Dangerous Dogs debate

Neil Parish backs calls for a change away from breed-specific dangerous dogs legislation and for wider microchipping and more effort to ensure the database is kept accurate and up to date.Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. I thank the hon. Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans) for securing the debate.It is good to have the Minister here. We are all very much in favour of microchipping, and I want to ask him about the database in particular. Microchipping is all very well, but the database must be right and it must work. The information must be correct. The Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs launched its inquiry at Battersea yesterday, and we found out that for a third of microchipped dogs the information is not accurate or up to date.It is right to make sure that we have an accurate database. When a puppy is sold, the first owner or breeder must be responsible for ensuring that the information about where the dog then goes is correct. Thereafter, somewhat as with the licensing of a car, it is possible to follow the dog through its life. Otherwise it will disappear off the database. The idea is also good from a breeding point of view. It will make it possible to be sure that the breeding is correct, without in-breeding or the breeding of bad aspects into a certain breed of dog—so that the buyer gets a healthy dog. From all those points of view, the proposal is a good thing.People always say, however, that the law works for the law-abiding, and we must be careful that we do not just make it more onerous for the law-abiding to get their dogs microchipped. We need to be able to tackle the other dogs out there, whose owners will never want to have them microchipped.As to problems with postal workers and social workers, if someone is inviting someone to push a letter through their door and knows that their dog is likely to bite the person who puts it through, they are responsible for the dog and should take action so that that does not happen. The same is true if a social worker comes into their house. That is a key point. As a farmer, I know that occasionally—and this would be more difficult in law—a dog that has never turned before will turn suddenly. That will probably make for interesting cases, and we cannot get everything right, although we must try to.I want to mention status dogs, quickly. Having looked around Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, it is clear to me—in relation to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991—that breed-specific legislation does not work, for the simple reason that, as we were told, some of the cross-bred dogs that are now being bred weigh 8 stone. We can imagine that once a dog of that kind has been trained to be vicious, it will be a hell of a weapon. To be blunt, that is what some criminal elements do: they breed those dogs in the back streets, and train them to be vicious weapons. The other problem is that if they abandon those dogs, most of them are so vicious that they cannot be rehabilitated and rehomed: there is a death sentence on those dogs, because of the way they are brought up.It is not often the dogs that are to blame—it is the individual or gangs who bring them up. That is probably the most difficult aspect of the measures to get right. There is currently law enabling the police to act in relation to dangerous dogs. We need to be able to allow the RSPCA and others to take up the cudgels. We need to act when a dog is obviously starting to get vicious, when that is obvious from the way that it is being taken around—whether the owner is hanging around the parks with it, or whatever they are doing—and from the behaviour of the dog and the people around it. Even before the dog has viciously bitten anyone, that is the time to pounce on it, and at least try to get it microchipped, so that a link back can be traced. In films where gangs use such dogs as weapons, the one great advantage that they have is the fact that the dog cannot be traced back to an individual member of the gang.Meg Hillier: Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that if aggressive behaviour is witnessed by the police they should have the power in law to enforce microchipping of the dogs? I would support that; it might tackle some of the irresponsible dog owners that we agreed about.Neil Parish: That is exactly what I am suggesting, because we must try to take action. If someone has been bitten, or a dog has been used as a weapon—as an attack dog—we have failed. If we get hold of the dogs before that happens, and link them to their owners, those owners who want to use them as a weapon will be much less likely to be able to do so. We must send a clear message to those people that the situation cannot continue. It destroys not just our society, but many healthy dogs who should not have ended up as they did. I strongly believe that in most cases it is the fault not of the dog, but of the way in which it was brought up. That is why we must pin the dog to those who perpetrate the problem.I know that it is difficult to get everything right, but I urge the Minister to ensure that we have an accurate database that will continue into the future, that we target not breeds but the behaviour of dogs, and, most importantly, that we make sure that when dogs are used as a weapon we use all the powers we have to link them back to their owners so that they can be properly prosecuted. That will send the message to everyone else.| Hansard