I am pleased to say that we are close to finalising a package of measures to tackle irresponsible dog owners. We are considering the benefits of compulsory microchipping of dogs, along with requiring the details of non-prohibited dogs to be held on a central database. We will announce these measures very shortly.
Residents in Walthamstow live in fear of the growing numbers of people in gangs who keep and train dogs to use as weapons and to fight in our local parks. My constituents have now been waiting more than two years for progress on this issue. Will Ministers promise them not just another consultation on tackling dangerous dogs, but real powers, including dog control notices and a responsible dog ownership education programme?
Is it not amazing how we started a new world two years ago, without any reference to the inaction of the previous 13 years? I fully understand the anger of people who have to face gangs of youths using dogs as weapons, which is already unlawful. The Home Office will bring forward its own proposals, separately from our announcement, as a result of the consultation that it has carried out on measures to deal with precisely the issues to which the hon. Lady refers.
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home does very good work in educating young people, especially those in danger of being drawn into gangs and irresponsible dog ownership. Does the Minister agree that education is one of the ways forward in tackling this problem?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I understand that Battersea Dogs and Cats Home is undertaking initiatives, particularly with young children on the Doddington estate, where there is a high percentage of what we call status dog ownership among the children’s parents. She is absolutely right to say that education is the answer to many of our problems, but sometimes we also have to take other measures, and we will do so.
All of us abhor the use of wild dogs for criminal purposes, but does the Minister not agree that the law of unintended consequences may apply here, in that perfectly reasonable, sensible, law-abiding dog owners could be scooped up in complex, bureaucratic arrangements while criminals continue to use their dogs for illegal purposes?
I fully understand my hon. Friend’s concern, but I must point out to him that a very large proportion of dogs have already been microchipped on a voluntary basis by responsible owners. We are now trying to draw in that sector of the dog-owning community that has not done that. We are certainly not planning to create a bureaucratic scheme, but he will have to wait for the full announcement.