Trevor Cooper: Dog control notices must not be all bark and no bite

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So-called “dog Asbos” are helping tackle dangerous pets, says Trevor Cooper, but only in some parts of the Lothians.

new powers were given to council officers in Scotland in February to issue dog control notices (DCNs) requiring a person to “bring and keep a dog under proper control”.

The grounds for serving a DCN are that the dog has been out of control on at least one occasion, causing alarm.

The DCN may specify conditions, which could include muzzling and/or lead when in public, neutering, exclusion from specified places or attending a training course with the dog.

The purpose is to target dogs that are a nuisance before they cause serious harm.

Usage of this power has been sporadic so far. It would be nice to think this is because there are no nuisance dogs, but Dogs Trust is concerned that it could be due to lack of funding for the dog warden services, which are already having to work hard to deal with stray dogs.

It is much better to impose reasonable restrictions on a dog owner rather than wait until something more serious happens and it is encouraging that some councils have embraced the new procedures.

Dogs Trust takes the view that a dog’s behaviour is based on how it is brought up rather than anything to do with its genetic background and it is disappointing that breed-specific legislation has not yet been abolished.

However, it cannot be denied that particular breeds of powerful dogs are currently popular in urban areas. The motives for owning these dogs include protection, status, companionship and a genuine love of dogs. But sadly there are other motivators too, such as dog fighting and using dogs as weapons. We believe it would be a mistake to stereotype, but at the same time it is apparent that many urban dog owners are unable to train their often large, strong dogs to ensure that they are kept under control. This is where DCNs could have an important role to play, alongside an appropriate education programme.

The power to use these notices is in place now and provided there is sufficient funding and adequate training they should prove themselves to be a useful part of the council’s enforcement toolkit. Hopefully it will serve to remind dog owners that they need to take responsibility for their pet.

* Trevor Cooper is legal consultant to the Dogs Trust

Chunks of flesh flew into air

AMONG the most shocking dog attacks in recent years involved victim Nicky Henderson, then 13, whose arm was nearly torn from his body after he was savaged by an American bulldog.

The youngster, from Gracemount, was mauled for ten minutes by his friend’s dog Kilo, which caused “chunks of flesh to fly in the air”, during the attack in July last year.

Doctors said he would have lost his arm if three neighbours had not prized open the dog’s jaws with broomsticks and kept Nicky’s arm upright until paramedics arrived.

He told the Evening News at the time: “I still get images of the dog running towards me when I close my eyes. It just went for me.

“He was just flinging me round and wouldn’t let me go. I tried to jump over the fence but I couldn’t get loose, even when people were hitting it with spades, stones and shovels.”

The bulldog severed an artery in Nicky’s arm, left several gaping puncture holes and exposed his underarm bone.

Surgeons had to remove a vein from his leg to repair the artery. Fortunately in the days after the attack Nicky was able to move his fingers and regained some movement. Kilo was destroyed.