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Dog Ownership

Volume 563: debated on Thursday 16 May 2013

Good morning, Mr Speaker.

The Government are introducing a range of measures to tackle irresponsible dog ownership, including: extending the criminal offence of allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control to all places, including inside the dog owner’s home; requiring all dogs to be microchipped from April 2016; and powers to enable local authorities and the police to respond to incidences of antisocial behaviour that involves a dog before the situation becomes dangerous.

I thank the Minister for that answer. In my constituency, Medway council has been running a local community initiative offering free microchipping and advice on looking after dogs. What are the Government doing to encourage such community initiatives that help to foster responsible dog ownership?

That is exactly what we want to see happening, and I applaud my hon. Friend’s local council for promoting responsible dog ownership. We provided £50,000 of funding to three welfare charities to carry out community engagement programmes in targeted hot spot areas with known problems of antisocial behaviour with dogs. Final reports are being received and we intend to publish the results for further dissemination of best practice. Educating the public on how to look after their dogs properly is absolutely essential to tackling irresponsible dog ownership.

What assessment has the Minister made of the cost of microchipping to the consumer? What discussions has he had with the devolved Administrations to ensure that we have a UK-wide approach?

I am not quite sure who the consumer is in this instance. Presumably, the right hon. Gentleman means the dog owner. Most of the microchipping will be done by charities and will be free to owners. A number of charities are happy to work with us on that, so I do not think that we are talking about prohibitive cost. We are working with the devolved Administrations so that, as far as possible, we have consistency across national boundaries.

One of the charities the Minister has been working with is Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, which is focusing particularly on encouraging more responsible attitudes in younger people. May I commend to the Minister the video “Bully Breed”, which it launched in Parliament recently and which could be a good educational tool for schools and youth groups?

Indeed. Battersea Dogs and Cats Home does a lot of very good work to promote responsible dog ownership, not least because it sees the consequences when things go wrong, and I certainly commend its work. I hope we will be able to make people appreciate that, whether through ignorance, neglect or malice, it is simply unacceptable to have a dog that is a danger to other people under any circumstances.

While we welcome compulsory microchipping and the extension to include private property in pursuing prosecutions of irresponsible dog owners, why did the Government not also include dog control notices as part of the measures, something that the Dogs Trust has been calling for and which would go a long way to helping to solve this problem?

Of course, the Home Office is introducing the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which will deal with precisely this problem. I cannot see the obsession with the label that is placed on those orders—it is the outcome that matters. What matters is the fact that flexible tools will be available to the police and others to deal with this nuisance in the way the hon. Gentleman wants. The measures will be in the Bill, and he will have the opportunity shortly to discuss whether they go far enough and whether there are any opportunities for improvement.