Statistics reveal that there have been 18 deaths from dog attacks in the UK since 2005 and that number will rise. I don’t think there ever seems to be a month that goes by without some sort of hysteria fuelled by the media. Hysteria that causes both dog owners and non-dog owners to demand knee-jerk reactions, more regulations, restrictions and biased views on various breeds and dogs in general.
The media thrives on controversy and lets be honest, without it they wouldn’t sell papers. What often follows the stories is assumptions about causes and a public demand to ensure that these cases never happen again. Then the MPs hear those concerns and quite rightly, decide to act. Frankly, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a single solution to these problems? Sadly the reality is that as a result they are mostly just making legislations that are not fit for purpose and patchwork messes. Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, I’m looking at you!
Let’s take the recent proposals to increase sentencing for offences under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 from 2 years maximum to 14 years. Although most would welcome tougher sentencing, according to ITV News out of the 1,192 adults were convicted of dangerous dog offences in 2010 – less than 20 faced jail.
Lord Taylor, the Defra minister responsible for animal welfare, said:
”We’ve seen tragic instances of attacks by dangerous dogs, and irresponsible dog ownership has a serious impact on many of our communities. The new guidelines … show the seriousness with which this problem is being taken.“
Would these legislations prevented these tragedies from occurring? I’d like to say yes but I highly doubt it, and I’m not alone, the RSPCA has recognised that these measures are by no means a preventative. (Article by the Telegraph here. 06 Aug 2013)
Let’s go back past the 70s in the UK. There was little or no education for responsible ownership, no Dangerous Dogs Act, no such thing as animal rights as the government had absolutely no concern for it – yet there wasn’t, as the media claims, an ‘animal welfare crisis‘ (The Guardian via RSPCA, Tuesday 24 April 2012) and a high number of cases of dog attacks being reported.
So what’s gone wrong here? Why are things becoming worse?
Your guess is as good as mine. Social and economic environments have changed dramatically since then, population has rapidly grown in the UK and the public attitude is much different.
Instead of pushing in knee-jerk answers, instead we must first ask the right questions.
When reading these stories, or any story featured on the news, take it with a pinch of salt and look at it objectively. Realise that any changes will only affect all of the responsible owners, demonise various breeds and do very little to those who will disobey them unless enforced properly. Instead of pushing in knee-jerk answers, instead we must first ask the right questions. The United Kingdom is a nation of responsible dog lovers and we must keep it that way.
What do you think should be done? I’d like to hear lots of different opinions!