Thursday, 9 August 2012

'Control of Dogs' Bill - Wales:

The Welsh government has announced it intends to introduce a new ‘control of dogs’ bill in Spring 2013. If passed through the Welsh Assembly the bill would become new legislation which will be applied to Wales (not England, Scotland or NI).
The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones stated that the new bill to ‘tackle dangerous dogs’ will be among the Government’s legislative priorities and said:

“Last year I set out the Welsh Government’s five year legislative programme of over 20 bills to help improve public services and create opportunities for everyone.
“When I announced our legislative programme I said we would consult and engage with the public and stakeholders through Green and White Papers and strike the right balance between what is on the face of an Assembly Bill and what detail is left to subordinate legislation. We have done exactly that."

It isn’t yet possible to read the details contained within the Bill, the pre-ballot information below gives some detail. The main points of change, if passed would be:
  • The compulsory micro-chipping of dog by a specified date*
  • The extension of section 3 of the DDA** to cover all places
  • The introduction of Dog Control Notices which are issued by local authorities and the courts
 * Could be introduced under section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, enforcement would be the responsibility of local authorities.
** Dangerous Dogs Act - section three - applies to all types and breeds of dogs.

The announcement has been made whilst the public consultation, asking for views and opinions on the compulsory microchipping of dogs, is still in progress (ending on 8th August).

Bill-041 - Julie Morgan - Control of Dogs (Wales) Bill
Pre-ballot Information - Policy Objectives of the Bill:

1. Owning a dog brings many responsibilities for the dog owner and the Bill will highlight these and seek to promote the welfare of dogs through responsible care and control by owners.

2. The law currently requires every dog to wear a collar and identification disc specifying the name and address of the owner. However, in practice this legal requirement neither deters theft of a dog nor provides a fail safe way of identifying and tracing the owner of a dog. The fitting of an electronic transponder to a pet (commonly called “micro-chipping”) is now recognised by animal welfare agencies as the most effective and secure way of permanently identifying a pet. A unique identification number is registered to the animal and the owner's details are placed on a national database.

3. The Bill will provide for the compulsory micro-chipping of dogs in Wales by a specified date, the setting up and management of such local and national databases as are necessary, and the compulsory registration of information including the unique identification number and name and address of the owner with sanctions, including penal, where an owner or other relevant person in charge of a dog fails to do so.

4. The Bill will focus on the "deed not the breed" approach in tackling irresponsible dog ownership and will seek to identify dogs which are deemed “out of control” at an early stage with a view to taking measures which are likely to change the behaviour of these dogs and their owners before the dogs become dangerous.

5. The Bill will widen the scope for local authorities and courts to intervene where a dog's behaviour is deemed to be out of control. The Bill will define categories of persons in charge of a dog and their responsibilities and set out the circumstances when a dog is deemed to be out of control. It will set up a scheme for bringing dogs deemed to be out of control back within control, harnessing the expertise and skills of existing local authority officers, relevant persons in the employment of animal welfare agencies and others. The Bill will make provision for Welsh Ministers to issue guidance where appropriate.
6. The scheme will, inter alia, empower a local authority to serve a notice in writing on a person in charge of a dog when it is satisfied that the dog is deemed to be out of control. The purpose of the notice is to ensure the person having charge of the dog brings and keeps the dog under control. The Bill will provide that a notice can require a person in charge of a dog to take one or more stipulated steps including:

a) If the dog is not already micro-chipped, comply by a specified date;
b) ensure the premises where the dog is kept are suitable, appropriate for its welfare and safety and secure;
c) keep the dog on a lead and muzzle it at specified times and/or in specified places;
d) keep the dog out of specified places or areas;
e) neuter the dog if male; and
f) together with the dog, undergo and successfully complete an accredited training course in the control of dogs.

7. This list in paragraph 6 is illustrative and not exhaustive; Welsh Ministers will be empowered to add by Order other steps which may be included in the notice; other steps which the local authority in the exercise of its discretion considers necessary may also be included in the notice.

8. The Bill will provide for other information to be set out in the notice, empower Welsh Ministers to prescribe its format and afford a right of appeal to the courts against the service of the notice or its content together with a right to apply to vary or discharge the notice after a period of time in force and a right of appeal against refusal.

9. The Bill will place a duty on local authorities to keep a record of notices served and monitor and enforce compliance. It will also empower a local authority to apply to the court for an order destroying a dog where a dog is out of control and dangerous or unresponsive and it is inappropriate to serve a notice

10. The Bill will confer on the courts:
a) power to enforce and effect compliance with a notice;
b) where the court thinks fit, power to direct a local authority to serve a notice, the court to specify the steps to be included in such a notice;
c) power to make a destruction order in the circumstances described in paragraph a) above; and
d) such other powers as are necessary.

11. The Bill will also amend the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 so that a dog owner can be held criminally responsible where a dog is found to be dangerously out of control in any place (rather than, as is the present case, only a public place or private place where a dog is not permitted to be). This will meet the case of postal and other workers vulnerable to attack when the individual’s work expressly requires him/her to enter on to premises where a dog is permitted to be.

12. The Bill will provide for any consequential amendments or repeals of existing legislation applicable in Wales within the Assembly’s legislative competence.

A public consultation seeking views on the compulsory microchipping of dogs was held by the Welsh Assembly and ended on the 8th August 2012.