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Dogs Trust responds to publication of Efra Committee Report

Charity acknowledges commitment to tackling dog-related issues but slams recommendations to extend breed specific legislation

Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, has welcomed the publication of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Report into Dog Control and Welfare today (Friday 15 February) which has examined a broad range of issues from dangerous dogs to poor breeding. The Committee’s report has sent a strong signal to Government that there is a lack of commitment to tackle many issues affecting the health and welfare of the UK’s 8 million dogs.

However, Dogs Trust is concerned by a number of recommendations from the Committee, in particular, the recommendation that Section 1 of the deeply flawed Dangerous Dogs Act should be amended to allow for the addition of other types of dog “with particularly aggressive characteristics” to the list of banned breeds. The Committee then goes on to note that the focus of dangerous dog legislation should be on ‘deed, not breed’, a principle that Dogs Trust believes is completely incompatible with and contradictory to the extension of the banned breeds list, which the charity has strongly argued against since its creation. The extension of breed-specific legislation would be detrimental for dog welfare, and Dogs Trust strongly condemns the Committee for the suggestion.

Dogs Trust welcomes, however, the Committee’s conclusion that not all dog-related issues can be taken into account under current Home Office Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) proposals. Today’s publication of the Home Affairs Committee’s draft ASB Bill pre-legislative scrutiny report serves to highlight the problem of tackling dog control problems through Home Office legislation. There are very few mentions of dogs in the report and no proposals for dog-specific measures under its ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Dogs Trust CEO Clarissa Baldwin, who gave evidence before the Committee, said:

“It is very encouraging to witness the commitment of the Efra Committee to tackling many of the important issues surrounding dog control and welfare. We completely agree with the Committee that the Government’s approach to dog control is lacking, and will continue to campaign for a complete overhaul of dangerous dog legislation. But we have grave concerns that the Committee’s recommendation to extend the banned breeds list will only serve to unfairly demonise more breeds of dog, when in reality the problem is at the other end of the lead. Dogs Trust is completely against breed specific legislation and would like to see its total repeal”.

Other important issues tackled by the Committee in its wide-ranging report include breeding, microchipping and the online sale of pets and animals. Dogs Trust particularly welcomes the suggestion that the breeding threshold be reduced to two litters a year per breeder.

Clarissa continues:

“It is encouraging to see the Committee put breeding issues back on the agenda for Government. Dogs Trust currently chairs a working group on model conditions for the inspection of breeding establishments but ultimately we are dealing with outdated legislation which desperately needs to be updated and we would strongly urge the Government to further their work on this important issue of dog welfare”.

Considering the Committee’s recommendation that a voluntary Code of Practice be established for websites advertising pet animals, Clarissa noted:

“As Chair of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG), Dogs Trust is delighted to see the Committee’s interest in the growing number of problems associated with the online sale of pets and animals. PAAG is currently working with Defra to develop minimum standards for advertising websites, similar to what the Committee recommends. We hope that Government-endorsed standards will encourage more websites to comply”.

Though not perfect, Dogs Trust believes that the Committee’s report indicates a positive commitment in Parliament to tackling dog control and welfare issues. The charity now eagerly awaits the Government’s response to its recommendations.

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