The RSPCA has welcomed new dog laws announced by the Government today, but warned of a rising number of dogs being mistreated, neglected abandoned or lost.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said compulsory microchipping of all dogs from 2016 will tackle the growing number of stray dogs.
The police are being given new powers to tackle dangerous the laws on dog attacks will be extended to cover private property, closing a loophole which has meant that dog owners whose animals have attacked people on private property are immune from prosecution.
The RSPCA welcomed the changes, but said much more needs to be done.
David Bowles, head of public affairs, said the measure announced today are not enough to reduce the number of stray dogs, make owners act more responsibly to their dogs or ensure fewer dogs bite people or other animals.
“The Home Office proposals on anti-social behaviour do not provide sufficiently early intervention and could label some dog owners as anti-social when their failing may only be a lack of understanding," he said.
“The number of warnings the RSPCA issued to dog owners due to poor welfare last year was up by 12% on 2011, while the number of dog bites that required hospitalisation has gone up by 26% in the past four years.
“If the Government is serious about tackling these very real problems then, we don’t see how today’s proposals will help reduce either of these figures.
“We have always said that prevention is better than the cure. This was Defra’s opportunity to finally tackle the big issues, but instead we believe they have merely tinkered with the existing legislation rather than make the comprehensive reform that dog law enforcers were calling for.”
The RSPCA said preventative measures, such as dog control notices, are required as well as introduction of dog registration to improve dog owners’ accountability, deter casual acquirers of dogs and fund owner education services.
Early intervention with owners prevents suffering to animals, as well as protect public safety where owners fail to control their dogs.
“The RSPCA is also concerned that too many dogs are still spending too much time in kennels after being removed by enforcement agencies such as the police while their fate is being decided through the courts. These measures do little to tackle this,” said Mr Bowles.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said:
“It’s a shame that in a nation of dog lovers, thousands of dogs are roaming the streets or stuck in kennels because the owner cannot be tracked down. I am determined to put an end to this and ease the pressure on charities and councils to find new homes for these dogs.
“Microchipping is a simple solution that gives peace of mind to owners. It makes it easier to get their pet back if it strays and easier to trace if it’s stolen. The generous support of Dogs Trust will mean that this valuable service can be offered for free to pet owners across the country.”
Currently there are around 8 million pet dogs in the UK. Nearly 60 per cent are already chipped.