The Dangerous Dogs Act provides offences in connection with fighting dogs, as well as dog attacks on people and other animals. It also prohibits four types of fighting dog for public safety reasons, and Ministers and the police advise that the ban on the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero should remain in place.
It is important to note that not all banned dogs are destroyed. If a court decides that the owner is a fit and proper person and the dog presents no danger to public safety, the dog can be kept under strict conditions, for example muzzled and on a lead in public. It is also placed on an index of exempted dogs.
In 2018, a Parliamentary Committee conducted a review into controlling dangerous dogs. The report made a series of recommendations to improve dog ownership and reduce dog attacks, and the Government has responded positively to these suggestions. Ministers have now commissioned research by Middlesex University into dog attacks which will consider different approaches and the effectiveness of current dog control measures. It will also seek to identify and examine the factors and situations that may cause dog attacks. The report is currently being peer reviewed and will be finalised in light of peer review comments. The intention is to publish the final report later this year.
The behaviour of any dog depends on several factors, including the training, the actions of the owner and the environment in which it lives, and my ministerial colleagues recognise that they have to balance the views of people who wish to repeal breed-specific legislation with their responsibility to ensure that the public are properly protected from dog attacks. Compulsory microchipping has been introduced and the maximum penalty for those held responsible for a dog attack has been increased to 14 years’ imprisonment.