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Chris Evans MP on why dangerous dog laws need to go further

Published in Comment, News on Wednesday May 23rd, 2012. Last updated at 11:00

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Islwyn MP Chris Evans will challenge the UK Government on its proposals to tackle dangerous dogs in a Westminster Hall debate today.

The Government has recently introduced new legislation to promote responsible ownership of dogs but animal charities have criticised the proposals for not going far enough to tackle the problem.

Writing for Caerphilly Observer Mr Evans, a victim of a dog attack himself, explains what changes need to be made.

Chris Evans, Labour MP for Islwyn

Chris Evans, Labour MP for Islwyn

In November 2010, while campaigning in Blackwood I pushed a leaflet through a letterbox only to feel something clamp its jaws hard on my hand. The deep growl which followed made me realise I had been bitten by a dog.

When I finally freed my fingers, I had suffered a deep gash that later required five stitches leaving me with a one inch scar on my middle finger.

In that moment, I had become one of the more than 100 people each week in the United Kingdom who suffer injuries so severe from a dog attack that they are admitted into hospital.

Of course I was one of the lucky ones – my treatment amounted to a trip to the accident and emergency department and a course of antibiotics.

However, many people are not so fortunate. Sadly, some well publicised cases have seen people severely injured or maimed by a dog.

The statistics of 10,000 postal workers being injured by domestic dogs together with seven guide dogs each month being attacked by out of control dogs points to a problem that needs to be addressed.

Having been a victim of a dog attack, however minor, I decided to undertake some research in an effort to try to find some solution to this problem.

I have to say in my experience, having spoken to several dog organisations and visited Battersea Dogs Home, in many cases it is not solely the fault of the dog but that of the owner. That to me that is why responsible ownership has to be promoted.

While this problem is on the increase, the coalition government has been slow to respond.

In 2010 the Labour Government launched a consultation which revealed that some 78% of people wanted new dog legislation to promote responsible ownership of dogs.

Shockingly, it has taken almost two years for the government to respond and publish their proposals.

In that time, my own experience of being bitten made me one of the 5,000 patients that have been admitted to hospital for injuries caused by dog attacks in England and Wales.

For too long the government has dragged its feet over this issue, it is my hope that the Westminster Hall debate brings about some positive proposals.

If the government are serious about reforming our dog laws they would do well to look at our devolved institutions.

In Wales, the Welsh Government has taken the lead on microchipping of dogs and is currently consulting on the compulsory microchipping of puppies and for the ownership and information about a dog being recorded on an approved database.

The idea being that owners with microchipped dogs will be encouraged to prioritise their dog’s welfare as well as taking more responsibility for the animals behaviour.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, they have introduced Dog Control Notices which have worked to ensure owners take certain steps to control their dogs in public.

Unlike Dog Control Orders, a Notice is issued to a person and owners can be forced to make sure their dog wears a muzzle or a lead in a public place.

A breach of a Dog Control Notice is an offence with offenders risking a fine of up to £1000 as well as a disqualification from having custody of a dog

Dogs Trust who recently held a successful micro chipping event in my constituency, state that this is their favoured way of introducing legislation which is a precautionary measure.

Measures such as these would go some way to ensuring that our dangerous dog legislation promotes responsible dog ownership.

By introducing the compulsory micro chipping of all dogs, recorded by a single national database; owners will be encouraged to take responsibility for the behaviour of their dogs.

However, I also believe we can go further; introducing a list of approved breeders would help prevent the illegal breeding of dogs and make it impossible to buy puppies or dogs over the internet or out of classified adverts in newspapers from non-registered breeders.

It is time a lead is taken on dogs so that we can collar the problem of dangerous dogs once and for all.

Chris Evans
Labour MP for Islwyn

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  • Gareth Pratt

    Chris, as an ex-dog owner, and an ex-dog owner whose dog was threatened with destruction because of totally false allegations of an attack brought against us at that, I have to say that it is my view that it is not the dogs that are the problem but rather the people who own them.

    Dogs need to be exercised on a regular, daily basis and if they are not they will get frustrated and angry, which will come out as aggression. It is inevitable. If you are intending to bring in legislation, then perhaps you could try the suggestions that you mentioned above, but how about a few more. If people don’t have easy access to a garden of their own or to a large open green space, or they live in a property which is unsuitable for the adequate living needs of a dog, particularly a large dog then they are forbidden from having a dog. A charity I know of will not allow a dog of theirs to go to a new home unless they have inspected the home in every detail, and believe that the person is capable of looking after the dog.

    Rather than banging on about how awful the dogs are, it might be better to start encouraging more responsibility amongst people who think that they can look after a dog. This issue really annoys me.