Dog welfare and Breed Specification Legislation (BSL) – 27 October 2021

Many organisations and animal welfare right groups have disputed the efficacy of BSL as a means to reduce dog attacks. The animal welfare charity Blue Cross reports that the law unfairly punishes well-behaved dogs and focuses too much on what a dog looks like. Additionally, the law has not been successful in increasing public safety.

A study published in 2021 found that adult hospital admission rates for dog bites tripled in England between 1998-2018, and the incidence of dog bites in children had remained consistently high. This begs the question as to why such laws have not been reformed to ensure they tackle the very problem that Parliament intended to remedy. BSL creates a false sense of security for the public as it often fails to recognise any breed can be dangerous under the wrong hands.

In 2018 the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee ran an inquiry into the Government’s approach to dealing with dangerous dogs, and recommended the department should “commission a comprehensive independent evidence review into the factors behind canine aggression, the determinants of risk, and whether the banned breeds pose an inherently greater threat.” Research and statistics also highlight a need to educate dog owners and the public on how to deal with dogs rather than a blanket ban on dogs based on their appearance.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) released a policy statement in April 2021 and said, “It is important to recognise that multiple factors can contribute to the development of canine aggression and dog biting incidents, including a dog’s socialisation, rearing and training, environmental circumstances and human-associated risk factors.”

You may be interested in the House of Commons debate pack on Breed Specification Legislation published this year following an e-petition: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-07-05/debates/814EF953-52F7-4499-953C-447928FF71DB/BreedSpecificLegislation

The debate was held on 5 July 2020 and the notes can be found here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2021-07-05/debates/814EF953-52F7-4499-953C-447928FF71DB/BreedSpecificLegislation

I would like to see the Government take on board the recommendations given by several animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA, Blue Cross, Pet Professional Guild and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home to review the current law.