Jenny Marra MSP : Dog Control Legislation
Speech in the Scottish Parliament debate
9 January 2014
Just this week, Sheriff Alastair Brown commented on a case in Dundee sheriff court that involved an attack on a two-year-old, of which I think that we are all aware.
He said that the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, which John Major’s Government introduced after the brutal killing of Kellie Lynch by two Rottweilers, also in Dundee, is insufficient and does not give courts the proper powers to punish.
In the case that was in the news last week, the sheriff was not able to punish the dog owner properly under the 1991 act, so I am very pleased that a review of dog legislation is taking place at Westminster, as that is very important.
However, there is so much more that this Parliament can do. Christine Grahame, Kenny Gibson and I have spoken before in the chamber about the dog antisocial behaviour order—or doggy ASBO—legislation that Christine Grahame introduced just a couple of years ago.
I was interested to hear the figures that Christine Grahame gave. She might agree with me that the legislation is not properly understood throughout Scotland, which perhaps offers an opportunity for a bit of post-legislative work by the Justice Committee.
She cited some figures to show that the 2010 act is being used, but in my region Dundee City Council has not issued any dog ASBOs, and only one has been issued in Angus.
Some of the community wardens to whom I have spoken believe that dog control falls within police powers, but the 2010 act places it under local authority control.
Given how many dogs and how many dangerous breeds there are in Scotland, it is important that our legislation is clear and unambiguous so that we know who has the power to reprimand the owners and take control of situations.
Christine Grahame: The member mentioned Dundee, and I have the figures in front of me. She is quite right that there have been no dog ASBOs, as she called them. However, the good thing in Dundee is that although there were only two investigations in the first six months, in the following full year there were 136 investigations. I do not think that we should underestimate the significance of dog wardens turning up and investigating an issue. It is a bit of a warning shot in the first place.
Jenny Marra: Indeed. I agree with the member about that. However, I think that we need to improve awareness.
Having looked at the issue over many years, I believe that the legislation that we have in place does not go nearly far enough.
Since the introduction of the 2010 act, there have been horrific attacks in Dundee—for example, one little girl was severely mauled by a dog last summer.
The legislation that we have in place is not preventing attacks.
We need preventative measures because no amount of reprimanding owners after an attack has happened will give any comfort to the children who have been mauled, maimed and terrified in attacks and the parents who have to watch their children go through that.
I believe that we are at the stage when we seriously need to consider muzzling and perhaps requiring leads for dogs in public places.
It is not an easy issue to deal with and it is controversial.
However, I believe that the Irish Government has produced a list of 10 breeds of dogs and crossbreeds thereof for which specific measures are in place to prevent attacks.
I think that we need to look at that.
How many more attacks in our communities must we witness until we look properly at preventative measures?