Responsible dog ownership debate

Neil Parish welcomes the introduction of universal microchipping of dogs and calls for better enforcement of the laws to tackle the problem of dangerous dogs. He particularly highlights the need to focus on people who are breeding and training dangerous dogs.| Parliament TVNeil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray, and I thank the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) for securing the debate.I am saddened by the comments made by the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty), because until then we kept the debate fairly non-party political. It is a bit rich to say that nothing happened and no people were bitten in the 13 years that Labour were in power, and had time to do something, and to blame everything on the coalition Government. However, because of limited time, I will not rant and rave about that for too long.I say to the Minister that I very much welcome the fact that the Government have listened since the first consultation. Originally, only puppies were to be microchipped, which would have taken an awfully long time, but the Government have now said, quite rightly, that all dogs should be microchipped. I would like to see that come in sooner rather than later.The Committee took evidence from postal workers, and I have every sympathy for all postal workers—as well as other workers who go into homes, such as midwives—who have been bitten, especially where particular dogs are known to bite. That is also one of the conundrums: it is not only about which dog bites and whether it is vicious, because many people know that their dogs bite yet they still do not lock them up, keep them out of the way, or keep them under control. That is what we have to emphasise. I am a farmer by background, and I know that animals will sometimes turn, as will dogs. It is unfortunate when animals turn, but it is not the same penalty as for dogs that are known to be dangerous. I welcome, therefore, what we can do to help with measures on private property. I also welcome the fact that we will have universal microchipping, but we must have an accurate database. At Blue Cross or Battersea dogs home, they can only identify the owners of about 30% of the dogs that come in and are microchipped. An up-to-date database must be put together.However, let us deal with dangerous dogs in particular, and with people who breed dogs to be dangerous, and beat them to make them dangerous. It is not the dogs that are at fault, but the people. They will not get their dogs microchipped, and they will not get insurance, because they do not want their dogs linked to them. They want to ensure that they run beneath the radar screen, which is why we have to be careful when bringing in legislation that we do not make things more onerous for all the people who legitimately own dogs, while not getting to people who breed dogs to be dangerous, and beat them up to make them even more dangerous. Whether it is a DOGBO, an ASBO or whatever sort of BO, we have to proactively get those people. It is not only about legislation. People can legislate as much as they like; we can legislate in Parliament until the cows come home, but it does not mean that the law will be enforced. Very often, there is enough legislation, but it is not being enforced.I turn to the issue of breeds. Either we keep the Dangerous Dogs Act in its entirety, and we add to the breed-specific legislation, or we scrap it. A lot of dogs are crossed with Japanese breeds, Canadian breeds, and all sorts of breeds, which can actually mean that a dog is just as vicious as a pit bull. Again, that is done to get round the legislation, and the people doing it are not the nicest people in society. They do not go to Sunday school; they are out to cause damage to people. Other Members mentioned what has happened to guide dogs. We have had the evidence. I cannot imagine being blind, because fortunately I have my sight, but it is bad enough for someone who is sighted to have their dog attacked as they are walking along the road. However, if a blind person is walking along the road and their dog is viciously attacked, it is hugely upsetting, dramatic and traumatic. Not only is it traumatic for the owner, but if the dog is destroyed or killed, or maimed in such a way that it can no longer carry out its function and help the blind person, there is a huge financial burden, because it probably costs £1,500 to £2,000 to train a dog on the routes the person takes. We have to take such matters seriously.We also have to take seriously the internet sale of puppies, not only from this country, but from eastern Europe and the Republic of Ireland. A lot of puppies are coming into the country, and many of them are not only dangerous, but potentially very ill. People who are sold such puppies have enormous vet bills in order to put the dogs right, and sometimes the dog dies and, again, there is huge trauma.We need not worry too much about the cost of microchipping, because many of the charities that deal with dogs, such as Blue Cross and Battersea, are happy to put in the microchips to help people who cannot afford them.I think the Minister is sympathetic to the cause, and I really want to hear from him what we will do about tracing people who are breeding and training dangerous dogs, and inflicting them on innocent individuals and other dogs.| Hansard| Parliament TV