Dangerous dogs

This week’s note from Douglas Batchelor, Chief Executive.

One of the things that has always struck me about the hunting debate is how the hunters like to portray their dogs. Hounds – according to them – are not just dogs like any other, they are somehow a breed apart. The law on dogs reflects the historic pro-hunt view that there is some fundamental difference between hunting dogs and other dogs. This is clearly nonsense. A dog on a road or a railway line is still a dog even if it is also a hound.

Hunt hounds and terriers are animals that are bred to seek out and to engage with target animals. By any rational definition they are dangerous dogs. In the case of dogs associated with the hunts, they are more usually dangerous to the wild animals that they hunt, but as we all know those same dogs are – to put it very mildly – ‘accident’ prone, and have a nasty habit of going off trail and ending up on roads, railways, in farmer’s fields and people’s gardens where they sometimes attack livestock and on occasion attack and or kill domestic animals as well.

Hunt dogs are traditionally trained and encouraged to seek out, to chase down and to kill. That clearly makes them as dangerous as any other attack dog. There is a sort of media myopia and a public nonsense which sees a hound in the country as being engaged on a country pursuit and a dangerous dog in town as a dangerous dog needing to be treated differently.

This week’s Public Consultation on Dangerous Dogs provides opportunities for a public and Government rethink on dangerous dogs. You can respond to the consultation on the Defra website.

The first and most obvious point to make is that it is not primarily the breed of the dog that makes a dog dangerous, it is how it is trained and what it is habitually fed. Hunting dogs are meat-eating dogs, traditionally trained to engage with their prey and then encouraged to eat the spoils of the hunt. Hounds which show no desire to or aptitude for hunting in the traditional manner are routinely culled by the hunts after they have been tested out on the cub hunts.

Anyone who has worked with dogs knows that dogs of all breeds can be dangerous, but also knows, that in the vast majority of cases it is the owner or the controller of the dog who is responsible for the way the dog is acting. Hunts by their very nature are encouraging their dogs to be dangerous dogs. The fact that they then frequently sit back and claim that the dangerous behaviour of their dogs is accidental, is a gross avoidance of their responsibility for the actions of their dogs and the damage they do.

Hunts should be required to keep their dogs on leads when they are on roads, bridleways and footpaths, where vehicles or other people’s dogs may be present. Hunts should not lay trails through or adjacent to fields where other animals are present and may be chased by hounds.

Hunts should certainly microchip all their dangerous dogs and should be required to individually insure their hounds lest they attack any domestic or farmed animals, or cause a road traffic accident as happened a few weeks ago.

The laws with regard to dangerous dogs should also apply to the actions of the dogs on private land, be that the land owned by the hunt and its friends or by others who do not wish the hunt to trespass on their land.

The dangerous dog is just as dangerous whether it is on a road threatening a pedestrian, or in a public park, or in someone’s garden, or in the countryside. The idea that a dangerous dog is any the less dangerous because it is a hound, a pack animal, or a working terrier is just ludicrous. Hunt dogs trained to seek out, to chase and to kill are dangerous dogs. It is an obvious nonsense to class attack dogs commonly found in the hands of minor urban criminals as dangerous dogs, whilst giving a free pass to whole packs of attack dogs trained and kept by hunts and their terriermen. A dangerous dog is just as dangerous if it is in the hands of a thug, a drug dealer, a terrier man or a country squire.

The hunters don’t yet seem to have understood what the new Animal Welfare Act has set into law. Under the provisions regarding dog fighting, a person commits an offence if he causes an animal fight to take place, or attempts to do so. For the purposes of the Act, an animal is any vertebrate other than man, and is protected by the Act, provided it is under the control of man whether on a permanent or temporary basis.

Any terrierman entering a terrier into the ground which traps a fox so that it can not escape, is subject to the provisions of the Act. If a fight ensues and the terrier or the fox has been injured, the terrierman faces the risk of prosecution under the terms of the Animal Welfare Act.

In much the same way as the police in urban areas have been slow to realise the potential of the Hunting Act to deal with urban gangs using guard and attack dogs to hunt other dogs and foxes, the more rural forces have been equally slow to realise that terrierwork is for the most part fox baiting and is covered by the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act.

The Dangerous Dogs Act consultation provides an opportunity to highlight the dangers associated with the packs of rural attack dogs kept by the hunts and their terriermen and to demand changes in the law which will make the hunts far more accountable for the actions of their hounds and terriers than they currently are.

Finally it is worthwhile noting that there is a great unwillingness on the part of some Prospective Parliamentary Candidates to explain to the general public exactly where they stand on the hunting issue if and when it comes to a free vote on repeal of the Hunting Act. Given that the vast majority of electors support the Act and oppose repeal, candidates who support repeal are apparently none too keen to do so in public in case they offend potential supporters who are minded to support them because of their stance on other issues. The hunters claim that over 130 candidates in marginal seats support repeal. My advice is that you ask the question and weigh the answers you are given. If the candidate is not sure, I suggest you do your best to persuade them that repeal is not a good idea and that they should have a good look at www.keepcrueltyhistory.com.

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    […] training your dog | dog training savvy Watching your dog's weight | thepetworld 's blog Dangerous dogs « league against cruel sports You and your pet – the advantages of dog training and obedience … Caesar…our pit bull « […]

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