MPs question Government inaction on 'cruel' legislation targeting certain dog breeds
3 August 2022
Members of the Commons Petitions Committee have expressed disappointment after Ministers at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) responded to concerns about breed specific legislation by defending current practice and refusing to engage with petitioners.
The Government has responded to a letter from members of the Petitions Committee, challenging the Government’s position on breed specific provisions in dangerous dogs legislation. Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park responding on behalf of the Government, set out a defence of the current laws – despite widespread criticism from charities and concerns raised by hundreds of thousands of petitioners. Ministers also declined to meet with petitioners – citing diary commitments.
Christina Rees MP, the member of the Petitions Committee who opened the most recent debate on breed specific legislation, said:
"Under current laws some breeds of dog can be kept in kennels for months pending lengthy court hearings, and often can’t be rehomed even when they pose no danger to the public. Hundreds of dogs are needlessly destroyed every year because of this cruel legislation.
"Public safety is paramount, but the law must be proportionate and not contribute to the unnecessary suffering of innocent animals.
"While I welcome the Government’s work with police forces to increase uptake of the interim exemption scheme - which allows dogs to be temporarily released and returned to their owners pending court hearings - much more needs to be done to protect the welfare of these dogs.
"I know petitioners and campaigners alike who have called for reform of breed specific legislation will be as disappointed as I am by the Government’s latest ‘copy and paste’ response on this issue."
Catherine McKinnell MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee, said:
"It is hugely disappointing that the Government appears to be completely unwilling to review breed specific provisions in the Dangerous Dogs Act.
"Since 2020, petitions calling for a change in the law to protect these innocent animals have received more than 350,000 signatures, and yet the Government has refused time and again to review legislation on banned breeds, or even gather new evidence on the risks of banned breeds and effectiveness of breed specific legislation.
"It is particularly disappointing the Minister has refused to even meet the person who started the most recent petition on this subject. The Government must recognise the significant public concern about these laws, and reconsider its decision not to review this."
MPs on the Petitions Committee wrote to Jo Churchill MP in July, a Minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, expressing concern about the impact of breed-specific legislation – which bans the ownership of certain dog breeds – and the grave cost these provisions in the law had for some dogs.
The MPs put a number of questions to the department – including asking the Government if they’ll gather new evidence to help decide if reform is needed on the legislation, and how the Government will ensure welfare needs of all dogs held in kennels under the Dangerous Dogs Act are met.
The Committee also sought confirmation from the Government about what they were doing to protect dogs seized under the Dangerous Dogs Act who are subsequently found by a court to pose no danger to the public. The Committee asked if the Government would consider allowing the rehoming of such dogs by responsible organisations, and the removal of strict conditions that apply to all dogs of a banned breed that are allowed to return home.
Debate on breed specific legislation
This correspondence follows a debate in June on a petition calling for breed specific legislation to be repealed. The debate was opened by Christina Rees, and DEFRA Minister Jo Churchill MP responded for the Government.
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