Legal powers: Labour wants danger-dog laws extended

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The "dramatic" rise in the number of dangerous dogs subject to court orders has prompted Labour to call for the law to be extended beyond specific breeds.

Current legislation means only four breeds, including the pit bull terrier and Japanese Tosa, can be subject to court orders forcing owners to muzzle or neuter their pets.

Owners can also be banned from taking their dogs to certain areas but at present only 1,245 dogs are subject to such orders.

Now Labour's Willie Bain (Glasgow North East) is calling for the Dangerous Dogs Act to be extended so it does not just cover a limited number of breeds, but any dog posing a threat, regardless of breed.

He is particularly worried about trained fighting dogs being used as weapons by gangs, or being kept as status symbols. Mr Bain said the problem was particularly prevalent in urban constituencies and wants the authorities to be given greater powers to seize suspect animals from private homes.

Figures released by the Government show the number of court orders against dogs and their owners has increased dramatically since 2007, when 141 pets were subject to certain conditions. In 2008, 255 pets went before the courts. Last year that figure rose to 314.

The details were released after a written Parliamentary question from Mr Bain, who described the increase as "dramatic".

He said: "There's a very strong case to extend the Dangerous Dogs Act to private dwellings. The 1991 Act is applied to specific breeds like the Japanese Tosa.

"Really, the major issue about dangerous dogs is that the main prescribed breeds are causing the biggest problem.

"We think it is necessary to move away from breed-specific legislation to anti-social pets, so dog protection notices can be applied to the owner as well as the dog."

He said he expected the Government to clarify its position in the New Year following a consultation. Mr Bain added: "There could be an issue with the Government as the noises we are hearing is that they are not inclined to make the change."

The Government is considering the introduction of new legislation to tackle the problem.

The RSPCA has put forward a draft Dog Control Bill as part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' review, which would give the authorities greater powers.