A Holyrood committee has expressed its frustration at a lack of action on dog attacks.
A letter written by Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee convener, Jenny Marra, said it was “unacceptable” that nothing will be done about dog attacks until the next parliamentary term.
According to NHS statistics, the number of incidents involving dogs in Scotland increased from 533 in 2008 to 6,992 in 2019.
Following the appearance of public safety minister Ash Denham at the committee, members decided to the convener should write to the minister “to express its frustration at the pace of the Scottish Government’s progress to address the extremely serious issue of out-of-control and dangerous dogs”.
Ms Marra added: “As you are aware, this issue was first debated in the Chamber on May 8 2018, where there was cross-party consensus for the need for robust action to be taken by Parliament to protect the public from dogs which are out of control.
“Unfortunately, nearly three years on from that debate, a high level of dog attacks continue to be reported, and the probability exists that a significant number of further attacks remain unreported.”
While the minister pledged to undertake a review of current legislation dealing with dogs, the work has been postponed until the Scottish Parliament reconvenes after the May 6 election.
Ms Marra wrote: “The committee notes that you have put the matter forward for the Scottish Government’s legislative programme for the next parliamentary session.
“The committee further notes your commitment that if the SNP are in government, this issue will be taken forward early in the next session.
“However, the committee considers unacceptable the apparent low level of priority the Scottish Government has given to the committee’s recommendations, particularly given the impact on public safety.
“It is unfortunate that the committee’s work will now be left to be taken forward in the next session of parliament.
“The committee recognises the need to legislate comprehensively to ensure that a new framework for dog control legislation is fit for purpose.
“However, the committee is clear that the legislative and non-legislative changes recommended in its report must be driven forward as a priority in order to protect children and adults from what are often life-changing attacks.
“The committee will reflect these concerns in its legacy report, along with its frustration at the pace of the Scottish Government’s response.
“It will be recommending that the next parliament continues to place pressure on the Scottish Government to legislate to update the current dog control legislation, to ensure it is fit for purpose, at the first available opportunity.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While incidences of out-of-control dogs have remained largely static in recent years, working with justice agencies and local authorities, we are determined to keep Scotland’s communities safe from irresponsible dog owners and their out-of-control dogs.
“A key element is enforcement by Police Scotland and local authorities of existing laws.
“A range of action is under way to support operational agencies including a Scottish Government established working group progressing key issues with Police Scotland and local authorities, and the publication of updated statutory guidance on the Control of Dogs Act.
“We have also launched an awareness campaign, in partnership with the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA), to promote responsible dog ownership.
“We are currently consulting on possible options for reform of dog control legislation, primarily looking at the offence of a dog being dangerously out of control under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and are minded to progress development of changes to dog control legislation in the next session of Parliament.”
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