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27/03/14 09:08

Dog ownership summit

Experts examine options to encourage better dog behaviour.

Promoting responsible dog ownership in Scotland is the focus of a Scottish Government-led conference in Edinburgh today.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead today met with representatives from groups including Police Scotland, the Dogs Trust, Guide Dogs Scotland, the Kennel Club, local authorities and the SSPCA.

The Responsible Dog Ownership Summit was announced by First Minister Alex Salmond last year after meeting the families of victims of dog attacks.

Mr MacAskill said: “While the majority of dog owners are responsible, we are aware that there is a problem with a small number of owners who put others at risk because they fail to control their dogs properly.

“Today’s summit brings together a range of organisations to discuss dangerous dogs and what more can be done to protect communities and encourage responsible dog ownership.

“We have long-standing laws in place to help protect members of the public from dangerous dogs, including tough new powers for local authorities to impose dog control orders on out of control dogs. We want to ensure that local authorities make use of those powers to help prevent attacks happening. I also fully support police, prosecutors and courts in holding owners to account where the law has been breached.

“We are currently consulting on measures such as microchipping to improve dog ownership and to help improve animal welfare and safeguard our communities. Our consultation, which closes at the end of this month, seeks views on whether more can be done to ensure people are properly protected and to promote responsible dog ownership.

“The summit provides the opportunity to learn about how agencies in some locations are making use of existing powers and hear the views of agencies and organisations with an interest in public safety, animal welfare and dog ownership.”

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“The welfare of dogs is an extremely important and emotive issue, and one that the Scottish Government takes very seriously.

“It’s vital that dogs are properly trained and cared for by their owners to as neglect or lack of training can sometimes lead to dogs being out of control, with potentially serious consequences for people, other animals and the dogs themselves.

“We recognise that microchipping is an effective method of identifying animals and matching them to their owner, where there is an up to date register. Microchipping can help deal with stray animals and can also reinforce the responsibility of dog owners for their animals.

“The ongoing consultation will seek views on measures to improve responsible ownership and the practicality and effectiveness of widespread compulsory microchipping for all dogs.”

Jane Horsburgh, Policy Manager for Guide Dogs Scotland: "Out of control dogs cause a problem for everyone, but the effect on a guide dog and its owner can be devastating. In extreme cases guide dogs have been permanently withdrawn. The other major impact is that blind and partially sighted people are left without a guide dog, their mobility aid, and may become housebound until they can be trained with another dog.

"We welcome the responsible dog ownership summit and the invitation for Guide Dogs Scotland to address attendees. The summit is a welcome and positive step towards building a framework for responsible dog ownership in Scotland."

Dogs Trust Dog Law Specialist, Trevor Cooper, said: “Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, greatly welcomed the launch of the Scottish Government’s consultation on responsible dog ownership in December, and we are pleased to have the opportunity to outline the potential impacts of the proposed new legislation at this summit today. It is encouraging to see a renewed focus being placed on the extremely important issue of responsible dog ownership in Scotland, and we eagerly await the outcomes of both the summit and the consultation.”

Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn from the Scottish SPCA said: “The Scottish SPCA believes that Scotland has some of the best dog control legislation in the UK, however, there is not rigorous enforcement of existing legislation, as many Local Authorities do not appear to have the funding or manpower to do so.

“We would also encourage the courts to make full use of the powers available on those found guilty of irresponsible dog ownership with robust sentencing.”

Notes to editors

Public consultation on options for responsible dog ownership will close at the end of this month.