The CWU has lobbied tirelessly for changes to the law, taking
our members' case to MPs, members of the devolved assemblies of
Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London and to local
councillors right across the UK.
"As we've made our case, individual MPs have given
us backing and so have the devolved assemblies," Dave
Joyce, CWU health and safety officer explains. "In
some respects, it's been the strong support from the devolved
assemblies that has driven the government to recognise this as a
major issue," he added.
A further boost to the union's campaign came when, in response to a letter from Dave Joyce during last year's general election, David Cameron wrote that he would "support extending dangerous dogs law to cover all places including private property." Read David Cameron's pledge. CWU also received a letter from Nick Clegg.
Read Coalition government backs dangerous dogs reform for more detailed information on David Cameron's commitment to dog law reform.
In her speech on the 8th May 2013, the Queen pledged improvements in dangerous dogs laws which will see current legislation extended to cover attacks on private property and compulsory microchipping of all dogs.
Welcoming the news, Billy Hayes commented: "Today is the culmination of six years of hard campaign work to improve dangerous dogs laws to better protect victims of attacks and promote more responsible dog ownership. Westminster has finally followed the lead of Scotland and Northern Ireland in addressing the failings of the Dangerous Dogs Act.
"The extension of the law to private property will protect thousands of postal workers, telecom engineers and others who have to work on private property for their job and who have been left without protection if attacked by dogs. Compulsory microchipping will be another help, but it's a shame the government isn't implementing preventative measures such as Dog Control Notices. We have some reservations about how accessible this legislation will be for enforcement agencies, but nevertheless it is undoubtedly an improvement and giant step forwards."
Read: CWU on the Queen's
speech for more information.
On February 6 2013 the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced that the government would amend the law to introduce compulsory microchipping of all dogs by 2016 and extend the law to apply on private property. Read the Defra announcement in full. This was warmly welcomed by CWU as it answers two key campaign 'asks'. Read our reaction to the announcement.
In 2010, the Labour Government set up a formal consultation into the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, to which the CWU and many other organisations and individuals contributed submissions outlining the reforms that are needed.
The consultation - run by the government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) - indicated that 97 per cent of respondents backed the CWU's call for the "private property loophole" to be closed. Based on the results of the consultation, Defra were expected to announce their recommendations in early 2011. An Adjournment Debate held on 6th July 2011 helped to push the urgency of the issue forward but it remained unclear as to what the government would do.
In April 2012, much to the disappointment and frustration of the CWU and its members, Defra announced a further consultation to which the general secretary, Billy Hayes, responded: "All we're getting is yet another consultation. It's about time the law bit back to protect innocent dog attack victims."
Find out more:
CWU submission on Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2012 to House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, 16th July 2012
Another dogs law delay, says CWU, 23rd April 2012.
Law changes in devolved administrations:
On the 2nd May 2013, the Wales government announced plans to "suspend further work on the Control of Dogs (Wales) Bill" in favour of Westminster's more limited proposals which were announced in a Home Office Bill in the Queen's Speech (see above).
Disappointed in the decision, Billy Hayes commented: "Westminster's proposals are far inferior to the draft legislation which Wales has been meticulously preparing. England would have been left the poor neighbour in terms of dangerous dogs legislation as both Scotland and Northern Ireland have already introduced comprehensive new dogs laws.
"We do still welcome the Westminster proposals being in the Queen's Speech - we finally have a timetable - as they include key changes such as extending the law to private property and compulsory microchipping. But it's disappointing this has come at the cost of far better - and quicker - legislation for Wales."
Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones announced in his Legislative
Statement on July 17 2012 that action on dangerous dogs was a
priority for the Welsh Government and that a Bill would be
introduced in spring 2013.
Read the Legislative Statement in full.
Scotland changed the law in 2010 with the Control of Dogs (Scotland) Act, introduced by MSPs Alex Neil (Central Scotland) and Christine Grahame (South of Scotland).
The new Act's Section 10 (Dangerous or unresponsive dogs) replaces the references in the 1991 Act to an offence being committed "if a dog is allowed to be dangerously out of control in a public place" or "a private place where it is not permitted to be" with the straightforward "any place."
Northern Ireland changed the law in 2011 with the Dogs (Amendment) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 which received Royal Assent in March 2011 and was fully enacted by April 2012.
Here, the new law - which was introduced by Northern Ireland's Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle Gildernew - amends the 1983 Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order. As in Scotland, much of the reform deals with the wider problems caused by dangerous dogs in the community, but it addresses the specific issue of attacks that take place on private property by explicitly exempting the owner from prosecution only in cases of criminal trespass.