Electric Shock Collars
We are a nation of animal lovers and animal welfare has been a priority of every Conservative Government over the last decade. Rebecca has always been the proud owner of rescue dogs and knows the joy they bring to family life, which is why she will be supporting the forthcoming ban on the use of electric shock collars on cats and dogs in England.
Rebecca has supported every Government Bill to improve animal welfare since 2010. Since then, on farms, we have introduced new regulations for minimum standards for meat chickens, banned the use of conventional battery cages for laying hens and made CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses in England. For pets, we have introduced microchipping, which became mandatory for dogs in 2015; we have modernised our licensing system for activities such as dog breeding and pet sales; we have protected service animals via Finn’s Law and we have banned commercial third-party sales of puppies and kittens. In 2019, the Wild Animals in Circuses Act became law and we have also led work to implement humane trapping standards by banning glue traps. In 2021, the Government launched the world-leading Action Plan for Animal Welfare setting out a huge array of reforms, the majority of which are currently progressing through Parliament. The Conservative Party have done more than any other on animal welfare, delivering on a manifesto that was drafted with the public’s priorities in mind.
As a Government Whip, Rebecca has also assisted colleagues introducing Private Members’ Bills that have continually improved animal welfare. In the last year alone that includes the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill to prohibit the import of hunting trophies, the Shark Fins Act 2023 to prohibit the import and export of shark fins and the Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill to prohibit the sale and advertising of low welfare activities abroad.
In 2018, the Government ran a consultation on the use of electric collars and found that alternative positive reward training can be used just as effectively to improve a dog’s behaviour and confirmed that work would be completed to see them banned in England. It is entirely wrong that these can be used up to two miles away from an animal that cannot be seen and does harm their welfare entirely unnecessarily and unprovoked.
UPDATE APRIL 2023 - The Government has now presented the Animal Welfare (Electric Collars) (England) Regulations 2023 before Parliament, which Rebecca will be supporting. This will create an offence to attach an electric collar to a cat or dog and also creates an offence to be in possession of a remote-control device designed to activate one.
Cropping Dogs' Ears
Rebecca has also received several emails about cropping dogs’ ears. The practice of non-exempted mutilations such as cropping dogs' ears is abhorrent and has rightly been banned in the UK for 15 years. The cropping of a dog’s ears is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Now that the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 has come into force, anyone convicted of such an offence, faces being sent to prison for up to five years, or receiving an unlimited fine, or both.
However, Ministers are aware that the importation of dogs with non-exempted mutilations such as cropped ears or docked tails is still allowed under the current pet travel rules. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ran a consultation on changes to the commercial and non-commercial movement of pets into Great Britain, which included a proposal to ban the import of dogs with cropped ears. Defra is carefully reviewing the feedback gathered from the consultation and Rebecca looks forward to reading the Government’s response.
Dangerous Dogs Review
New laws banning XL Bully type dogs have been laid in Parliament today as the Government adds the breed to the list of dogs banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
- From 31 December 2023, owners must keep XL bully dogs on a lead and muzzled when in public. It will also be an offence to breed, sell, advertise, exchange, gift, rehome, abandon, or allow XL Bully dogs to stray.
- From 31 January 2024, it will be illegal to own an XL Bully unless it is registered on the Index of Exempted dogs and is compliant with the requirements.
- If your dog is older than one year old on 31 January 2024, it must be neutered by 30 June 2024. If your dog is less than one year old on 31 January 2024, it must be neutered by 31 December 2024.
- From 1 February 2024 , it will then become illegal to own an XL Bully dog if it is not registered on the Index of Exempted Dogs. Owners without a Certificate of Exemption face a criminal record and an unlimited fine if they are found to be in possession of an XL Bully type, and their dog could be seized.
The announcement fulfils the Government’s pledge to put in place laws to ban the breed by the end of the year and protect the public following a concerning rise in fatal attacks.
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has today announced a review of the American XL Bully dog, with the intention they are outlawed by the end of the year, to stop the rise in dog attacks and better protect the public.
Minsters are now convening police and animal experts to firstly define the breed of dog behind these attacks. The XL Bully is not currently a breed defined in law and so this work is both urgent and crucial. Once this breed has been officially defined, legislation will be placed before Parliament and they will be banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act. Rebecca will be voting to support this new legislation once it is brought forward.
Following a rise in the number of dog attacks in recent months, the Government is assessing why this increase is happening and if further action needs to be taken.
The Home Secretary, Environment Secretary and Policing Minister are now consulting and have asked urgently for further guidance on a potential ban of the sale and breeding of the American XL Bully dog type which have been linked to an increasing number of these attacks. The American XL Bully is an incredibly powerful dog in not only size and weight, but most importantly have been bred with dangerous characteristics such as their jaw power and strength and because of this can pose a lethal danger within communities. There have been a series of incidents across the country which sadly have included fatalities and led to a series of deaths.
What is the current law?
It is against the law to let dogs be dangerously out of control anywhere, including your own home. A dog is considered dangerously out of control if it injures or make someone worried it will injure another person. A court may consider a dog to be dangerous if it also attacks another animal or the owner of another animal is worried they will be injured if they attempt to prevent their animal being harmed.
You can get an unlimited fine or 6 months imprisonment if your dog is dangerously out of control. If you let your dog injure another person then you can face up to 5 years in prison and if you allow your dog to kill another person then you will face up to 14 years imprisonment.
It is a criminal offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to own, sell, abandon, give away or breed certain types of dogs – Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro
If you have a banned dog, the police or local council dog warden can take it away and keep it, even if it is not acting dangerously and there has not been a complaint. A police or council dog expert will judge what type of dog you have and whether it is, or could be, a danger to the public. Your dog will then either be released or kept in kennels while the police or council apply to a court.
If your dog is banned but the court thinks it’s not a danger to the public, it may put it on the Index of Exempt Dogs. Owners are given a Certificate of Exemption. This is valid for the life of the dog. It must be neutered, microchipped, kept on a lead and muzzled at all times when in public and kept in a secure place so it cannot escape. The owner must take out insurance against the dog injuring other people, be aged over 16, show the Certificate of Exemption when asked by a police officer or council dog warden, either at the time or within 5 days and let the Index of Exempt Dogs know of a change of address or the dog’s death.
Essex Police are responsible for dangerous and prohibited dogs. Please call Essex Police on 101 if you have any concerns about a dangerous dog.
Recent Government Action:
In December 2021 DEFRA published research, in collaboration with Middlesex University, investigating measures to reduce dog attacks and promote responsible dog ownership across all breeds of dog.
In response to this research, the Government established the Responsible Dog Ownership Working Group in February 2022 working with police, local authorities and animal welfare organisations to consider how the recommendations could be taken forward and to identify ways in which to improve the application of the full range of existing dog control powers. The Working Group has met 26 times since its inception.
As part of this, there are also ongoing considerations for the role of education and training for both dogs and their owners in reducing the risk of dog attacks, as well as considering how we can improve data collection and recording and enforcement practices, including breed-related trends. Better data collection would enable us to track the effectiveness of the measures that we put in place.
Conclusions from this work are expected by the end of 2023. These should address all aspects of tackling irresponsible dog ownership effectively, from prevention to robust, consistent enforcement, focussing on owners as well as on their dogs.
Breed Specific Legislation:
Rebecca recognises that many people are opposed to the prohibitions placed on the four types of banned dogs due to breed-specific legislation. However, the Government must balance the views of those who want to repeal or amend this with the responsibility to ensure that the public is properly protected from dog attacks. Any dog can become dangerous if it is kept by irresponsible owners in the wrong environment, which is why the Act covers any type of dog that is dangerously out of control.
Pit Bull types are powerful dogs which have been traditionally bred in the UK for dog fighting. Data gathered from 2005 onwards on fatal dog attacks show that pit bulls were involved in around one in six tragic incidents, despite the prohibitions that we have in place that have significantly limited the numbers of pit bulls in the UK. Furthermore, according to information from the Metropolitan Police, nearly 20% of dogs found to be dangerously out of control in Greater London were pit bulls. Dog attacks can have horrific consequences for victims and families.
The Government, therefore, considers that a lifting of the restrictions on these types of dogs would more likely result in an increase in dog attacks, rather than contributing to any reduction in such incidents. This position is supported by the police.
Regarding the welfare of seized dogs in commercial kennels, all kennels that operate as commercial businesses must be licensed under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018. Specific welfare standards are set out in the supporting statutory guidance notes, which aim to improve consistency in interpretation and application of the licensing regime across England. It is for local authorities to use the powers of inspection and licensing to implement the regime.
The Government is always seeking to learn from the implementation of legislation and make improvements where necessary. The 2018 Regulations are now due to be reviewed and this will be an opportunity to re-examine the standards and the associated guidance and can consider any changes.
There are options available to owners of these dog breeds. The Dangerous Dogs Exemption Schemes (England and Wales) Order 2015 sets out that once the relevant Chief Officer of Police is satisfied about the dog’s temperament and suitability of its owner then it can be placed on the interim exemption scheme. Defra officials are working with the police to assess current take up of the scheme and explore any barriers that may act as a deterrent to take up. Once the understanding of these barriers is established then Ministers will be working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council to address these and encourage greater use of the interim exemption scheme where this is appropriate.
It is the responsibility of DEFRA to change the law around dangerous dogs and this page will be updated in due course following any further Government announcements.
Rebecca has received lots of correspondence on the Government's plans for the Kept Animals Bill. But the Government has already confirmed they plan to take forward each of the measures and regulations contained within the legislation as separate laws through Parliament. This means further measures will be brought forward when Parliamentary time allows that involves banning live exports for fattening and slaughter, banning the import of pregnant or mutilated dogs, regulating primate keeping standards and new measures for tackling livestock worrying. Rebecca will be supporting each of these measures as they are brought forward.
UPDATE - Following the King's Speech 2023, the Government has announced the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill will now be brought before Parliament to end live exports of animals for slaughter and fattening. Rebecca will be supporting this legislation as it progresses.