DOGS & THE LAW
Trustees George Leslie and Allan Sim attend the Cross Party Group on Animal Welfare (CPGAW) which looks at all potential legislation affecting animals.
CONTROL OF DOGS (SCOTLAND) ACT
The new Control of Dogs (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 22nd April 2010 and received Royal Assent on the 26th May 2010.
This new law is a vast improvement on the Dangerous Dogs Act in that it tries to adopt a preventative role. The aim is to identify dogs that are “out of control” and impose on the owner a Dog Control Order (as one newspaper described it a sort of Doggy ASBO). These orders will be imposed by local authority officers called Dog Control Officers who, when confronted by a dog that is out of control, can require owners to microchip and neuter their dog as well as keep it under control not just in public places but also in private places such as in the owner’s home and garden.
Canine Concern Scotland Trust submitted a written opinion and gave oral evidence to the Parliamentary Committee which was scrutinising the Bill. We welcomed the Bill but expressed three major points of concern;
The Bill stated that a “dog is out of control if its behaviour (or irrespective of its behaviour its size and power) give rise to reasonable alarm and apprehensiveness to a person or to another animal”. We felt that the words in parenthesis were in contradiction to the underlying principle of the Bill which was declared to be “deed not breed”. Several other witnesses agreed with this and an amendment was introduced to remove those words. This amendment was carried and the final Act does not include the reference to “or irrespective of its behaviour its size and power”.
We also tried to have the words “reasonable alarm and apprehensiveness” altered by suggesting that a dog is out of control if its behaviour “threatened the safety of any individual, or if it acted aggressively towards an individual who was not acting in a threatening way towards that dog”. We had no success with this one and the phrase “reasonable alarm and apprehensiveness” will still be used to define “out of control”.
We also raised the position of a dog being alone in a private place and acting aggressively towards an unwanted intruder. The answer to this was a little vague but it was generally felt that any alarm and apprehensiveness felt by an unwanted intruder into a private place when confronted by a dog could not be deemed to be reasonable.
We are now facing an uncertain period when these new regulations will be put into practice. To a large extent it will be dependent on the interpretation of the regulations by the Dog Control Officers, and the Act itself allows for owners to be able to appeal to a Court against the imposition of a Dog Control Order. We would ask all who are interested in the welfare of dogs and who wish to protect the rights of dog owners to enjoy their relationship with their dog to monitor how this Act is working in practice. If anyone feels that the Act is being used unreasonably then contact one of the Trustees and we shall endeavour to investigate such cases and publicise any case where we agree that the Act has been improperly used.