SNP launches dangerous dogs consultation

Proposals to make dogs wear muzzles in public are among measures to be considered by a Scottish Government consultation. Picture: AP
Proposals to make dogs wear muzzles in public are among measures to be considered by a Scottish Government consultation. Picture: AP
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Universal microchipping, licensing and wearing muzzles in public areas are measures being considered to improve safety around dangerous dogs.

The suggestions are up for discussion in a new government consultation, launched after the First Minister met with a group of parents whose children were attacked by dogs.

The Scottish Government says it is in favour of microchipping which will allow authorities to quickly identify owners and hold them accountable for their dog’s behaviour, as well tracing owners when animal welfare standards are breached.

This system is used in Northern Ireland, France, Canada, Hong Kong and Denmark, the Government said.

Requiring owners to gain a licence and put a muzzle on their dogs in public are also being considered, but the Government says it is not in favour of enforcing muzzles to be worn.

First Minister Alex Salmond met the parents of Broagan McCuaig, 8, and Sophia Bell, 4, to hear about the effect being attacked by dogs had on the children and the rest of the family.

Veronica Lynch, who lost her 11-year-old daughter Kellie in an attack in 1989, was also at the meeting.

Mr Salmond said: “While there are many responsible dog owners in Scotland, today’s consultation seeks views on measures to improve dog ownership, animal welfare and safeguard our communities.

“Irresponsible dog ownership can affect our communities in different ways, from dog fouling contaminating local parks and children’s play areas through to dangerous and out-of-control dogs leading to people being attacked.

“I was grateful for the opportunity recently to hear directly from the parents of children who were attacked by dangerous dogs, and the ongoing effect this has had the families of Kellie Lynch, Sophia Bell and Broagan McCuaig.

“While we already have strict measures in place to deal with dangerous dogs, the Scottish Government is continually exploring ways to improve procedures to keep our children and communities safe.”

Government ministers will meet with councils, police, prosecutors and victims’ groups in the new year to discuss the matter.

Under the Control of Dogs Act introduced in 2011, local authorities have power to issue dog control notices to owners, which requires their dog to be microchipped and can impose other conditions such as the need to muzzle the dog in public.

In the first two years of the law, around 240 such notices were issued.

The consultation paper states: “The Scottish Government is favourable to the introduction of microchipping but will listen to the consultation submissions.

“The Scottish Government is interested in whether the reintroduction of a dog licensing system might further enhance responsible dog ownership and how such a licence could work in conjunction with a system of microchipping. Again we will listen to the submissions from the consultation.

“The Scottish Parliament has introduced muzzling as one of the conditions that can be imposed by local authorities as part of the issuing of a dog control notice under the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 for dogs that have been found to be out of control.

“The Scottish Government is not persuaded that a more general system is practical or justified. However, the case for and against can be put forward in this consultation.”

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “We want to hear what the public think about measures to encourage even more responsible dog ownership. For example, a new system of dog licensing to ultimately further improve public safety.

“We already have muzzling available for out-of-control dogs but this consultation will allow people to offer their views on whether a more general system of muzzling of all dogs is practical or justified.

“It is crucial that our consultation approach fits the needs of our communities and we are keen to listen to the public to get their views on what more can be done to further improve public safety.

“Every incident is one too many. We need to ensure Scotland’s system continues to focus on preventing these tragedies.”