Half of danger dogs destroyed ‘harm no one’
MORE than half the dogs killed after being seized by police have not harmed anyone, figures show, prompting calls for urgent reform of the legislation.
The majority of dogs destroyed after being seized under the Dangerous Dogs Act, which bans breeds such as pit bull terriers and Japanese tosas, had not exhibited any dangerous behaviour or been involved in any incident with the public.
The latest available figures show that in 2015-16 a total of 307 dogs were de- stroyed after being seized, but that 175 of these would be widely regarded as “innocent”. The vast majority of dogs seized during that period – 599 out of a total of 731 – had not attacked anybody or showed dangerous intentions.
The figures, obtained through a freedom of information request, have prompted animal welfare charities to denounce the Dangerous Dogs Act as a blunt instrument which allows police to seize and destroy dogs because they belong to a banned breed, not because they have done anything wrong. Campaigners say it ignores the potential danger posed by dogs that are not banned, lulling the public into a false sense of security.
Born Innocent, which campaigns for the act to be replaced, said it allows for police to seize dogs of any breed or cross-breed that may look like a pit bull, irrespective of behaviour.
The charity said: “Bites and mortality have grown since the act was introduced and one of the reasons, according to expert researchers, is that it creates a false belief that all other dogs are safe.”
The charity has found that in the past eight years £3million has been spent on kennelling seized dogs and more than £5million on police costs for investigations and prosecutions. It argues that instead suspected banned breeds should be allowed to stay at home during investigations. The new data comes after it was revealed that police in Northamptonshire seized a puppy when it bit an officer on the hand and arm. The officer had tried to stop the dog after it ran out of the drive of the family’s home. Bungle, a chow chow, was later returned after its owners agreed to a voluntary control order.
Last month, MPs on the environment, food and rural affairs committee called for a review of legislation. Neil Parish, the committee chairman, said: “All dogs can be dangerous, and we can’t ban all dogs that might one day bite someone. The Government should focus instead on encouraging responsible ownership, improving education, and ensuring offenders face robust penalties.”
Defra said: “The Dangerous Dogs Act makes it a criminal offence for any dog to be dangerously out of control, and the police can seize such dogs.
“When a dog is seized, it will be for the courts to decide whether the owner can keep it, based on the dog’s temperament and whether the owner is a fit and proper person, including that they have the right accommodation to care for the dog.”
Bungle, a chow chow, was seized by police officers after it ran into the road, and was later returned to its owners