Dangerous dogs laws: Barking up the Wrong Tree?

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Dangerous dogs laws: Barking up the Wrong Tree? Lydia Bleasdale-Hill, University of Leeds Jill Dickinson, Sheffield Hallam University

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Overview Our focus today is on two issues: s.106 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, which extends criminal liability of dog owners from public to private places in most circumstances The ongoing use of breed- and type-specific provisions as far as the classification of dogs as dangerous is concerned These two issues are used as a vehicle to illustrate: The practical ineffectiveness of the current law in this area and How the law largely fails to adhere to principles which arguably ought to underpin the creation of legislation

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Overview of the history of dangerous dogs legislation Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) 1991 – “a synonym for any unthinking reflex legislative response to media hype” (Hood, 2000 at 282) Introduced an offence of a dog being dangerously out of control in a public place (s.3(1)) Introduced type-specific legislation for the first time Index of Exempted Dogs Heavily criticised, but the Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997 did not address the criticisms

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The extension of liability from public to private spaces As a general rule, only public spaces were covered by the earlier legislation: "any street, road or other place (whether or not enclosed) to which the public have or are permitted to have access“ (s.10(2) DDA 1991) Resulted in operational difficulties A distinction between ‘public’ and ‘private’ places had to be drawn see e.g. Fellowes v Crown Prosecution Service [1993] WL 964524; R v Bogdal [2008] EWCA Crim 1

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The extension of liability from public to private spaces The 2014 Act extended liability for ‘dangerously out of control’ dogs from public places to private places except where: The dog is in or partly in a building, or part of a building, that is a dwelling or is forces accommodation (or both), and The person in relation to whom the dog is dangerously out of control (V) is in, or is entering, the building or part as a trespasser, or D (if present at that time) believes V to be in, or entering, the building or part as a trespasser.

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The extension of liability from public to private spaces Effect is that those entering private areas are protected, unless they are trespassers within a dwelling or are honestly believed to be trespassers within that dwelling Burglars, for example, are not protected A child retrieving a ball from a neighbour’s garden, for example, is protected

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The extension of liability from public to private spaces There is no agreed definition of ‘dwelling’ – a question of degree (Maunsell v Olins and Another [1975] 1 All ER) Aligns the law with private defence (Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, as amended by the Crime and Courts Act 2013) – but at what cost?

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The ongoing use of type-specific provisions The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act prohibits the sale/breeding of certain types of dogs (e.g. pitbulls), including cross-breeds Breed- or type-specific legislation is regarded as necessary by some because certain breeds of dogs are regarded as particularly prone to violence, and several countries have similar provisions in place

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The ongoing use of type-specific provisions There are many reservations about such provisions though: ‘deed not breed’ - ignores the variety of factors which influence a dog to bite (Hussain, 2006); the difficulty in determining whether the dog comes within the provision (Bernstein, 2004); moves the focus away from encouraging responsible ownership of all dogs and unfairly penalising responsible owners (McNeely and Lindquist, 2007)

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Legislative principles Better Regulation Task Force (now defunct) Principles of Good Legislation s.21 Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 Five fundamental principles: proportionality, accountability, consistency, transparency, targeting Further supportive principles: legislation should ‘be balanced and avoid knee-jerk reactions’, ‘seek to reconcile contradictory policy objectives’, ‘balance risks, costs and benefits’, ‘avoid unintended consequences’, ‘be easy to understand’, ‘have broad public support’, ‘be enforceable’, ‘identify accountability’, and ‘be relevant to current conditions’ Christopher Hood (2000) 'Assessing the Dangerous Dogs Act: when does a regulatory law fail?' Public Law Sum, 282-305

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Selected focus Transparency Consistency Balance risks, costs and benefits

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Where do we go from here? “The proper attention to the pit bull problem requires the study of regulatory alternatives that will root out the causes of the problem, rather than the symptoms. Irresponsible human actions will continue to produce dangerous dogs as long as legislation leaves human conduct unchecked. Banning an entire breed from existence will not alter irresponsible human behaviour, nor will it reduce the number of dangerous dogs resulting from this behaviour. A true solution requires bringing the issue of irresponsible and inhumane ownership to the forefront.” (Medlin, 2007, at 1318)

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Change of approach Responsible owners – unproblematic, but potentially caught up by current legislation Key groups Irresponsible, wilfully neglectful owners Those keeping dogs for fighting, as a status symbol etc

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Contact details Jill Dickinson: E: Jill.Dickinson@shu.ac.uk Tw: @Jill_Dickinson1  Lydia Bleasdale-Hill: E: l.k.bleasdalehill@leeds.ac.uk Tw: @Parkendlydia