All dogs may have to be microchipped
HAMISH MACDONELL SCOTTISH POLITICAL EDITOR ([email protected])
MINISTERS are considering the compulsory microchipping of all dogs as part of a range of measures to crack down on dangerous breeds, The Scotsman has learned.
Plans have been drawn up by the SNP MSP Alex Neil to update and reform the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, which banned a number of breeds, including pit bull terriers.
Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, said he was willing to back Mr Neil's plans, either by giving support to a private member's bill or by introducing legislation, if that proved to a better way of dealing with the problem.
Mr Neil's proposals include:
Changing the emphasis from the current ban on certain breeds to penalising owners of any dog not kept under control.
Introducing the mandatory microchipping of all dogs, so owners can be traced, and penalising owners who have dogs without chips.
Making it an offence to have a dangerous dog in any place, including in the home, an area not covered fully by the current legislation.
He has the support of leading animal welfare organisations, including the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Advocates for Animals and the Kennel Club. All of these bodies believe the current legislation on dangerous dogs is not working.
Mike Flynn, chief superintendent of the Scottish SPCA, said: "The current legislation is badly worded; it's not understood by the law enforcers and not implemented properly by the courts."
Mr Neil and the animal welfare campaigners want to change the emphasis, moving away from "breed to deed" - penalising the owners of any dangerous dog rather than banning and destroying pit bull terriers and other specified breeds.
Mr Flynn said what was needed was a range of hefty fines for dog owners and the introduction of banning orders, preventing unsuitable owners from owning dogs again.
Compulsory microchipping would help because it would allow the authorities to keep track of all dogs, preventing some owners from denying any knowledge of their dangerous pets.
Mr Neil said he was delighted to have the Executive's backing, adding that he was keen to work with MPs in the Commons who are also looking at this issue, to establish if there is a way of co-ordinating legislation in both parliaments.
He said the recent tragedy in St Helens, when five-year-old Ellie Lawrenson was killed by her uncle's dog, showed the current laws were not working.
"The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act was rushed through in an hysterical atmosphere and it was badly drafted and there are several areas where we can improve it," he said.
WHAT THE ACT OUTLAWED
THE Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was introduced in response to a series of attacks by aggressive and uncontrolled dogs, particularly on children. MPs reacted to public concern, but there is now a general consensus among animal welfare groups that the legislation was badly drafted.
The act banned four breeds of dog: pit bull terriers , the tosa, the dogo Argentino and the fila Brasileiro. It was made illegal to own these dogs - unless courts made a special exemption - or breed, sell and exchange them.
[url=http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=1008052007]Link - Scotsman.com[/url]