Law change call after 'dramatic' rise in dangerous dogs

Image caption,
Pit bull terriers are one of four "fighting" breeds banned under the 1991 act

A "dramatic" rise in the number of banned dogs subject to court orders has prompted an MP to call for a change in the law.

Owners of banned dogs can be forced by the courts to muzzle or neuter them.

Government figures show the number on the dangerous dogs index has increased from 141 in 2007 to 255 in 2008. Last year the figure rose again to 314.

Labour's Willie Bain argued legislation should be toughened but the government said 63% opposed this.

The index registers dogs whose owners have inadvertently come into ownership of a banned dog. Dogs which are currently banned are the pit bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro.

Dogs on the list are believed to be of little threat and courts may specify measures taken to keep the dog under control such as muzzling and being kept on a lead.

There are currently 1,245 dogs on the list.

The Glasgow East MP said the increase of dogs on the index was "dramatic" and that the government had to deal with the problem of "status" dogs in constituencies.

"Really, the major issue about dangerous dogs is that the main prescribed breeds are causing the biggest problem," he said.

"We think it is necessary to move away from breed-specific legislation to anti-social pets, so dog protection notices can be applied to the owner as well as the dog.

"It's about trying to nip this in the bud before there are any injuries or fatalities."

Last week 52-year-old Barbara Williams was mauled to death by a Belgian mastiff in south London.

The dog, described as "distinctly large" by police, was shot dead by marksmen at the house.

Its owner has been bailed after being arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.

Bad owners

The Dangerous Dog Index figures were released after a written Parliamentary question from Mr Bain who said he believed the government were "not inclined to make the change [in law]".

In response to his question, Animal Welfare Minister Jim Paice said a recent consultation found 63% were opposed to current legislation being extended to cover dogs on private land.

"The issue of dangerous dogs is not just a problem of dangerous breeds but also one of bad owners," said Mr Paice.

"They need to be held to account and stopped from ruining people's lives."

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