periods is likely to be detrimental to the physical and psychological welfare of any dog. In addition, many dogs held in Police kennels have not had their veterinary records/ health history obtained.
A dog with previously no behavioural issues which is then held in Police kennels with minimal exercise/ contact can create a dog with behavioural issues. This is, however, not related to breed but related to the environment, and would be the same with any breed.
Holding a dog in Police kennels for long periods is likely to be detrimental to the welfare of the owner/ family.
BSL creates a ‘two tier’ society of dog ownership whereby those with the financial means to instruct legal representation are more likely to have their dog returned (even if subject to a contingent destruction order).
Owners who fear being prosecuted often sign their dogs over to the Police (meaning they will be put to sleep), or admit it is ‘of type’ to have their dog exempted and returned quicker. Dogs where type is disputed are often held in Police kennels for longer.
BSL does not create a system for responsible owners (who fear their dogs may be ‘typed’) to enable them to have their dogs assessed and registered. Being open and honest may result in your dog being seized and held in police kennels.
Banning breeds makes them more desirable to some and encourages ‘backyard breeding’.
Other countries/ states are realising BSL is not effective (it has been withdrawn in many).
What to do?
A more responsible way to use public funds would be to educate and promote responsible dog ownership.
Education should be part of the curriculum.
Training should be mandatory.
There should be stricter controls on breeding and ownership, ensuring responsible dog ownership (of any breed).
Create a society where responsible dog ownership is promoted for all dogs.
There should be sanctions for irresponsible dog owners (of any breed).
Police should adopt a more consistent approach to dealing with any dangerous dog, or a proactive approach to dogs they think are a risk.
Using public funds to have independent behavioural assessments on any dog deemed to be dangerous would be more effective in protecting the public.