Charities plead: ‘Please don’t let any more dogs die because of how they look’

Six of the UK’s leading dog welfare and veterinary groups have joined forces to launch a fight against legislation that gives dogs a ‘death sentence’ due to the way they look.

Battersea, Blue Cross, British Veterinary Association, Dogs Trust, The Kennel Club and the RSPCA have come together in a bid to lobby for changes to Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act, which applies breed specific legislation (BSL) prohibiting the keeping of four types of dogs.

RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “It’s been 30 years since the Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced in August 1991. It was brought in to keep the public safe following a number of tragic incidents involving dogs but was never well thought-out or based on scientific evidence.

“Since then, thousands of innocent dogs have lost their lives simply because they happen to look a certain way and not because of their temperament or behaviour. Hospital admissions due to dog bites have increased dramatically in that time which means the legislation has failed, not only to protect dog welfare, but also to keep people safe.”

In 2016, the RSPCA launched the #EndBSL campaign calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the legislation, which took place in 2018. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee published its findings that year and said a change in the law would be desirable, achievable and would better protect the public.

The Government, however, remains committed to its view that these four types of dogs are more dangerous than others. Defra’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare, released earlier this year, states that it will “ensure dangerous dogs legislation continues to provide effective public safety controls”.

In 2018, Defra commissioned further research into dog control measures, the causes of dog attacks and how to promote responsible dog ownership. We are yet to hear the findings of this research. In the meantime, hospital admissions due to dog bites continue to rise and dogs continue to lose their lives.

Daniella Dos Santos, BVA’s senior vice president, said: “The veterinary profession has 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’.

“All the latest evidence supports our view that breed specific legislation has been ineffective in its intended aims, thereby failing to either properly protect the public or safeguard dog welfare over the last three decades. As the Dangerous Dogs Act completes 30 years, we continue to call on the Government to enact robust, fit-for-purpose legislation that effectively tackles individual acts of aggression and irresponsible ownership, rather than banning entire breeds.”

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