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Dog Control Bill (HL) 2010-2011

Sue GilmoreLord Redesdale’s proposed Bill is now proceeding to Third Reading (date to be scheduled), having passed the Report stage on 10 June 2011, my comments upon which follow:

Lord Redesdale reiterated that he is aware that this Bill is unlikely to become law, however, it is his hope that the Government will seize the opportunity, at some point in the future, to bring forward a Bill “reflecting almost every aspect of this Bill”.

Concerns highlighted at Committee stage and, subsequent responses from the public, surrounded the issue of what “dangerously out of control” constituted. The thrust of the Bill is not to penalise responsible dog handlers and owners, but to protect the public by dealing with potentially dangerous dogs and their owners at the first indication of a behaviour problem. It was emphasized that when dogs are aggressive in mitigating circumstances, such as when a dog bites a mugger or a burglar, they are protected from the overzealous officer. Further, if the dog is attacked by a person and it bites, no offence is committed. As Lord Redesdale mentioned, “The Bill expects that the enforcers of this legislation will have adequate competency in dealing with dog-related issues to distinguish between a true act of aggression and normal acceptable canine behaviour.”

The courts will remain the arbiters of wether a dog is considered “dangerously out of control” and it was noted that since the introduction in February of The Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010, there has been no significant influx of barking dogs appearing before the courts, or more “dog ASBOs” being issued.

There were two Amendments central to this Report stage, thus:

Amendment 1: to delete "is to" and insert "must" in Clause 3(6).

Amendment 1 agreed and now reads: "the appropriate national authority, local authority or police authority must satisfy itself".

Amendment 2: Schedule, page 10, line 37, leave out "Secretary of State" and insert "appropriate national authority". After lengthy discussion this Amendment was agreed. Note that this Bill covers both England and Wales.

Lord Redesdale remains optimistic that this Bill may influence the Government to bring legislation forward in respect of enacting a new Dog Control Bill, although he is aware that Private Members’ Bills rarely achieve the statute books. A view with which Lord Richard concurred and indeed, following his criticism of the drafting of the Bill, he admitted that “it is an issue that the Government ought to deal with ...ought to take seriously and look at”. A momentary cause for optimism, perhaps; swiftly followed by the interjection of The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley). He immediately confirmed that the Government “cannot give our support to this Bill but we are well aware of the problems that it is addressing and are prepared to consider moving forward in due course”. So, a glimmer of hope - all is not lost!

After a brief exchange between Lords Henley and Redesdale, it was mentioned that after the Third Reading, (likely to be after the summer, perhaps September) cross-Government debate involving Defra, the Home Office and others, may produce an announcement - could it be that there may just be a new Government Dog Control Bill in the offing? Watch this space...

The above are the comments of Sue Gilmore, Political Adviser to PETbc

Dog Control Bill Dog Control Bill Dog Control Bill Report Stage 10th June 2011