UK statistics show that emergency room dog bite treatments have increased by 94% over the last ten years, reaching 6,097 treated bites in the year ending March 2011. Prosecutions of dangerous dog owners and costs for boarding seized dogs have also risen to new highs.
The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act is generally acknowledged by most people in the UK, from vets to politicians to the general public, as a massive failure that does not adequately address dangerous dogs and irresponsible dog owners. According to the Daily Mail, the DDA is “often cited as a classic example of over-hasty law-making by ministers, officials and MPs working too fast in the face of a temporary scare.”
A couple of news articles from the UK this week have been interesting to read for their slant. Two new crossbreeds of dogs are generating concern, at least in the press: bull lurchers (Guardian) and presweilers (Daily Record). Both of these articles are worth a read; in particular, the sensational rhetoric used by the Daily Record to describe presweilers. (What happens when you put a Presa Canario and a Rottweiler together? You get a deadly cross-bred superbeast sharkdog, and, gasp, there are no laws against it!)
These mixed-breed dogs are not covered by the breed-specific portion of the DDA. Although the press recognizes the larger problem—hoodlums who want to own big, threatening, vicious dogs—much of the news coverage continues to place the blame on dog breeds. The news media seems determined to find fault with the DDA not because it is breed-specific, but because it is not breed-specific enough to keep up with the “dangerous breed du jour.”
As the failed DDA has shown us, it is not possible for a breed-specific law to effectively eliminate dangerous dogs. The hoodlums simply turn their attention to a new type of dog. Because there is no focus on the humans in the equation, thugs are free to continue misusing and abusing dogs of unrestricted breeds.
So, what’s being done about the DDA?
Lord Redesdale’s Dog Control Bill [HL] 2010-11, which would overhaul the DDA and repeal its breed-specific portion, is moving along in the House of Commons (currently scheduled for second reading on 3/30/12).
For its part, the government has consistently rejected Lord Redesdale’s bill, indicating that it intends to introduce a different proposal. To that end, the Environment Department (DEFRA) has announced that it will introduce new dog control measures in the coming months. Unfortunately, we’re not convinced that DEFRA intends to repeal the breed-specific portion of the DDA. It remains to be seen exactly what the government will propose.
UK citizens and residents are encouraged to contact their government representatives (and DEFRA) and stress the need for effective breed-neutral dog laws.