Wandsworth Council Welcomes A Shake Up Of Dog Laws

As Government reported to be seriously considering a series of proposals to combat irresponsible dog ownership

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People with concerns about the way a dog is being treated can report these in confidence to the council's 24 hour helpline on (020) 8871 7532.

For information on the work of the council’s dog control unit visit www.wandsworth.gov.uk/dogs

Wandsworth Council




The council has welcomed reports that the first suggested by the council two and a half years ago.  In November 2007, the council called on ministers to introduce new rules to tackle the growing problem of irresponsible dog ownership by certain groups of young men.

The council's ideas included beefing up the dog licence regime, introducing competency tests for owners and also compulsory micro-chipping of dogs so that their owners could be identified.

Today, (Monday 1st March) a number of media outlets claimed that the Government was now actively considering these proposals. They were outlined in a leaked document prepared by officials at the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra). 

It included the council's 2007 suggestion of a "competency test" making dog owners prove they had the skills to handle their animals – "akin to the driving theory test". 

The document also includes another council idea – the idea of introducing a charge for a dog licence. This could be set at a level that would not put off genuine dog lovers but would deter anyone who sees their dog as just a temporary "fashion accessory".

The money generated by the new licence fee would be ploughed back into running the scheme and ensuring it was properly enforced.

Cllr Lister said:
"It's time for a new approach to dog ownership in this country. Just about anyone of any age can own a dog. That's got to change. With more and more unsuitable people acquiring animals that can generally be classified as menacing, the case for restoring the dog licence is overwhelming.

"This would be a very different type of licence to the one we used to know. That was just a piece of paper that no-one bothered with. Crucially it would also look at who was owning and controlling the dog. In our experience in Wandsworth most of the problems are with animals owned by young people aged 13-17. There could be a minimum age for ownership plus a fit and proper person test that would weed out many other unsuitable owners.

"The challenge today is to come up with a smart, self-funding licensing system that focuses resources on those dogs – and owners – who cause the most trouble. Setting the licence fee at a sizeable enough level would be essential. It could provide the income to properly support the dog control teams that would be needed around the country.  When you think of all the resources that go into TV licence evasion, just imagine what could be achieved if a similar thoroughness was applied to people wanting to own one of the more menacing breeds of dog."

The council has already introduced one of the other suggestions in the Defra document – by making it compulsory for all dog owners living on its housing estates to have their pet micro-chipped.

Wandsworth was the first local authority in the country to introduce this rule in January 2009 – and since then has micro-chipped around 1,300 dogs on local estates and registered the ownership details of a further 700 that were already chipped.

Figures recently published by City Hall show that the number of Pit Bull-type dogs seized by the Met police rose by 65 per cent last year, while court cases involving dangerous dog offences rose by 50 per cent between 2006 and 2007. In the last five years, London's hospitals have seen admissions for dog bites increase by 79 per cent.


March 1, 2010