Expert and RSPCA bite back over Dangerous Dog Act


Aggressive dog behaviour can only be tackled if root causes are addressed, says an expert as a review of the Dangerous Dog Act gets underway.

By Ima Jackson-Obot, Hunter Ruthven, Laura Manning, Heather McKay and Sam Barker

Aggressive dog behaviour can only be tackled if root causes are addressed, says an expert as a review of the Dangerous Dog Act gets underway.

Pet behavioural specialist, Jon Bowen, who works at Kydd & Kydd Veterinary Surgery in Wimbledon, retrains dogs whose behaviour is problematic and has ten years experience in the field.

“Territorial behaviour is very strongly programmed into dogs, in certain breeds a lot more than others,” said Mr Bowen.

“That means you have to manage them and make sure they are not put in situations where they make the wrong decisions.”

Recently a five-year-old Mitcham boy was attacked by a dog and left permanently scarred.

Additionally, London hospitals have seen a 79% increase in admissions from dog attacks over the past five years.

The government opened up a consultation to consider changes to the Dangerous Dog Act 1991, following increasing pressure.

The consultation period ends on June 9 when the government will be left to review the findings they have received on dangerous dogs and owners’ attitudes.

Mr Bowen says that the Act does limit the import of certain dangerous dog breeds, but ultimately, the legislation has done nothing useful, because it is too rigid in identifying problematic breeds.

He says the problem is that many breeds have been cross-bred, and some are now harder to identify as being dangerous under the Act.

“They have maintained some of the behavioural traits, the fighting traits, but transferred to a differently-shaped dog.”

The RSPCA, Metropolitan Police and Communication Workers Union, who represent public service workers including postal workers, are some of the groups submitting research and opinions supporting the revision of the Act.

“There are hundreds of dog attacks taking place every week, therefore this couldn’t be any more urgent,” said a CWU spokeswoman.

Mr Bowen says of his dog-by-dog treatment: “There aren’t any breeds of dogs which are desperately problematic. But there are some.

“If they are put into the wrong circumstances, and trained and handled by the wrong person, they can become dangerous.”

The RSPCA, whose awareness week starts April 26, are firmly opposed to breed -specific legislation.

“It is entirely flawed that the law should focus on the types of dog, rather than irresponsible owners, who should always be the target of any dog control legislation,” explained an RSPCA spokesman.

Mr Bowen said without euthanising every dog which shows any level of aggression, there is not much that can be done other than addressing their behaviour.

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