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Dogs controls 'woefully inadequate'
The Government has come under strong criticism over "inaction" about dog attacks and poor animal welfare, despite growing public concern over the issues.
A cross-party committee of MPs said current laws had "comprehensively failed" to tackle irresponsible dog ownership.
Proposals published last week to introduce compulsory dog microchipping in England and extend the law so that owners can be prosecuted if their dog attacks an individual on private property, were "belated" and "woefully inadequate", it was claimed.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said ministers' "inability" to provide detailed answers on a range of dog control and welfare questions had done little to reassure MPs about the Government's priority on the problem of dangerous dogs. The committee called for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Department (Defra) to urgently bring forward a Bill to consolidate the "fragmented" legislation relating to dog control and welfare.
Conservative MP Anne McIntosh, the committee's chairwoman, said: "Current laws have comprehensively failed to tackle irresponsible dog ownership. Defra's belated proposals published last week are too limited. Since 2007 dogs have killed seven people, including five children, in private homes. The NHS also spends over £3 million annually treating dog attack injuries. Some eight assistance dogs a month, and thousands of livestock annually, are attacked by dogs.
"More than 100,000 strays are found each year. Incidences of cruelty and neglect are rising and many dogs are out of control due to the irresponsible or deliberate actions of a minority of owners.
"The evidence we received from Defra and the Home Office did little to reassure us that either Department is giving sufficient priority to dog control and welfare issues. The Home Office approach to tackling antisocial behaviour is too simplistic and fails to reflect the impact that poor breeding and training by irresponsible owners can have on a dog's behaviour.
"New rules should give enforcement officers more effective powers, including Dog Control Notices, to prevent dog-related antisocial behaviour. Local authorities need to devote more resources to the effective management of stray dogs."
A Defra spokesperson said: "Last week, we announced that all dogs will need to be microchipped by 6 April 2016 to relieve the burden on animals charities and local authorities who deal with over 100,000 stray dogs every year by making it easier to reunite dogs with their owners.
"Giving the police extra powers to investigate dog attacks on private property means we can protect those who have to go into people's homes to do their job. Irresponsible dog owners can also be held to account for attacks, regardless of where they take place. The Animal Welfare Act already regulates against poor breeding practices. Anyone found to have caused unnecessary pain or suffering to a dog faces prosecution."