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Debate: Are the laws on dog ownership fair?

Debate: Are the laws on dog ownership fair?

With the recent announcement of changes to dog ownership laws, plus a host of local bylaws to stick to, these are confusing times for dog-lovers. We want to know what you think. Are the Government and Local Authorities fair to dog owners, or are they too strict?

The rules and regulations that make up the laws on dog ownership have been put in place with the best intentions. They are intended to protect dogs, owners and the general public. But it can be hard to keep track of additions and changes, and sometimes it might feel like unreasonable restrictions are being placed on your enjoyment of dogs.

On 6 February this year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced the results of its consultation on ‘Promoting More Responsible Dog Ownership’. This will lead to some important changes in the law in England:

• From 6 April 2016, it will be compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped. We at Petplan think this is a positive step. Read our blog post on the importance of microchipping here

• The Dangerous Dogs Act is to be amended to cover attacks by dogs on private property. Currently, owners can escape prosecution if this happens, but under the new law, if your dog bites the postman, you could be in trouble! This does not extend to burglars or other trespassers on your property

• When dealing with a dog suspected to be a prohibited breed, police will be able to decide whether the dog should be impounded or remain with its owner while investigations take place – a move that will be welcomed by owners of breeds such as Staffies, which are sometimes mistaken for banned Pit Bull Terriers

On 15 February this year, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee published its report on dog control and welfare. It suggested a wide range of changes to English law which have not yet been adopted by the Government:

• Making attacks by dogs on assistance dogs a separate criminal offence
• Restricting the number of litters a breeder may produce each year
• Introducing a Code of Practice governing the sale of dogs online
• Taking steps to eradicate health problems associated with conformation to breed standards
• Giving Local Authorities the power to make the owners of unruly dogs attend training classes

Wales is likely to follow suit, while Scotland's laws on dogs were amended in the Control of Dogs Act in 2010. Northern Ireland already has compulsory microchipping and licensing, and is looking to introduce a number of additional measures including restrictions on puppy farming.

Local Authorities also have the power to impose their own rules governing dogs and their owners. Here are just a few of the things you need to think about:

Where? Some places are out of bounds to dogs. These usually include children’s playgrounds, sports courts, cemeteries, and quiet areas within parks. It may be great fun for your dog to have a paddle in your local pond, but again, some are off limits to dogs in order to protect waterfowl. In Greater London alone, there are more than 200 outdoor areas where dogs are not allowed.

When? In Cornwall, Brighton and other seafront areas, dogs are permitted on some beaches at certain times, and on others at different times. While this can be confusing, accurate information is available on most Local Authorities’ websites, so check before you walk.

What? Local Authorities have the power to address problem behaviour such as excessive barking, fouling, aggression, out-of-control dogs and so on. If you’re in any doubt as to your dog’s behaviour, talk to your vet, who will be able to rule out any underlying physical causes and recommend an animal behaviourist if necessary.

How many? Most Local Authorities limit the number of dogs you may walk at a time. For instance, Manchester City Council sets the number at four. In the London Borough of Wandsworth, you are allowed more than four if you hold a special licence. In most other parts of the country, the number is set at five or higher, and professional dog walkers may be allowed even more.

What do you think? Are these restrictions necessary to protect our communities – and our pets – from irresponsible owners and delinquent dogs? Or has it all gone barking mad? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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Nina Cole
There is much contained in these new laws to be commended, such as restricting the number of litters a breeder can produce each year, compulsary microchipping etc & as a pet sitter, I also agree that there should be a limit to the amount of dogs one can exercise at a time.Dogs must be kept under control at all times, for both their safety and the general public. Personally, I would like to see it an offence to leave a dog tethered outside of shops, but this has not been addressed as far as I am aware!
to be honest,yet again,none of the above will effect the puppy farmer,it only affects general public and back yard breeders as there so called,who despite the title, lavish their proud litter with there every need.we obviously dont have that many unruley dog attacks or this would have been dealt with a long time ago.microchipping it a good idea but does it work,sometimes,but people dont update the information,stolen dogs have the chip removed and puppy farm dogs never leave the premises so how do you know they even exist in the first place,and these premises are not monitored or controlled by the law anyhow,and even if you do shut them down its common knowledge they just start up elsewhere under a different name.,,,the problem isnt with kennels or back yard breeders its puppy farmers...and what about the dogs smuggled through the channel tunnel,i supose thats another topic or you just dont believe it happens x
Karina Leigh
As a dog groomer, behaviourist and trainer, I too welcome these changes. However, I also agree it will do little to resolve the root causes of most dog related issues which are irresponsible breeding and irresponsible ownership. Pedigree breeders have to follow strict rules set out by the Kennel Club, anyone breeding dogs, pet or otherwise, should be subject to the same. There is little change to the Dangerous Dogs Act, which having been in place now for over 20 years, clearly isn't working. I won't dispute that certain types and larger dogs pose more risk to the general public but there are better ways of addressing this instead of one by one, eradicating some of our best loved breeds. One suggestion (and Petplan will like this!) is compulsory public liability insurance for owners with premiums reflecting an owner's age and the breed or type's potential to be dangerous. This is how we currently prevent young lads killing innocent people in 'status' sports cars. And of course, the whole lot will be an entire waste of time unless the microchipping law or any of the recommendations are properly enforced.
Karina - any dog has the potential to be dangerous you idiot ! It's how you bring the dog up ! And why should i have to pay out for insurance to be able to take my dog out while everyone else with little ratty dogs don't pay insurance atall !
Stephen Clayforth
Microchipping is a good idea IF, and that is a big IF, everybody got their dogs chipped. Unfortunately, like most dog laws, only the responsible owners and breeders will comply with it. The people it is aimed at, the irresponsible owners who let their dogs roam the streets unsupervised, will not have their dogs chipped. And if the dog warden or police find a dog roaming the streets and it does not have a chip how will they find the owner? Very few owners are going to come forward to claim an unchipped dog and face a £500 fine. They will just go get another puppy from the local back street breeder or puppy farmer. The same goes for those that use their dogs for various nefarious purposes (drug dealing, dog fighting, badger baiting etc.), they will not microchip their dogs either. So the whole rasion de etre for pushing the chipping of dogs is blown out of the water before it even starts. The responsible owners do not, generally, let their dogs roam the streets not do they indulge in the various illegal practices but they are the ones who will be having to pay for their dogs to be chipped. This is just a further tax on the responsible pet owner. The Kennel Club has tarnished its reputation by supporting this law but, there again, they have a vested in interest in ensuring all dogs are chipped. They own the largest micro ship registration service, Petlog, so they will be hoping to rake in £1000's by first of all registering the dogs and then charging an exorbitant fee to transfer the ownership to the puppy buyer.
entertain me
First of all I would like to say terrific blog!I had a quick question in which I'd like to ask if you don't mind. I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing. I've had difficulty clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out. I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or tips?Thanks!

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