As a lover of dogs and a dog owner myself, I fully appreciate the strength of feeling regarding the existing provisions around dog breeds in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, particularly given the recent rise in horrific dog attacks. I am also aware that any changes to current legislation would require careful consideration to ensure that public safety remains at its heart.
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, it is an offence to allow any dog to be out of control in any place. In addition, the Dogs Act 1871 allows a complaint to be made to a Magistrates’ court by any individual, the police, or local authorities where dogs are dangerous and not kept under proper control. The court may make any order it considers appropriate to require owners to keep their dogs under proper control.
Following the reports and videos that have circulated, the Prime Minister has tasked Ministers to bring together police and experts to define the breed of dog behind these recent attacks, which will then be banned through the Dangerous Dogs Act by the end of this year. I am assured that the Government will take all necessary steps to keep people safe. I will continue to monitor this issue very closely.
Ministers recognise that the existing population of XL Bullies will need to be safely managed, and I am aware that an amnesty period will be introduced.
Responsible dog ownership is also crucial, and in December 2021, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published research in collaboration with Middlesex University, investigating measures to reduce dog attacks and promote responsible dog ownership across all breeds of dog. It included recommendations relating to improved data recording and collection, consistency in enforcement practice, the quality of dog training and dog awareness courses, and improved awareness of appropriate behaviour around dogs. I look forward to reading more about the group’s recommendations in due course.