Making dog owners accountable
Consultation seeks public view on measures to tackle irresponsible dog ownership
Responsible dog ownership is at the core of a consultation launched today that will explore a legal obligation to microchip all dogs.
Compulsory microchipping will allow authorities to directly identify dog owners and hold them accountable for their dogs behaviour. This line of accountability will also help authorities take appropriate action when animal welfare standards are breached.
This approach has been adopted as the preferred method of dog control in a number of countries such as Northern Ireland, France, Canada, Hong Kong and Denmark. As well as microchipping, the consultation will also ask for further public opinion on other measures to promote responsible dog ownership.
Earlier this month, the First Minister met parents of eight year old Broagan McCuaig and four year old Sophia Bell to hear about the effect left on their children and families after being attacked by dangerous dogs. Also attending the meeting was, Veronica Lynch, who lost her daughter, 11 year old Kellie, in an attack in 1989.
During the meeting the First Minister announced that local authorities, COSLA, Police Scotland, prosecutors and victims’ groups will be brought together in the new year to discuss dangerous dogs and irresponsible dog ownership. The summit will establish what more can be done to protect our communities through the use of existing powers and what more may be needed including support for victims and their families.
Publishing the consultation, the First Minister said:
“Dog owners must take full responsibility to control their dogs. We have long-standing laws in place to help protect members of the public from dangerous dogs, and I fully support police, prosecutors and courts in holding owners to account where the law has been breached. If adopted, microchipping will help authorities bring offenders to justice by making owners directly accountable for their dog’s behaviour.
“While there are many responsible dog owners in Scotland, today’s consultation seeks views on measures to improve dog ownership, animal welfare and safeguard our communities. Irresponsible dog ownership can affect our communities in different ways from dog fouling contaminating local parks and children’s play areas through to dangerous and out of control dogs leading to people being attacked.
I was grateful for the opportunity recently to hear directly from the parents of children who were attacked by dangerous dogs, and the ongoing effect this has had the families of Kellie Lynch, Sophia Bell and Broagan McCuaig.
“While we already have strict measures in place to deal with dangerous dogs, the Scottish Government is continually exploring ways to improve procedures to keep our children and communities safe. I am clear we must always consider whether more can be done to ensure people are properly protected.”
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:
“The Scottish Government has a robust approach to dog control measures but we are working to see if we need to strengthen our approach further.
“We want to hear what the public think about measures to encourage even more responsible dog ownership, for example a new system of dog licensing, to ultimately further improve public safety.
“We already have muzzling available for out-of-control dogs but this consultation will allow people to offer their views on whether a more general system of muzzling of all dogs is practical or justified.
“Our system, introduced in 2011, already gives local authorities tough powers to impose dog control notices and breaching these notices is a criminal offence.
“We also strengthened our laws to cover dog attacks in private spaces like homes and gardens.
“It is crucial that our consultation approach fits the needs of our communities and we are keen to listen to the public to get their views on what more can be done to further improve public safety. Every incident is one too many – we need to ensure Scotland’s system continues to focus on preventing these tragedies.”
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
“The Scottish Government recognises that microchipping is an effective method of identifying animals and matching them to the correct owner, where there is an up to date register.
“The welfare of dogs is pivotal in this consultation; there are laws already in place to ensure that they are treated in a suitable and acceptable manner by anyone who wishes to own a dog. As well as compromising their welfare, neglect or inappropriate living conditions or training can sometimes lead to dogs lashing out, with potentially serious consequences.
“The existing laws available to local authorities are there to protect an animal’s welfare and the use of microchipping will reinforce the level of responsibility required from dog owners. I am aware that there is a range of views on the practicality and effectiveness of widespread compulsory microchipping for all dogs and our consultation allows people to have their say.”
The consultation document can be found here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/12/6115
The Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 gave powers to local authorities to issue dog control notices on owners who allow their dogs to be out of control. This is a preventative regime to allow local authorities to reinforce the need for owners to be responsible for their dogs before attacks happen. A dog control notice requires a dog to be microchipped and can contain other conditions such as the need to muzzle a dog in public.
In the first two years of operation of the legislation (February 2011 to February 2013), local authorities carried our approximately 3200 investigations into potential out of control dogs and issued approximately 240 dog control notices.