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Dangerous Dogs

Volume 517: debated on Thursday 4 November 2010

7. When she plans to respond to the recent consultation conducted by her Department on dangerous dogs; and if she will make a statement. (21648)

The consultation closed on 1 June and received 4,250 responses. The Government will be publishing a summary of those responses and will make an announcement on the way forward very shortly.

In 2008, almost 6,000 people needed hospital treatment for injuries sustained by dangerous dogs. The Communication Workers Union reports that every year between 5,000 and 6,000 of its members suffer injuries by dogs. Every month, three guide dogs are attacked. In the past three years, five children have been killed by dangerous dogs, including John Paul Massey in my constituency. Will the Minister seriously consider the draft legislation proposed by the Association of Chief Police Officers, the RSPCA and the National Dog Warden Association in order adequately to deal with this problem?

I do not think anybody in this House can be unaware of the increasing problems of dangerous dogs to which the hon. Lady refers, and the tragedy of John Paul Massey and other children who have been killed by dogs in recent years. Clearly, we do have to act. I can assure her that my noble Friend Lord Henley, who leads on these matters, will be taking account of the proposals to which she refers. We should understand that we need to find a way forward that addresses the real problem of people who are already, in many cases, disobeying the law by holding dogs which are classified as dangerous dogs. It is those people we need to attack rather than the much larger number whose dogs are perfectly harmless.

We do not let a criminal or unsuitable person have lawful possession of a firearm or a weapon. Given the known temperament of certain breeds of dog, could we not insist on a fit and proper person test as a precondition of owning a dangerous dog? After all, criminals seem to have a proclivity for precisely these breeds.

As I have said, that proposition and many others are being considered by my noble Friend, and he will make his announcement shortly. My hon. Friend needs to recognise that to take that approach would require an immense amount of regulation and control about who was able to purchase dogs, which would then feed back through the whole supply chain of puppies and become quite a mammoth undertaking. Nevertheless, it is worth considering, as with all other propositions.