UK vets are continuing their call for a repeal of Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) in their updated position on the Dangerous Dogs Act and dog control.
Ahead of the legislation’s 30th anniversary later this summer, the British Veterinary Association and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association are urging government to adopt an evidence-based ‘deed-not-breed’ approach to dog control legislation for the sake of public safety and animal health and welfare.
Section 1 is an example of breed-specific legislation, which prohibits the ownership of certain breed types that are perceived to pose a risk to public safety. These include the pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo Argentino and fila Brasileiro.
The two veterinary associations say research has found no reduction in the incidence of aggressive behaviour and dog-biting incidents since the Act was introduced, and vets are concerned that defining particular breeds as ‘dangerous’ can lead to a lack of emphasis on the role of responsible ownership in preventing canine aggression.
There are also concerns about the potential negative welfare impacts on dogs that are seized if they are suspected of being a prohibited breed type.
Instead, they would like to see a centralised dog biting incident database; effective enforcement and consolidation of existing dog control legislation across the UK; the repeal of Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act; and promotion of safe dog-human interactions and responsible ownership through education and campaigns.
BVA senior vice president Daniella Dos Santos said: “We have long campaigned for a total overhaul of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act because it targets specific breeds rather than deeds and gives a false impression that dogs not on the banned list are ‘safe’…
“We would like to see robust, fit-for-purpose legislation that effectively tackles individual acts of aggression and irresponsible ownership, rather than banning entire breeds. We’ll be writing to the Home Office and Defra and will be joining up with other campaign organisations in the lead-up to the Act’s 30th anniversary in August to push for effective, evidence-based solutions.”
BSAVA president Sheldon Middleton added: “Members of the veterinary professions are perhaps more aware than most that any dog can be aggressive, regardless of breed.
“Canine aggression and dog biting incidents should be viewed as complex public health and social issues, which require a range of prevention strategies including additional research into aggression, the setting up of a centralised dog bite incident database, and education programmes to promote responsible ownership.”