A report by Holyrood’s public audit committee has said current laws are not fit for purpose and has urged an “urgent comprehensive review of all dog control legislation”.
During its evidence sessions, the committee was told that, in Greater Glasgow and Clyde alone, 1,417 people – including 255 children – had gone to A&E with dog-related injuries last year.
NHS Lanarkshire treated 912 people and NHS Ayrshire 439, both four-year highs.
More recently, this month a woman was attacked by a dog while walking her border terrier on a cycle path in Dumfries, suffering leg and hand injuries, while in August there were at least three fatal dog-on-dog attacks in Scotland.
Demands for tougher dog control laws, including making children’s play parks safer from out-of-control animals, will be made by MSPs, even though a review of legislation is already under way.
Chair of the committee Labour MSP Jenny Marra, said she welcomed the government’s reviews but added: “Barely a week goes by without reports of yet another tragic incident. The government needs to treat this issue with the high priority it deserves.”
She added: “We heard evidence from victims and witnesses of dog attacks and concluded that there’s still an unacceptable level of attacks.
“Our report called for the urgent reform of current dog control legislation so that out of control and dangerous dogs can be dealt with effectively.
“It is also vital that immediate action is taken to improve enforcement of the existing powers which might help prevent attacks.”
Improving the effectiveness of the law
The committee has called for the immediate establishment of a “Scottish dog control database” to improve the effectiveness of the law; GPs, hospitals, local authorities and Police Scotland to be required to record and collect consistent data on reported incidences; and councils to use their powers to create secure play areas for children in parks from which dogs are banned.
MSPs will debate the committee’s recommendations, with the Scottish Government likely to point to a new consultation it has opened on possible law changes including the power to seize dogs and hold them while applications to put them down are considered, a national database of dog control notices and the creation of a criminal offence for breaching them.
Ms Marra added: “It has become clear that current dog control law doesn’t work. It needs reform urgently so that out-of-control and dangerous dogs can be dealt with properly and we can try to move to a system that prevents our children being injured by dogs.”
Ash Denham, Scotland’s community safety minister has previously pledged to protect people from dogs not kept under control by their owners and said the government is “absolutely determined to help keep communities safe from irresponsible owners and their out-of-control dogs”.
Ms Denham said the current consultation would seek views on improvements on how the Control of Dogs Act 2010 can operate, and a second review will begin next year to take a wider look at all dog control legislation to assess whether changes are needed.
She said: “Owning a dog brings with it certain responsibilities, including keeping your dog under effective control, and I encourage everyone with an interest in this area to respond to our consultation.”
The consultation runs until January 15.