What's the issue?
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (DDA) has been widely discredited as a kneejerk reaction to a number of serious incidents that has failed to address the underlying causes of dog bites.
The DDA is an example of breed-specific legislation. It bans certain breeds or types of dog in the UK: Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Brasileiro. However, these breed types are not recognised in the UK and they are not described in the Act, making identification difficult.
There is no evidence that the DDA has been effective in reducing the incidence of aggressive behaviour in dogs or bite-related injury. Defining particular breeds as 'dangerous' can be misleading as it creates the incorrect impression that aggression is related to breed type, and that those breeds not listed won't exhibit aggressive behaviour.
What's our view?
We oppose any legislation that singles out particular breeds of dog rather than promoting responsible ownership and targeting individual dogs. We support the principle of 'deed not breed'.
We've long campaigned for a complete overhaul of the Dangerous Dogs Act - moving away from breed-specific legislation that bans types or breeds of dogs, towards a more preventive approach. This view is supported by the House of Commons Efra Select Committee, which stated in October 2018 that: "Changing the law on Breed Specific Legislation is desirable, achievable, and would better protect the public" and a wide range of dog welfare organisations, enforcers, and those with an interest in dog-related legislation.
We're also concerned about the welfare of dogs seized under the DDA. Seizure and kennelling can be stressful for dogs, resulting in anxiety and an increased risk of aggression. Dogs who are placed on the Index of Exempted Dogs must comply with a series of conditions such as being muzzled and on a lead in public spaces. These conditions can limit the dog's ability to express a normal range of behaviours, which negatively impacts on their welfare.
We support the principle of introducing a system of Dog Control Notices (DCNs), such as that in Scotland. This 'deed not breed' approach includes a requirement for a trained council officer to assess and impose restrictions on an owner, on a case-by-case basis, if a dog is out of control. DCNs represent a proportionate, evidence-based way of addressing unacceptable dog behaviour and reinforcing the importance of responsible ownership.