After years of campaigning, the days of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) may be numbered: the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee has launched an inquiry into the current legislation on dangerous dogs, following “considerable debate about the effectiveness of banning dogs based on their breed or type”.
Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) 1991 prohibits the ownership of four types of dogs: pitbull terrier, fila Brasiliero, dogo Argentino, and Japanese tosa. This has resulted in heartache for countless families whose dogs have been put to sleep simply because of their looks, as well as proving expensive and ineffective.
Even those lucky enough to be exempted after long legal battles face months in kennels away from their families, and once returned to them they can never again be off-lead and without muzzle in public, leading severely restricted lives and still risking death for technicalities: in 2014, 22 exempted dogs were seized and killed within hours in Merseyside because their owners’ third-party insurance had lapsed. The operation was later ruled ‘unlawful’.
Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said, “The Government is responsible for protecting the public from dangerous animals, so it is essential that laws evolve alongside our understanding of what works.
“The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act banned four specific types of dog, but since then attacks have continued and 21 people have been killed by non-banned types. My Committee will investigate whether the Government’s current approach is having the desired effect, and whether any changes are needed to ensure that the public is properly protected and that animal welfare concerns are properly addressed”.
Since this legislation was brought in almost 27 years ago, hospital admissions in England due to dog bites have continued to increase showing that the targeting of certain types of dogs simply isn’t working.
The announcement has been welcomed by the RSPCA, who has long since called for change with the #EndBSL campaign, whose petition was signed by over 67,000 people.
RSPCA dog welfare expert and lead author of the charity’s report – Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner – Dr Samantha Gaines says, “We are really pleased that Parliament has listened to the concerns raised by us and dozens of other animal welfare charities and organisations, not only here in the UK but also around the world.
“Launching this inquiry is an important step towards the ultimate goal of our #EndBSL campaign – to repeal Section 1 of the law and replace it with legislation that not only better protects dog welfare in this country, but also effectively protects public safety.
“Since this legislation was brought in almost 27 years ago, hospital admissions in England due to dog bites have continued to increase showing that the targeting of certain types of dogs simply isn’t working.
“Not only is the legislation failing to protect the public, but it is also failing dogs. Thousands of dogs have been kennelled unnecessarily and huge numbers put to sleep over the years simply for looking a certain way and that’s a serious welfare and ethical issue.”
The simple fact here is that the way a dog looks is not a predictor of whether he or she is a risk or is likely to be aggressive
Dr Gaines added, “There is no scientific basis to BSL. There’s no robust scientific evidence to suggest the types that are banned pose a heightened risk to the public compared to other types and no research that shows dogs traditionally selected for fighting are inherently aggressive or that their bite style could cause more serious damage than another dog.
“The simple fact here is that the way a dog looks is not a predictor of whether he or she is a risk or is likely to be aggressive. Aggression is a much more complex behaviour than that and any dog, regardless of its breed or type, has the potential to be dangerous if they are not properly bred, reared or given the right experiences in life.”
Instead of targeting dogs based on how they look, legislation should focus on some owners who choose to train their dogs to be aggressive, using them as weapons
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home also voiced satisfaction for the inquiry.
“Battersea welcomes the EFRA Committee’s decision to launch an inquiry into dog legislation,” a statement reads. “Instead of targeting dogs based on how they look, legislation should focus on some owners who choose to train their dogs to be aggressive, using them as weapons.
“Battersea believes it is unacceptable to have dogs in our communities that are a danger to society and people must be protected from such dogs at all times. However, it is also unacceptable to condemn a dog purely for its breed and the current legislation has led to the needless destruction of thousands of dogs.”
Main image by RSPCA.