Dangerous Dogs

Posted in: Topical Issues

Posted on: 28 January 2012

Unless you've been living underground for the past few weeks, you'll be aware of the current focus on dangerous dogs.  Unfortunately, the legislation as it stands, despite being well intentioned, is ineffective for the purpose it was created.  The aim behind the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was to control potential dog attacks on people by targeting known fighting breeds i.e. the Pitbull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro and banning them.  However, the reality is that there exist many cross bred dogs and indeed many pure breed dogs that are capable of harm.  

The focus of the law is in the wrong place! Any dog has the capacity and capability to be dangerous, it is the person responsible for breeding and raising these dogs that holds responsibility and needs to be targeted.  The documentary aired by the BBC earlier this week entitled Death Row Dogs was harrowing viewing, but clearly highlighted the current situation that appears to exist in economically disadvantaged areas.  It is my firm belief that this represents a cottage industry and it's not a stretch of the imagination to link it this to the growth in 'status dogs'.  The end result of all of this is a population of poorly socialised dogs, kept in often appalling welfare conditions with the capacity to inflict harm.

I strongly believe that given our vocation combined with our requirement to swear a declaration to the health and welfare of animals, vets must take a leading role to redress this situation.  This must start with compulsory microchipping of all dogs, which is linked to a Government database connecting every animal with it's owner.  Additionally, there’s a clear need for appropriately focused, effective & enforced legislation as part of a wider program to change the current status quo. 


Comment made by Liz on 28 January 2012

And possibly some control on breeding too?? I agree with compulsory microchipping but I also think that since there are so many "staffies" in rescue centres already, bred as status dogs, maybe an incentive to spay/castrate dogs too? Or licencing? The problem is enforcement:(  

Comment made by Vet Voice on 29 January 2012

We agree wholeheartedly!! To try to tackle this issue, we need to have an integrated and big picture approach. Vets should be promoting responsible pet ownership at every opportunity and this clearly includes spay and castrates of pets that are either a) not intended for breeding or b) under the guardianship of irresponsible owners. The latter is without question the more difficult one to enforce, but incentives are a great idea, as is licencing and maybe even home visits to vet the environment as per many rehoming shelters? What does anyone else think?  

Comment made by Megan on 01 February 2012

Its a hot topic at the moment and I do think vets are doing what they can to enforce neutering and responsible ownership. The problem is that the vets aren't seeing these clients/dogs. General veterinary/preventative health is not a priority to many of these dog owners so vet capacity is limited. Licencing is something to consider. It makes obtaining a pet a more difficult process reserving pets for those who really want them verse impulse 'shoppers'. The problem, I would envisage, with environment assessment is that there are a lot of people living in environments not deemed 'ideal' for pets by authorities, yet these people may care for their animals better than many others. Discrimination would be difficult to control here. Just some thoughts :)  

Comment made by Vet Zara on 02 February 2012

Thanks for your comment Megan. Good point about the environment assessment and I wholeheartedly agree about the differing individual levels of care. I think licensing is a fantastic option to explore! Additionally, the fees raised from the licence requirement (which would include compulsory microchipping and neutering as appropriate) could then be used to fund enforcement officers. I'm going to try to raise this point tomorrow during my discussion with Gabby Logan on Channel 5. Thanks again!  

Comment made by Megan on 12 February 2012

Now we wait and see what will happen with the 'stir' and whether microchipping realy will become a legality.  

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