On Wednesday 28th February Dr Amy Miele of JMICAWE was invited to chair a Policy Exchange focussing on Dangerous Dog Legislation in the UK which was held in central London. The aim of this exchange was to foster interdisciplinary relationships, while also exploring alternatives to the controversial Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) of 1991 and its’ subsequent amendments. Alongside this, delegates shared best practice with regards to promoting responsible dog ownership and ensuring optimal canine and human welfare under the current legislative framework.
The day included presentations from charities such as the RSPCA, Dogs Trust and Born Innocent, as well as from London Assembly Members and animal behaviour researchers working in the field. There was an emphasis on evidence based practice and Dr Samantha Gaines, RSPCA, was the first to set the scene with some statistics demonstrating the futility of breed specific legislation and the need for standardised reporting of dog bite incidents in order to inform appropriate preventative action. Dr Naomi Harvey, University of Nottingham, echoed these sentiments and presented data highlighting the high degree of within breed variation in behaviour traits. She emphasised that any genetic impact on behaviour should be considered at the level of the individual rather than the breed.
Ms Shaila Bux, Born Innocent, talked about the work that she and her colleagues do to help the owners of dogs who have been seized under Section 1 of the DDA. Her case studies highlighted concerns over the lack of standardisation with regards to the assessment of seized dogs and the welfare concerns that they face during prolonged periods of kennelling while awaiting assessment.
Assembly Members Leonie Cooper and Steve O’Connell from Labour and London Conservatives respectively, demonstrated the cross-party agreement on this important subject and discussed ways of promoting policy change. The day also included a presentation from Hollie Sevenoaks of Dogs Trust, who spoke about various Dogs Trust initiatives promoting responsible dog ownership. So far, Dogs Trust has reached over 330, 000 school children via their primary school workshops and they are in the process of analysing data that will inform on the impact of this work.
Delegates included Clinical Animal Behaviourist Kendal Shepherd, an experienced expert witness and Walter Pennell, a Dog Liaison Officer from South Wales Police, both of whom shared their wisdom and stories of best practice within the limitations of the current legal framework.
While the day uncovered severe flaws in the current Dangerous Dog legislation in the UK, the concluding remarks were positive, with a focus on continuing to build upon the cross-sector relationships forged during the day and fostering change, while also supporting initiatives focussing on public education and responsible pet-ownership.