Saturday, 15 January 2011

Dog Control Bill ; Responsibility for dogs, control of dogs and reasonable cause.

Section (1) (1)-(4)- Responsibility for dogs . (no suggested amendments)

This section lays out who is responsible for a dog. Those deemed to be responsible for a dog are as follows:

Section (1)(1) The person responsible for a dog on a temporary or permanent basis even if it is not their dog.

Section (1)(2) being responsible for a dog includes being in charge of the dog even if not their dog.

Section (1)(3) The person who owns the dog shall always be regarded as being responsible for the dog.

Section (1)(4) If a child under 16 years of age is in charge a dog the responsibility will rest with whoever is meant to have the care and control of that child.

Section 2 control of dogs

This section outlines how dogs should be controlled and what constitutes and offence and any defences that may be allowed. DDA Watch had grave concerns on this section and raised those points to the Kennel Club as secretariat of the DDASG who are responsible for drawing up this bill. DDA Watch are pleased to see that some of our conerns are dealt with by way of some of the suggested amendments.

Section 2 (1) (a) originally stated no person shall allow a dog to be aggressive or dangerously out of control in public or private. This is a change to the current Dangerous Dogs Act which does not cover private property where a dog is allowed to be.

The suggested amendments change the following points;
The amendments suggest removing the words “ aggressive or” making section 2 (1)(a) now mean it will be an offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control in public or private but will NOT be an offence for a dog to be aggressive in private or public.

This is an amendment which DDA Watch feel must be passed as many dogs may appear aggressive for a number of reason and yet may be under control or of no threat.

Section 2(1) (b) makes it an offence to encourage a dog to be aggressive or intimidate people or other animals. The amendments suggest it should be an offence to encourage a dog for which a person is responsible to be aggressive or to intimidate other people or protected animals.

Amending animal to protected animal is a positive move. A protected animal is an animal normally domesticated in the British Isles, either permanently or temporarily under a person’s control, or is not living in a wild state.

Section 2 (1) (C) makes it an offence to keep a dog that has attacked another person or protected animal without reasonable cause. Definitions of reasonable cause are given in the next section. Section 2 (1) (C) could lead to thousands of dogs having to be destroyed as they cannot legally be kept following an incident however the amendments suggest the wording should be changed to deal with this problem.

The amendments propose Section 2 (1) (C) should be changed to instead state that it would be an offence to “allow a dog for which they are responsible to attack another person or protected animal without reasonable cause. “ Ths would mean that the person  responsible for a dog  that attacks a person or protected animal  would still find themselves liable for prosecution but if found guilty, it will not be compulsory for the dog to be destroyed. ( note this does not mean the dog will certainly not be destroyed, simply that the option to keep a dog that has been proved to have attacked would still be possible if this amendment is passed to the original bill).

The amendments also suggest that a new clause be added to this section stating that the person responsible for a dog that injures a person shall be guilty of an aggravated offence. This means that in such a case, the person responsible for the dog will be liable for much harsher repercussions than a person whose dog is, for example, out of control but does not injure any person.

Section 2 (3)(a)-(d) – reasonable cause

This clause outlines what may be seen as reasonable cause in incidents that would otherwise be an offence under the control of dog’s section. If a dog falls foul of section 2 (a),(b) or (c) (control of dogs) there is a defence if;

Section 2(3)(a) -  the person attacked was in a place they were not permitted to be and was committing an offence that could lead to a custodial sentence (prison term). The amendments suggest this should be reworded to read “the person attacked was committing an offence for which the penalty could be a custodial sentence”.

Section 2(3)(aa) is a new clause suggested by the proposed amendments and states that

“the person or protected animal was in a place where it was not permitted to be which was enclosed by an adequately maintained and substantial boundaries which would reasonably be expected to be capable of restraining a dog and which was clearly marked to warn such persons against entering”

This amendment is a must have as this will mean that should a cat come into the substantial boundaries of an adequately maintained property only to find itself face to face with a non cat friendly dog, the person responsible for that dog has reasonable cause and therefore should not be liable for prosecution.

This would also give the person responsible a defence if someone trespasses onto their property. Trespassing does not lead to a custodian sentence so no defence is given under Section 2(3)(a). With regard to postal workers or visitors to the home they would have greater protection but the definitions of this section could need to be defined in a court if the law is passed.

Section 2(3)(ab) is another new clause suggested by the amendments and gives protection to dogs being lawfully used by persons licensed by the Private Security Industry Act 2001 or a person who complies with BS8517-1 (a code of practice for use of general purpose security dogs.

Section 2(3)(b) states reasonable cause may be dogs being used lawfully by a constable or person in the service of the Crown.

Section 2(3) (c) states reasonable cause may be if the dog was provoked into an attack by a person other than the person responsible for it. This is a good defence but how it would work out would be debatable as what a dog may perceive as provocation a person may not. The overall decision would likely be left to the courts leading to mixed outcomes.

Section 2(3) (d) states reasonable cause may be if the dog was being attacked by another animal. Attack is later defined as bitten mauled or injured.

Proposed Dog Control bill - Interpretation including suggested amendments.

Proposed Dog Control bill - Interpretation including suggested amendments.

Many people have requested a basic English explanation of the proposed Dog Control Bill so here it is. Be warned it is long, however if you own a dog you MUST understand what laws are being proposed as YOU will have to abide by them and if you disagree with them, fight to ensure they are not passed!

Before we start on whats in the bill a quick explanation of how this could become law.

This is a Lords bill which simply means it is being put forward by a member of the House of Lords, in this case, Lord Redesdale. The bill itself was drawn up by the Dangerous Dogs Act Study Group which comprises of among others the Kennel Club, Dogs Trust and many others (not DDA watch for clarity!).

As a Lords bill it starts in the House of Lords. It has two readings and then reaches committee stage. This is where the bill is currently at and on 21st January the bill will be examined line by line. Before the committee stage takes place a list of any suggested amendments is published. During the committee stage, which has no time limit, the bill is examined in detail. Each section of the bill has to be agreed to and votes taken on amendments.

If the bill is amended it is then reprinted to include those amendments and the bill then moves onto the report stage. Following the report stage it has a third and final reading in Lords before being passed to the Commons who will then go through all the same stages. If it goes through all stages in Lords and Commons it will then reach a stage for any final amendments before gaining Royal Assent and coming into force as new legislation.

It is worth noting that the only previous amendment to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was brought into force in 1997 as a direct result of a Lords bill. It was this amendment that removed mandatory destruction of dogs deemed to be banned types.

Please note that while we have done our utmost to interpretate the meaning of this Bill it is not to be taken as a full and perfect breakdown. If part of it doesnt make sense to you, it may well be that you have spotted something we have missed! If this is the case please email us via or or join our facebook group and post on the wall!/pages/DDA-Watch/366883744658

In order to be as precise as possible we are breaking the bill into smaller user friendly sections! Each section will explain the changes the Dog Control Bill will bring according to its draft at frst reading stage and any amendments that have been proposed prior to the committee stage. Please remember, not all if any of the amendments will go through. They are simply proposed amendments at this stage.

Below are links to the sections "translated" so far. Further links will be added as more sections are translated so please keep coming back to check for updates. You may notice a very small number of sections are not mentioned in the translation. This is because some sections tend to double up or are for basic information, often information we have already put into the translation.  However if you think you have spotted something we missed, do please contact us as above.

Responsibility for dogs, control of dogs and reasonable cause explained!