An online poll conducted by the National Animal Welfare Trust has revealed that the majority of respondents (84%) don't think the changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act are an effective piece of legislation, a year after they were introduced.
And despite the heavy promotion of the changes when they were introduced on 13th May 2014, one third of respondents are not even aware of what changes were made.
The Dangerous Dogs Act applies to every single dog owner in England and Wales. Under Section 3, it is a criminal offence for the person in charge of the dog to allow it to be ‘dangerously out of control’ in a public place.
A dog doesn't have to bite to be deemed dangerous in the eyes of the law
Generally if a dog bites a person, it will be presumed to have been ‘dangerously out of control’, however even if the dog does not bite, but gives the person grounds to feel that the dog may injure them, the law still applies.
The biggest difference when the new changes came into effect last year was the law now covering incidents that occur on private property in addition to public spaces.
As a consequence of the law changes, a third have altered how they manage their dogs in public, with the majority of owners stating they put their dogs on a lead more often while out walking.
Slightly fewer respondents (23%) say they manage their dog differently in the home particularly around meeting strangers who come to the door.
National Animal Welfare Trust CEO Clare Williams said: “While this poll is a very small snapshot on what dog owners are doing as a result of the changes, it’s quite noticeable how very confusing the legislation remains to dog owners. Some don’t even know about the changes whilst others seem to be curtailing their and their dogs’ freedoms when it comes to walking in a public place.
“With a new administration now in post isn’t it time for the Government to overhaul the laws and do more to tackle the real root of the problem. It remains too easy to get a dog in a market fuelled by overbreeding and puppy farming?”
Respondents were asked what laws could be tightened around dog ownership, with puppy farming and breeding controls topping the bill followed by advertising dogs on the internet. Training and keeping dogs on the lead were also latter priorities.
For further information please contact Wendy Richmond in the NAWT press office on 07866 263242.
Note to editors
1. An online poll was organised and conducted between April 20 and May 8 2015 by the National Animal Welfare Trust and promoted on Facebook to the dog owning community. The survey generated 99 responses.
2. NAWT wrote some useful advice on the changes last year which can be found here
3. National Animal Welfare Trust is a rescue and rehoming charity that operates across five centres in the South of England