Chipping puppies will not solve the problem of dangerous dogs
Was it just my imagination or did the large oval, jaw-shaped scar on my ankle start throbbing gently as I read about the latest plans to micro-chip newborn puppies, in much heralded government moves which will supposedly make it easier to track and prosecute the owners of dangerous dogs?
Some readers may recall that last year I became the victim of a protracted and vicious attack by two pit-bull type bitches which left my own elderly spaniel near to death and myself shaken, savaged and now scarred.
Since then, unsurprisingly, I have become a rabid campaigner for the government to crack down on irresponsible dog owners, much like the young man who stood by, smirking, as one of his dogs worried mine in its huge jaw, as if Buster were a squeaky toy, and the other clamped its sharp teeth around my own leg.
Sadly, these new moves are simply not the answer. Once again, the overwhelming majority of the loving and responsible owners of Britain’s eight million plus dogs, who pick up the poo and make sure their canine charges behave, will be paying the price for the irresponsible minority, for whom the dog is nothing more than a status symbol, a four-legged deterrent or, increasingly, a deadly weapon.
The coalition made much of its promise, in its programme for government published after the election, that it would encourage responsible pet ownership and ensure that enforcement agencies target irresponsible owners of dangerous dogs. Now we are nearly two years on and these half-hearted measures are all we get?
The compulsory chipping scheme has been condemned as a misguided, knee-jerk reaction and as a missed opportunity by animal charities such as the Dogs’ Trust and the RSPCA, whose rescue centres are full to bursting with hundreds of the very dogs who are trained, against their usual defensive nature, to attack and who are so often cruelly abandoned when the vet or food bills become too much.
There has, however, been a guarded welcome to the news that current laws will be extended to cover dog attacks on private property, which will help to protect unsuspecting postmen or midwives whose jobs entail entering other people’s homes and gardens. But there seems to be no mention whatsoever of getting to the crux of the key problem: there are simply too many dogs in the wrong hands.
I really do not want to get into the business of demonising particular breeds of dog. The fact is that any dog, when sufficiently provoked, will defend itself, or its owner, and can and will kill. Difficult to believe when I take a look at my own daft, hairy pyjama case of a Cocker spaniel, although I have witnessed my husband’s Springer spaniel bitch dispatch a rat with speed, skill and fairly evident relish.
Yet the fact remains that some breeds are more likely to kill than others or are more protective of their masters or of their perceived territory than others. Sadly, these are the breeds usually chosen to be attack dogs; well, of course they are: the more protective, the more effective.
The much maligned Staffordshire Bull Terrier is so fiercely loyal, it was once known as the “nanny dog”. Now thousands of Staffies and Staffie crosses are the first choice of the neighbourhood drugs dealer protecting his patch or of insecure youths, trying to appear as hard as the brass and leather harnesses they make the poor dogs don, just as the owner of our attackers paraded proudly around the common with his brace of unmuzzled and snarling bitches.
Somehow I doubt that compulsory chipping and database registration is going to help track and trace these particular owners. If they don’t bother to shell out a few pence for poo bags, they are hardly likely to pay for a £35 quid micro-chip or make sure they communicate every change of address to the central dog register, are they?
The same would surely go for dog licenses or the compulsory puppy training programmes advocated by many animal charities and lobby groups. Education of and engagement with the owners of attack dogs is an admirable aspiration but in our fractured, increasingly polarised society, somehow I doubt it can happen.
I am afraid that this latest announcement looks like a bit of an afterthought, a bit back of the fag packet, like so much of the government’s recent hasty and ill-thought out announcements.
What a pity one of the coalition’s bright policy wonks didn’t spot the real opportunity: getting behind the strongly supported Dog Control Bill, which has now come to a frustrating halt in the Commons after the order to read the Bill a second time lapsed, with no indication when the Bill will progress further.
The bill aimed to repeal and replace extant dangerous dog laws, including the breed specific legislation of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, another knee jerk recourse to the statute book which has proved woefully unfit for purpose, demonising particular breeds of dog with no onus whatsoever on their owners and masters.
The Dog Control Bill, originally introduced as a Private Member’s Bill by Lord Redesdale, sensibly focuses the attention on deed, not breed and proposed specific Dog Control Notices, much as the Control of Dogs Act, which was introduced last year in Scotland, does. The Welsh government is also working on much tighter dog control proposals while Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK to retain dog licenses.
In England, the Dog Control Bill, which at least represented a coherent and widely supported effort to improve the DDA, has come to a stuttering halt and all the government can come up with is a vague suggestion that all puppies should be chipped.
I wonder how many more dog attack victims, like 83 year old Leslie Trotman, killed by a pit bull in his own garden in February, will have to hit the headlines before we get intelligent laws which do not demonize individual dogs, nor penalise responsible owners but which rightly and effectively target the feckless and violent types who wield their dogs as weapons.
By DOMINIQUE JACKSON
Source: Daily Mail