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Exempt dogs assessed by experts as safe from breed specific legislation

Submitted by Anita Mehdi on Tuesday 20th July 2021

Published on Monday 26th July 2021

Current status: Closed

Closed: Wednesday 26th January 2022

Signatures: 127,521

Relevant Departments

Tagged with

Danger ~ Experts ~ Paramount ~ risk

Petition Action

Exempt dogs assessed by experts as safe from breed specific legislation

Petition Details

Amend the breed specific legislation to create a clause where by dogs that have been expertly assessed and found to be no more risk to the public than any other breed, to be exempted from breed specific legislation and allowed to live by the same laws as any other dog.

Additional Information

There are many dogs that are known to be reactive, but it is at present determined by breed if a dog is deemed to be dangerous. Public safety must always be paramount, BUT dogs that have been expertly assessed and found to be well behaved, surely are not the ones that need restrictions for public protection.

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Government Response

The Government responded to this petition on Tuesday 19th October 2021

The Dangerous Dogs Act places restrictions on certain types of dogs bred for fighting. Individual dogs can be kept under strict conditions if a court judges that they are not a risk to public safety.

Public safety is at the heart of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. The 1991 Act prohibits four types of fighting dog – types traditionally used for dog fighting (pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo argentino, fila braziliero). This approach is supported by the Police.

The statutory Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs provides owners with information on how to provide for their dog’s natural needs as required by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The Code of Practice clearly sets out that all dogs need to be trained to behave well, ideally from a very young age and should be introduced gradually and positively to different environments, people and animals.

In this country, pit bull types have been traditionally bred for dog fighting to accentuate any aggressive tendencies and therefore the Government considers that they pose an inherently greater risk to the public. We fully recognise that pit bull terriers are crossbreeds, which is why we refer to them as “type” rather than “breed” and base identification on physical characteristics. Identification of pit bull terriers is made by Dog Legislation Officers who are police officers specially trained to recognise the four prohibited type dogs.

The Government considers that a lifting of the restrictions on these types of dogs would more likely result in an increase in dog attacks, rather than contributing to any reduction in such incidents.

Despite the general prohibitions on these types of dog, individual prohibited dogs can be kept by their owners if a court judges that the dog is not a danger to the public, that the dog can be kept in a suitable environment, and that the proposed owner is a fit and proper person. If the court considers these criteria to be met, the dog can be listed on the Index of Exempted Dogs and must be kept under strict conditions, including being on a lead and muzzled in public. The Government considers that these conditions, which include assessment of the dog’s temperament, are proportionate and should be maintained to provide the necessary degree of public safety required and to provide assurance to the public.

Under section 3 of the 1991 Act, it is an offence to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control. For the purposes of the 1991 Act, this includes any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that the dog in question will injure someone, whether or not it actually does so. The maximum penalty for such an offence is fourteen years’ imprisonment if it results in the death of a person; five years in the case of injury; three years if it is an attack on an assistance dog and six months where no injury is caused to a person or assistance dog.

Defra has commissioned further research in collaboration with Middlesex University to look at responsible ownership across all breeds of dog. The research will consider different approaches and the effectiveness of current dog control measures. The report will be published later this year.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/592813)

Parliamentary Debate

This petition has reached the threshold for a Parliamentary debate, but the debate has not been held. The Petitions Committee gave the following explanation.

The Petitions Committee has decided not to schedule a debate on this petition.

The Committee recognises the support that the petition has received. However, the issue raised by the petition was recently debated in the House of Commons on 5 July in response to a petition making a related request.

Read a transcript of this debate: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-07-05/debates/814EF953-52F7-4499-953C-447928FF71DB/BreedSpecificLegislation

You can also watch the debate here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRtSMPH_zuc

Given the significant support for petitions about prohibitions for certain dog types, the Committee has written to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, highlighting support for petitions on this subject.

The Committee has called on the Government to:

- Establish a new framework for responsible ownership of dog types which are currently prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act
- Commission new research to consider the evidence base for current prohibitions
- Look at alternatives to current prohibitions on certain dog types

In the letter, the Committee has said the Government should publish the outcome of this work, followed by a Government review of the prohibitions set out in the Dangerous Dogs Act.

You can read the Committee's letter here: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/7403/documents/77570/default/

The Committee will publish the Government's response when it is received, and notify petitioners by email.

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