The Scrutiny Support Officer presented a report to provide an outline of the purpose of the meeting which was to receive an update on the effect of the abolition of the use of Police horses in Cleveland and also an update on the issue of dangerous dogs.
Whilst the Panel was aware that the Chief Constable had made the decision to close the mounted section, it recognised that this difficult decision had been taken in response to the requirement to make financial savings. Very few Police forces in this country had Police horses and they were mainly used for crowd control. Crowds considered high risk were a rarity in Cleveland and all Police Officers were fully trained in crowd control.
The Police and Crime Panel had scrutinised the decision to abolish the mounted section and the Commissioners Statement on the decision was available on the Police and Crime Commissioner for Clevelands website. Whilst there was no doubt that the horses assisted in positive public relations, in times of such austerity the Police force had to focus on priority needs.
Following discussion, Panel Members agreed that there were still some areas relating to operational matters on which they required further information from the Police with regard to the effects of the abolition of the mounted section.
AGREED that the:
1. information provided be received and noted.
2. Scrutiny Support Officer would invite representatives from the Police and Crime Panel and Cleveland Police to attend a future meeting.
The Senior Environmental Protection Officer tabled a report providing information in relation to current legislation to control dangerous dogs.
The Dogs Act 1871, although old legislation, was still very much in use today and was in fact a civil Act that could be used by anyone wishing to prosecute against a dangerous dog. Under this Act, a Court could decide that a dog was dangerous and order the owner to keep it under control by way of conditions such as the dog must be muzzled, neutered or castrated, or kept on a lead. A Destruction Order could be made but this was rare. Most commonly the Act was used for aggressive dogs causing a nuisance.
Under the Animal Act 1972 a dog could be shot without warning by a farmer for worrying his livestock and the owner could face criminal prosecution for the same offence under the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953.
Following a spate of highly publicised fatalities, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was introduced and amended in 1997. There were two main sections to the Act. Section 1 applied to four specific breeds of dog which were: the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dog Argentino and Fila Brisileiro. The Pit Bull Terrier was the most common breed of dog and the others were rarely seen. Owners of these breeds had to comply with certain legal requirements, including having their dog registered, neutered, micro-chipped and tattooed.
The legislation banned the breeding and sale of the four breeds of dog and was intended to ensure that within ten to fifteen years the breed would no longer exist in this country. However, the legislation had not been strictly enforced and particularly Pit Bull Terriers had often been cross-bred.
Owners of banned breeds had to register their dogs with the Police and there was a cost involved. Currently, if an unregistered dog was identified, the Dangerous Dog Liaison Officer (DDLO) had to remove the dog and it would be kept in kennels while it was registered and micro-chipped etc. This incurred quite large costs on the Police Force and therefore it was proposed to change the legislation to allow the dog to continue living with its owner whilst its registration was completed.
Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 applied to all dogs, making it a criminal offence to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place. This included instances where there was fear that an injury might occur. The Act currently only applied to incidents in public places and in recent fatalities in peoples homes there had been no action taken against the owners.
The Government were currently considering making changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 so that the legislation would also cover private property. This was proposed to be law from April 2014.
Owners found guilty under either section of the Act could have their dog destroyed, face the possibility of six months in prison and/or a fine not exceeding £5,000. The Acts ran alongside each other with the Dogs Act 1871 probably being used the most.
The Police were the primary enforcement authority for dangerous dog legislation. However, the Councils Dog Warden Service assisted with investigation during office hours when required. This usually involved advising the dog owner in writing where complaints had been received of a dog acting aggressively or had attacked another dog. Incidents where a dog had injured a member of the public or an incident occurred out of office hours were the Polices responsibility to investigate. Middlesbrough currently had one dedicated DDLO who covered both Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland Districts.
The numbers of Dangerous Dog reports in Middlesbrough was decreasing year on year and it was highlighted that the majority of incidents reported were more likely to be boisterous dogs causing a nuisance rather than dangerous ones.
Information from the Home-Health Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) indicated that the north east hospital admissions due to injuries caused by dogs were well above the national average at 21 per 100,000 in comparison to 11 per 100,000 nationally. Overall there had been 6,500 hospital admissions in 2012 due to injuries caused by dogs.
In response to a query in relation to Dog Control Orders it was confirmed that fixed penalty notices could be issued to owners who allowed their dogs to be off the lead more than once in the area covered by the Control Order. Even in an off-lead area, dog owners had a responsibility to keep their dog under control.
It was clarified that the Police were responsible for registering dangerous dogs and therefore the Officer did not know how many dangerous dogs were currently registered in Middlesbrough. If the Councils Dog Warden became aware of a dog that needed to be registered this information would be passed to the Police.
It was confirmed that the Councils drop-off centre was only used for stray dogs and dangerous dogs had to be dealt with by the Police.
AGREED that the information provided be received and noted.