Dog control law could mean training sessions for owners
- 23 November 2012
- From the section Wales politics
Dog owners may have to attend training sessions if they lose control of their pets under plans from the Welsh government.
Legislation would force the owners of out-of-control dogs to register with local councils and only allow the dog out in public wearing a muzzle.
Ministers said they wanted to protect people from an increasing number of attacks by dangerous dogs.
A consultation on the Control of Dogs Bill is open until next March.
The number of people in Wales who have been bitten or struck by a dog rose from 239 in 1999 to 361 in 2011.
Dog owners would be served with a Dog Control Notice (DCN) when their dogs show signs of being out of control.
Owners will be required take certain steps, such as keep their dogs under control, provide information to their local council and attend training sessions.
They could be told to only let their dog out in public wearing a muzzle, or to keep the dog away from certain parks and roads.
The bill also requires people to control dogs when they are in their own homes and not just in public places.
Local councils will keep track of people with DCNs and make sure they are taking the steps to change their dog's behaviour.
The plans have received a broad welcome from RSPCA Cymru, although national director Steve Carter believes they should go further.
"Irresponsible dog ownership is a major headache in parts of Wales," he said.
"This ground-breaking piece of legislation will shift the focus from the dog to the person on the other end of the lead, the owner.
"Dog control notices will go a long way to help in terms of preventative measures, but RSPCA Cymru believes these changes in the law could be further complemented by an overarching strategy of an affordable annual dog registration scheme."
There are around 450,000 dogs in Wales, but the Welsh government says evidence from a database of hospital admissions suggests more are becoming out of control.
It says current animal welfare controls are insufficient to help promote responsible ownership.
Environment Minister John Griffiths said: "Whilst the majority of dogs are kept under control and do not represent a risk to the public, dog attacks are on the increase, and children and animals, including guide dogs, are often the victims.
"Our proposals focus on early intervention when a dog is out of control and involve close working with dog owners to improve their dog's behaviour."
Cardiff dog warden Caroline Cowan said she believed there were some very good aspects to the proposals.
But she added: "My fear is that they're very wide-ranging proposals which make absolutely no mention of how they're to be resourced.
"As a dog warden I'd appreciate having a variety of options at my disposal, but some more hours in the day would be nice as well.
"Without more wardens and facilities nothing will change on the ground whatever legislation is passed."
Ministers also announced proposals for compulsory microchipping of dogs earlier in the year.
The Welsh government said it was currently considering responses to those plans.