A VET says laws on dangerous dogs should focus on “deed, not breed”.
The House of Lords was yesterday debating plans to give councils new powers to target the owners of dangerous dogs.
Proposals include the introduction of “dogbos” – anti-social behaviour orders for dog owners.
The Dog Control Bill would replace the Dangerous Dogs Act which has been in place for two decades despite being widely criticised.
Martin Paterson, partner at Donaldson and Partners vets in Aspley, said there needed to be a shift in emphasis.
“The legislation ought to be based on deed not breed,” he said.
“While we all recognise that there are some breeds which are known statistically to have more aggressive individuals, at the end of the day it should not be about banning the breed, but about banning the aggressive dog.
“There are all sorts of issues in terms of identifying exactly what breed a dog is because, for example, certain cross-breeds will have pitbull characteristics in their genetic make-up and how much is in there is often difficult to determine.
“Differentiating a pitbull from a Staffy, which can look physically similar, is a real issue. Basing things on the dog’s temperament seems the logical way forward.”
The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act banned ownership, breeding, sale or exchange of four types of dogs – the pit bull terrier, the Japanese tosa, the dogo Argentino and the fila Brasileiro.
It also gave police powers to deal with any dogs, of whatever breed, that became out of control in a public place.
But more than 100 people every week are still admitted to hospital after dog attacks.
Mr Paterson said: “What really matters is responsible dog ownership. You will get the odd bad dog, like you get the odd bad person, that’s just the way it is.
“But in the vast majority of cases, training is the answer.”
He said dogs could be a fantastic asset to families as long as people took into account their domestic circumstances, including how much room they had, when deciding what breed to select.
“Matching the breed with the owner’s lifestyle is the key,” he said.
But Mr Paterson does not agree that people should be forced to get a licence, like a driving licence, before being able to own a dog.
He said: “My concern would be that responsible dog owners will do the responsible thing but those people who are irresponsible now would continue to be irresponsible and wouldn’t bother getting their licence.
“Effectively it then becomes a tax on responsible owners.”