Last August I wrote a guest column for Wag the Dog UK following the violent killing of my companion dog Brody the previous May. The 23rd of May to be exact. I am normally not good at remembering important dates but this is one is seared into my brain as indelibly as Christmas.
I soon came to realize that this was by no means a freak accident. It was happening with alarming regularity across the whole of the UK. If you read the legislation on Dangerous Dogs you could easily believe that there are severe penalties for having a dog dangerously out of control. From my personal experience, I can tell you that this is not the case.
The perceived wisdom is that all dogs bite and, yes, they do. However some dogs because of their build, the jaw size and strong prey drive can inflict the most damage.
In our case, Brody was running in our local park and an Akita appeared from a wooded area and ran towards him. Grabbed him and shook him in the air like a rag doll. It had been on a leash but, being such a muscular dog, easily slipped it.
This dog was taken by the Police to the Met’s Status Dog unit and was deemed not to be dangerous. I can tell you that everyone in the park with young children that day didn’t take that view. They scooped up their children and ran for their lives.
Our case eventually came before a Magistrate as a Civil Case under a different piece of legislation. The Magistrate placed a Dog Control Order on the dog. This order, requiring it to be muzzled in public places, on a short leash, not walked by anyone under the age of 18, would stay with the dog throughout its life. So, in theory, if the dog was sold or re-homed the Order would follow it. But, who and how exactly, would this be enforced?
The owner was also ordered to compensate us for the vet’s fees of just under £500. The deadline for payment was early December and we are still waiting…..
Our vet’s fees were relatively low because Brody was euthanized as soon as he got to the vet. Owners of dogs who have been mauled but can be treated can incur fees of two or three times this amount.
According to relatively recent research carried out by Direct Line Insurance, an estimated 64,000 dogs died in the same way in a 12 month period. A further 44,000 suffered life-changing injuries and vets bills topped £458 million. That’s over 100,000 traumatised dogs and owners. And this doesn’t take into account the effect on other family members, particularly young children. As well as being an animal welfare issue it is a huge and largely avoidable mental health issue.
People often blame the police but they are only enforcers of the law. Given that a Companion Dog is regarded as a piece of furniture in the eyes of the law and a Dog on Dog attack is not a criminal offense, the hands of the police are pretty much tied.
An amendment to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 came into force in 2014 and it is now a criminal offense for a dog to attack an “Assistance ”. I would like to see a further amendment whereby “Companion Dogs” are classified in the same way.
My MP, Tom Brake, has recently tabled an Early Day Motion urging the Government to consider changing the law to this effect. So far 29 MPs have signed. Please, please contact your MP and ask them to sign. You can find the email addresses of all MPs here. Just click on the name and the address will appear.
- to give your postal address (protocol prevents MPs from responding to non-constituents)
- quote the reference EDM #1954
- Share with your friends
Quebec, New Zealand, and France have all welcomed pets into the circle of “sentient beings” by granting them many of the same rights as children in the eyes of the law. They are no longer regarded as inanimate property. It’s time that Britain followed suit, its time.
DOGS THINK, DOGS LOVE, DOGS FEEL.
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How do you define a companion dog? Are not all animals sentient beings? Legislation should be stricter on dog ownership in the first place. Bring back licensing, and proper guidance on dog husbandry. For ALL dog owners.
All animals are sentient beings. I wish we had the same laws that Switzerland has in regards to dog ownership. There, you have to go to school before you are able to obtain a dog. I totally agree!