Recently there have been calls for a post-legislative review of the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 due to very worrying statistics revealed by a Clyde News investigation. Their research showed that between January and June 2017, 205 children were taken to A&E due to dog bites, that the number of people receiving treatment for such bites in Scotland has risen from 1,939 to 2,027 in 2016 and that in the first six months of 2017, 1,057 children and adults in the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area went to hospital after dog attacks.
Further information has also been collated by the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Communication Workers Union and most importantly the victims of dog attacks and the families of people who have been subjected to dog bites.
Alex Neil of the Scottish National Party who brought the motion to review the legislation said the debate had to be re-opened for three fundamental reasons.
“First, the problem of dog bites and dog attacks is not only still with us, but is actually getting worse. Only seven of the 14 national health service territorial boards have been able to provide us with figures, but even those seven health boards, which cover half of Scotland, report figures that show the rate of attacks to be well over 4,000 a year.”
The second reason is that the implementation of the 2010 Act varies greatly from local authority to local authority. For example in Dundee nine in 10 dangerous dog reports go unpunished. As Alex Neil points out it should not matter whether a person is attacked by a dog in Dundee, Glasgow or anywhere else. If someone has been attacked by a dog then the appropriate action should be taken by the local authority.
And there is the third issue which Alex Neil raises which is that “many of the current measures are, to be frank, not powerful enough. The reason why we needed the 2010 act was that the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, which was passed at Westminster, concentrated on the breed of the dog and not on the deed. One of the objectives of the 2010 Act was to ensure that irrespective of the breed, if the deed was antisocial and threatened people- not only children, but people delivering mail and working in parks or elsewhere- appropriate action would be taken.”
Much of the drive for a review has come from the Communication Workers Union which among its 200,000 members counts 8500 Royal Mail and Parcel Force employees in Scotland. Most posties could tell you of a recent near miss with a dog or about mail that has gone undelivered because of concerns about a dangerous animal. The union revealed that 2,500 postal workers have been attacked since the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010 was implemented.
It is not just about attacks on humans as there is a wider problem of attacks on farm animals and attacks by dogs on dogs. There are a growing number of incidents of sheep worrying. The rural statistics make for shocking reading. Last year across Scotland there were 175 reported cases of sheep worrying, but there were only 19 convictions. Farmers can lose thousands of pounds’ worth of livestock because a dog has been allowed to run riot in a field of ewes and lambs.
As well as a post legislative review of the 2010 Act other solutions have been put forward including bringing back the dog licensing scheme which would allow irresponsible dog owners to be deprived of the right to own the pets that they abuse, licensing of professional dog walkers which would enable licenses to be removed from those who do not maintain reasonable standards and compulsory pet insurance which would allow victims of attacks to claim compensation.