Dog Asbos get go-ahead to tackle 'deed not breed'

IRRESPONSIBLE pet owners will be targeted by new "dog Asbos" after they were backed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament.

• Ruff justice: Dogs may find themselves with their own version of Asbos. Picture: TSPL

The new law replaces the Dangerous Dogs Act and switches the focus on to the owner and animal rather than just particular breeds.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It closes a loophole where if a child was attacked by a dog in its home, the owner could not be held legally responsible unless the animal was classified as a dangerous breed.

About 600 people are attacked by dogs every year in Scotland. In 2007 to 2008, a total of 363 of them required hospital treatment.

Christine Grahame, who presented the bill to a vote of all MSPs in the Scottish Parliament, said: "The horror reports of children and infants savaged to death have more often than not occurred in a private dwelling where the dog was permitted to be – a relative's house for example."

She added: "This is a worthwhile bill. It gives local authorities and the police the legislative tools to deal with the growing problem of out-of-control dogs and attacks by dangerous dogs in private places."

Local authorities will issue dog control orders to owners of pets that are out of control.

It is hoped they will also benefit dogs by making irresponsible owners attend classes, where they will be taught how to take better care of their pets.

However, it is hoped dog Asbos will only need to be used as a last resort and in many cases their threat will be enough.

Kenny MacAskill, justice secretary, said: "Our view is that the new dog control regime is designed to be a preventative regime. We don't expect thousands of dog control notices to be issued every week."

The bill has been backed by the veterinary industry.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Professor Bill Reilly, president of the British Veterinary Association, said: "This a fantastic step forward in our campaign against breed-specific legislation and we are grateful to Christine Grahame and Patricia Ferguson for enshrining the important principle of 'deed not breed'.

"The key message is that any dog can show aggression, particularly if it is not handled and trained properly, so legislation that targets irresponsible ownership before it becomes a problem is very welcome."

Andrew Ash, president-elect of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association, said: "The BSAVA is delighted that the Scottish Parliament has signed up to the principle of deed not breed. The problems caused by dangerous dogs will never be solved until owners appreciate that they are responsible for the actions of their animals."