image of a dog trainer with dog
Lead,  Opinion

Breed-specific legislation leads to false sense of security

By Charlotte Kasner at CREDO – the Campaign for Responsible Dog Ownership, MA, ADip AAB, ADip CBM, ADip FBM, KPA-CTP, ABTC-AT, MISAP

There is plenty of peer-reviewed evidence to show that BSL does not work. Are we planning to end up like Ukraine which has a long list of dogs that are subject to restrictions, including the Labrador?

Furthermore, BSL lulls people into a false sense of security about all dogs. One journalist wrote about the “sweet cocker spaniel” and “trustworthy golden retriever”. He clearly hadn’t seen the level of resource guarding that I have in cockers or dealt with the rambunctious retrievers that owners think are automatically placid and tractable.

Size does matter but that doesn’t mean that small dogs are harmless when aggressive. I have had two clients recently with children bitten badly on the face by Chihuahuas.

In all of these cases, owners have not understood their dog, have not undertaken training and in one case, ignored my safety advice leading to intervention by media and social services. All preventable.

We have more than 50 statutes in England and Wales regarding dogs, most of which are not enforced. Dog are not wearing identification, are running loose on major roads (often while their owners are forcing them to run) are being dumped on third parties for the majority of the day, sone of whom lack the experience and skills to cope with dogs increasingly stressed by being forced to mix etc etc

We need to start enforcing laws at a basic level which means putting considerably more resources into the dog warden service and supporting qualified, professional trainers and behaviourists.

I tried to run a puppy play session with another colleague. We approached 5 local councils for permission to work in a park. This would not have provided us with any facilities; indeed we would be battling poorly maintained surfaces, litter and the ever-present worry about discarded drugs. All but one authority turned us down.

The one that didn’t, insisted that I increased my insurance cover to £5M (it has since been increased again to £10M) in spite of there never having been a  claim that I know of and then said, after 6 months of paperwork, that they would levy a charge that represented 60% of our maximum takings just for the “privilege” of standing in a park.

This was clearly not viable so after wasting a lot of time and effort and paying out for additional insurance, we abandoned the attempt.

In order to train clients in a realistic setting so that they learn how to manage their dogs, we now face having to pay licence fees to money-grabbing councils in addition to the taxes that we pay to maintain parks and green spaces.

Even the massive spread of PSPOs, not unreasonable on paper, is unlikely to be policed effectively an means that parks are becoming unwelcoming areas with a plethora of restrictive signs and, own some cases, dogs confined to tiny, parasite-infested enclosures.

The more restrictions we place on dogs, the more likely it is that we will see more behavioural issues.

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