Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Dangerous times for dogs

While I have to agree with this statement issued by the KC:

Communications Director Caroline Kisko said “The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is a kneejerk piece of legislation which was rushed through in haste. It has not reduced the number of pit bull terriers in this country, nor has it reduced the number of dog biting attacks while it has had a huge impact on the welfare of many dogs.

It is essential that any new legislation is properly considered and puts greater emphasis on animal welfare whilst better protecting the public.”

Am I alone in thinking this stance is slightly ironic, considering Kenneth Baker's recollection of how we got that dreadful piece of kneejerk legislation in the first place...

The Home Secretary at the time said this in his autobiography The Turbulent Years...

The animal lobbies were very divided on the issue of controlling dangerous dogs. The Kennel Club supported the idea of pit bulls being put down. They did not register pit bulls as one of their recognized breeds and felt that as fighting dogs they have no place in our society. The RSPCA, while having no love of pit bulls, shrank from the physical elimination of the breed, preferring instead that the dogs should be neutered and then die out over time as the breed became extinct. Furthermore the RSPCA used the opportunity to raise its cherished aim of the introduction of a dog licensing system - which I opposed. I was not in the business of legislating to control chihuahuas when I wanted to rid the country of pit bulls. The vets were also reluctant to destroy pit bulls en masse, believing that this went against their version of the Hippocratic Oath. But one dog expert assured me that "All pit bulls go mad". Unlike any other recognized breed they were unpredictable and could not reliably trained. Steering a course acceptable to all these differing viewpoints strained patience as well as imagination, and I knew that whatever course of action I took I would be attacked by one group or another.

On May 22 I announced to the House of Commons my intention to introduce legislation to ban the breeding and ownership of pit bull terriers and other dogs bred especially for fighting. I then embarked on further meetings with the animal interest group which, in addition to the RSPCA and the Kennel Club, included the Joint Advisory Committee on Pets in Society, the Canine Defence League (now Dogs Trust), the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and the British Veterinary Association. The issues we debated included whether to identify dogs by implanting Micro-chips under their skin, or by tattooing them. This led to humorous exchanges about exactly who would volunteer to tattoo a pit bull's inside leg, and whether the dog's tattoo should match that of the owner. Would pit bulls have 'love' and 'hate' inscribed on each knuckle.

On 10 June I introduced the Dangerous Dogs Bill in the House of Commons.

We definitely need to change the way we breed and acquire dogs in this country. The latest statistics reveal a remarkable 33% of homes now have a dog in it and I have to say that not all of those people are good owners. There are 100,000 unwanted dogs each year. We need to move away from a culture where everyone feels it is acceptable for their dog to have a litter and make dog ownership and breeding a bit less casual. And as there are now apparently 10.5 million dogs in Britain yet the KC only register 250,000 dogs a year why do they still have the ear of Government? Especially when they've given such bad advice in the past. And did I hear correctly, a million pounds spent a year on political lobbying and media relations - surely not! Is that why their voice is so loud?

The universal puppy contract seems a very good idea and it would sort out one end of the problem especially if it was included as a requirement in the existing Animal Welfare Act. It's in our Dogifesto - how about your local political candidate?

More controls over breeding means more controls over dog ownership. Less passive dog owning and breeding, more accountability.

Does your MP back the dogifesto?

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