RSPCA disappointed with government’s ‘draconian’ stance on BSL

The RSPCA is disappointed with the government’s announcement that it will not commit to reviewing the current legislation which brands four types of dogs as dangerous.

Today (Monday 28 January), the government responded to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee’s announcement, released in October following a public inquiry based on evidence provided by the RSPCA and other animal welfare organisations that showed no robust scientific evidence that Breed Specific Legislations (BSL) works.

The RSPCA has been calling for parliamentary inquiry into the effectiveness of BSL in protecting public safety and dog welfare since August 2016.

The charity’s high-profile #EndBSL campaign called on the UK government to review Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) 1991, which, under BSL, prohibits the ownership of four types of dogs; pitbull terrier, fila Brasiliero, dogo Argentino, Japenese tosa.

Dr Samantha Gaines, RSPCA dog welfare expert and lead author of the ‘Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner’ report, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the government is still suggesting that prohibited types of dogs are more dangerous than other types of dogs and that they are involved in a disproportionately high number of attacks on people, including fatalities. The RSPCA, in its evidence to EFRA, made it very clear that in the absence of robust data around the dog population such as claims cannot be made, and it is misleading to do so.

“We are also hugely disappointed that despite EFRA recommending changes which would mean that friendly and rehomable banned types of dogs could avoid being put to sleep, the government is unwilling to do so. For the past 27 years thousands of dogs have paid the ultimate price as a result of this draconian and unjust legislation which penalises dogs simply for the way they look. This has led to the unnecessary destruction of hundreds of friendly and well-behaved family pets and dogs that organisations like ourselves could rehome.

“We’re looking forward to the conclusions of the research project currently being undertaken by Middlesex University. Our own research has shown that there is a lack of scientific evidence to support BSL and positive evidence against it. We remain confident that the outcome of the research will be one which recommends breed neutral legislation and that the government will act on this.”

In October, EFRA’s report called on the UK government to remove the ban on rehoming these banned types to new owners as currently it results in the unnecessary euthanasia of good-tempered dogs that could have been safely rehomed.

It also asks for an independent review into the factors affecting dog aggression, and a new Dog Control Act to facilitate early intervention in dog incidents, as well as better education for children and dog owners.

In response, the government said they will not at this time review or change the law to allow rehoming of Section 1 dogs.

The RSPCA welcomes DEFRA’s commitment to further research around dog control and the government’s pledge to research dog legislation and practices outside of the UK.

The charity is also pleased that the government is keen to explore the collection of centralised data on dog bites, better childhood education around dog safety and that they agree that seized dogs should not spend long period in kennels.

The RSPCA remains strongly opposed to Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act (BSL) and will continue to campaign for immediate repeal and replacement of the law.