Health & Safety

article icon

CWU Demands Urgent Dog Law Reform

25 November 2011

A new petition on the Prime Minister's official Number 10 Downing Street web site has been launched by to put pressure on the Government to deliver on its assurances and overhaul dog laws and bring forward new legislation in the Queen's Speech.

agressive dog

Following a series of dreadful attacks by dogs on Communication Workers Union members in recent times, including two of the worst ever attacks recorded (Sheffield and Cambridge) the CWU launched its Bite-Back campaign in 2008.

Twenty organisations - including the Communication Workers Union, RSPCA, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Dogs Trust, The Blue Cross, the British Veterinary Association and the Police Federation - have launched the petition on the Prime Minister's official web site, which could force a House of Commons debate if more than 100,000 people sign up. The Health, Safety & Environment Department are urging all CWU Members to sign the electronic petition.

The Petition reads:

We call on the coalition government to bring forward a government Bill in the Queen’s Speech in 2012 that: consolidates and updates legislation concerning dog control; gives greater flexibility and discretion to enforcers and the courts; improves public safety and animal welfare; includes a genuine preventative effect; updates some offences; and reduces the costs of enforcement. In particular we believe: the scope of legislation must be extended to cover all places, both public and private; all dogs should be permanently identified; legislation must focus on the owner’s actions or omissions rather than the type of dog; amendments must be made to ensure better canine welfare with a clear strategy to regularly review and ultimately phase out breed specific legislation; sufficient funding streams are essential for effective enforcement at a local level; and education and engagement should go hand in hand with any changes in the law to encourage more responsible dog ownership.

Dog Control Legislation Needs updating

Despite the Defra Public Consultation in 2010 on dangerous dogs, and assurances from Prime Minister David Cameron given to the CWU to make changes, the Government has failed to address what the CWU and other organisations all agree is inadequate legislation that does not protect the public, postal worker safety and animal welfare.

The new petition demands that the Government brings forward a Bill in the Queen's Speech next year that consolidates and updates dog control legislation. It is hoped a new Bill would have a greater preventative effect by focusing on owner responsibility, give greater flexibility and discretion to enforcers and more effective court penalties for offenders a well as enhanced dog welfare.

The organisations behind the petition led by the CWU and RSPCA believe the current level of dog attacks, enforcement costs and NHS victim treatment costs to the public purse are unsustainable and new approaches are needed that prevent incidents. This would reduce injuries and save money in the short and long-term.

Royal Mail have thrown their weight and public support behind the campaign petition which will be a very welcomed development for the Royal Mail delivery workforce who been suffering 5000 - 6000 dog attacks a year and the majority of irresponsible dog owners not prosecuted.

Key Areas

Organisations behind the petition agrees the six key areas that need to be addressed are:

  • Consolidation of Legislation: Any Bill must consolidate legislation concerning dog control; give greater flexibility and discretion to enforcers and the courts; include a genuine preventative effect; update offences; improve public and worker safety and improve animal welfare; plus reduce the costs of enforcement.
  • Breed specific legislation: This is not effective in tackling the real cause of the problem, which relates to the owner's actions or omissions rather than the type of dog concerned. The organisations believe if political will is not there to repeal breed specific legislation, then amendments must be made to ensure better canine welfare and a clear strategy put in place to regularly review, and with the intention of, ultimately phasing out breed specific legislation.
  • Private Property: The scope of updated legislation must be extended to cover all places, including private property, to ensure better postal worker safety, other worker and public safety. Obviously trespassers with criminal intent will not be protected if attacked by a dog defending the property or householder and residents.
  • Permanent Identification: To assist with encouraging more responsible dog ownership, all dogs should be permanently identified, such as with a microchip, so that animals can be matched to their owners and traceability can be improved.
  • Better Funding: To support the changes, there needs to be sufficient funding streams for Dog Wardens and Police Dog Legislation Officer (DLO) roles so that the law can be adequately enforced and public and worker safety and animal welfare improvements can be practiced. This will save money for the public purse in the short and long term, for example through savings to the NHS for treating dog-related injuries and costs of kennelling seized dogs.
  • Education and engagement: This should go hand-in-hand with any changes to the law and many animal welfare organisations can provide resources for this. However, the Government should play a lead role in coordinating such work, especially within hard to reach areas, and ensuring it is properly evaluated for its effectiveness.