The compulsory microchipping of dogs to crack down on irresponsible owners moved a step closer yesterday following a major summit of police officers, animal charities and government ministers.
The news came as authorities in Scotland came under fire from animal charity chiefs for failing to crack down on dangerous dog attacks.
The Scottish SPCA warned funding cuts have led to councils failing to “rigorously enforce” existing dog controls – but council leaders say prosecutors are not taking cases to court.
A summit on responsible ownership, which considered ways to better protect the public from dangerous dogs, was staged by justice secretary Kenny MacAskill yesterday.
The event brought together organisations including Police Scotland, the Dogs Trust, Guide Dogs Scotland, the Kennel Club, local authorities and the Scottish SPCA. It followed a meeting between First Minister Alex Salmond and the families of victims who were attacked by dogs in Scotland last year.
Latest figures show the number of dog attacks in Scotland which left victims requiring hospital treatment have doubled in the past 15 years, with 554 Scots being admitted to hospital after being bitten in 2011-12.
The Scottish Government is consulting on the prospect of compulsory microchipping.
Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn, from the Scottish SPCA, said Scotland has some of the “best dog control legislation in the UK”. But he warned: “There is not rigorous enforcement of
existing legislation, as many local authorities do not appear to have the funding or manpower to do so.”
Mr MacAskill said he wants councils and courts to take a lead on the issue.
He added: “We have long-standing laws in place to help protect members of the public from dangerous dogs, including tough new powers for local authorities to impose dog control orders on out-of-control dogs.
“We want to ensure local authorities make use of those powers to help prevent attacks.”
A spokesman for local council body Cosla said prosecutors in Scotland were failing to bring irresponsible owners to court.
He said: “The real issue here is Crown Office and Prosecution Service (COPFS) not taking prosecutions forward – nothing to do with council cutbacks. Councils take this issue very seriously – Cosla had officers at the event and the COPFS seems to be the real block in the system.”
Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead, who also attended the summit, said: “We recognise that microchipping is an effective method of identifying animals and matching them to their owner.”
A Crown Office spokesperson said: “Prosecutors understand the risk to the public when a dog owner fails to control their dog properly and the consequences of such attacks.
“Prosecutors will take action against those dog owners who endanger the public in this way where there is sufficient evidence to do so.”