In September 2019, I published a consultation seeking views on possible changes to help improve the existing civil system of how out of control dogs are dealt with in our communities. I also promised there would be a further review published looking at wider dog control measures with a specific focus on the criminal offence of a dog being allowed to be dangerously out of control contained in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. This review takes forward that commitment.
As a result of the initial consultation, there was strong support for the establishment of a dog control database to help enforcement agencies keep track of those irresponsible dog owners who allow their dogs to be out of control. Working with local authorities, progress is being made to work towards establishing a dog control database.
Recently the Scottish Government has published updated statutory guidance in respect of the operation of the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act 2010. This again will aid enforcement agencies, especially local authorities, as they seek to help keep communities safe. And there is also a refreshed dog control protocol which enforcement agencies can use to help understand who has responsibility for dealing with different types of dog control incidents.
The action noted above is all part of the regime designed to encourage responsible dog ownership so that action is taken when dogs are found to be out of control, but before they become dangerous.
It is unfortunate that despite the efforts to encourage responsible dog ownership, there are still dogs that can on occasion act in a dangerously out of control way.
The vast majority of Scotland's estimated 600,000 dog owners are responsible, take good care of their dogs and are able to experience the benefits of dog ownership.
For the small minority, however, who do not properly control their dogs, this review is focused on steps that might be taken to improve the way in which the criminal law may deal with dog owners where their dogs act in a dangerous way. Any changes must help improve safety from dangerous dogs especially where dogs are out of control in public places.
The views offered will, along with the views offered in the previous consultation, help shape decisions in the next Parliamentary session as to what legislative changes should be progressed. The decision to progress any legislative changes will be for the next Scottish administration to take. I would encourage you to please take the time to consider the questions in this document and provide your views.
Ash Denham MSP, Minister for Community Safety
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