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This Briefing was last updated in August 2016. In May 2018 the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee launched an inquiry on Breed Specific Legislation. The Legislation in the briefing is also relevant to a Petitions Committee debate scheduled for 16 July 2018 (further details of the Petition and Government response are available online).

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was introduced following press reports of dog attacks, focusing mainly on American pit bull terriers. The Act raised concerns for many years because it only covered attacks by dogs that took place in a public places.  It did not apply to attacks by dogs on private property, for example someone’s home. In addition, reports of increases in deliberate attacks using dogs raised concerns about the need for further powers that could be applied to dog owners. Further background on the origins of the legislation can be found in Library Paper 98/6 on Dogs.

In 2012 the then Government published a consultation on Tackling irresponsible dog ownership. New, tougher, sentencing guidelines were also published at the time.

In 2013 the then Government announced a package of measures to tackle irresponsible dog owners, including the introduction of compulsory microchipping of all dogs from April 2016 and to extend dangerous dogs’ legislation to private property. This became part of the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, together with increased powers relating to dogs and antisocial behaviour.

There is also legislation in Scotland, the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010, which requires all owners to keep control of their dogs in private and public places, regardless of their breed. Dog microchipping has been compulsory in Northern Ireland since 2011 and in Wales since March 2015.

More recently there have been calls for changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, specifically to remove the ban on certain breeds (the breed-specific legislation). Those that oppose the law criticise it for requiring the destruction of safe dogs while failing to tackle the number of dog bite incidents.

The Government has rejected these calls.


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