RSPCA Claim Dangerous Dogs Act Fails To Keep People Safe
The Law Of… banning the breed
With the Dangerous Dog Act reaching its 25th anniversary, a leading animal welfare charity has warned that the legislation is not fit for purpose and has failed in its original goal of protecting the public from dog attacks.
Responding to the critique of the legislation – which came from the RSPCA – Jonathan Thursby and Ruth Macgee, both part of the Personal Injury team at Simpson Millar, respond to the criticism and explain their dealings with dog bite cases.
Dangerous Dogs Act
The Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced in 1991 and placed a legislative ban on 4 breeds of dogs:
- Japanese Tosa
- Fila Brasileiro
- Dogo Argentino
- Pitbull Terrier – as well as crossbreeds that have so-called 'typical' Pitbull features
The RSPCA has recently spoken out against the effectiveness of the legislation, advising that banning breeds only causes further issues and does not achieve its main goal of keeping the public safe.
Pointing to the figure that of the 30 people killed by dogs since 1991, 21 were by breeds that were not banned under the act, the RSCPA claims that the legislation is detrimental to canine welfare.
As a result of the legislation, the charity has had to put down 336 dogs in the last 2 years, while Battersea Dogs Home has put down 91 dogs in the past 12 months.
Due to the loose terminology of 'typical Pitbull features' there have also been cases of much-loved family pets being put down, with a recent high profile case involving a family dog being seized for allegedly looking like a Pitbull.
Breeds Or Owners?
Detractors of the Dangerous Dogs Act claim that breed-specific legislation does not consider mitigating circumstances and that a dog's behaviour is based more on training and owners' attitude than it is specific breeds.
It is argued that educating errant owners and ensuring that dogs in dangerous environments – which could result in dangerous behaviour – are rehomed.
Speaking of the critique of the law, Jonathan Thursby said:
“In my experience there are no patterns with dog attacks; there are no specific breeds that act in any particular way – any breed can attack. It’s good to see that pressure is starting to mount on policy makers to re-evaluate the Dangerous Dogs Act, which – as we can see with the ever-increasing amounts of attacks – does not seem fit for purpose.”
"Of course, it is important to remember that the Dangerous Dogs Act is not the only piece of legislation that draws up laws about dog bites, as the Animals Act 1971 was set out to make provisions with respect to the civil liability for damage done by animals, including dogs."
"The Animals Act allows us to push forward with personal injury claims against owners of dogs who attack but are not on the banned list, which is helpful for retrospective compensation for victims but is not helpful in the prevention of such attacks."
Echoing Jonathan's advice on legislation that goes beyond the Dangerous Dogs Act, Ruth comments:
"I have witnessed the horrific nature of dog attacks first hand. Some of my clients, whom I have successfully represented, have been left with visually disturbing injuries, which are more akin to being attacked by a shark."
"Most disturbing is the fact that we hear so often of children being savaged by dogs and with the number dog attacks higher now than when the Dangerous Dogs Act was passed it's clear the legislation is not fit for purpose."
"This is such an emotive topic, but it really is time for the law to change. How many more fatalities will we have to witness before action is taken?"