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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, we are not able to support this amendment. We have commented before on the creation of new offences and this is a similar situation. We believe that three strikes and you and your dog are out would be too draconian. The analogy has been made with driving offences, but I do not believe that there is a possibility of dogs having points on their licences which may lead to disqualification.
The problem is not of a dog entering land, but dogs attacking sheep. I hope that we shall hear from the Minister that there are sanctions on that type of event. We feel that this amendment proposes more than is required to deal with such situations as have been put before your Lordships.
Lord Whitty: Amendment No. 42 deals with sanctions rather than scope, which I did not tackle fully previously. As the noble Baroness has said, it creates a new offence and it creates an offence in an area where there is no appropriate parallel sanction. We have heard this argument in relation to breaches of other restrictions and I shall not repeat the arguments expressed by my noble friend Lord McIntosh.
In this context, exclusion orders are not an appropriate mechanism for dealing with civil matters, such as breaches of restrictions. They are meant to deal with serious criminal offences which may attract custodial sentences. Failure to keep a dog on a lead is not an appropriate situation for an exclusion order. Of course, where there is a persistent problem, a landlord has the option--rather than going through the potentially lengthy procedure of obtaining an exclusion order--of applying for an injunction.
Of course, the more important issue, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is that if a dog does actual harm it is possible to claim damages and to impose greater restrictions, or it is possible to ban them completely. The access authority as the noble Earl, Lord Peel, has pointed out, can impose tighter restrictions. I would prefer things to be allowed if they are not restricted, whereas he tends to adopt the view that things are restricted unless they are allowed. Therefore, it is better to give local access authorities the ability to pass by-laws. If such by-laws are made, a breach of those restrictions could become a criminal offence. Therefore, this issue can be dealt with in that way. Using exclusion orders in this context simply for breach of the dog restrictions, as distinct from causing criminal damage, seems an inappropriate use of the Bill's provisions. I hope therefore that the noble Viscount will not pursue the amendment.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he say whether other legislation enables a landowner who finds a dog worrying his sheep to deal with the matter, first, by warning the owner and eventually by being able to shoot it if it is caught worrying the sheep?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, a dog worrying sheep is covered by earlier provisions and they include the ability to shoot the dog. I am not suggesting that that should be used in all instances as regards this matter but where damage is caused--for instance, worrying sheep--a criminal offence already exists.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, that is an interesting question. I suspect that no liability arises from the rights of access because those rights are for people and not for dogs. Therefore, there will be no liability on the landowner. I am pretty confident with that answer but should my lawyers tell me otherwise I shall inform the noble Lord.
Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, the Minister says that when the dog has worried the sheep, killed many of them and many lambs have been lost something can be done about it. It is not much consolation to a farmer to know that a man can be prosecuted after his dog has caused such damage, nor is it a great consolation to the sheep which probably would rather not have been killed or been caused to abort.
The point is that the farmer who sees dogs off the lead will have to chase after the man and tell him to return it to the lead. That is a bore. If the man disappears over the hill and lets the dog off again the farmer will have to go through the same process. That is much more than a bore; it is an infuriating irritation and a total waste of his time and effort. The person who makes it plain that he will not obey the rules is the problem.
None the less, I fully accept that it would be wrong to press this topic on its own when the whole question of what is to be done with the offenders remains outstanding. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
I should first declare an interest: I am an honorary member of the Kennel Club, but what I intend to say tonight are my comments and not the club's. I interrupted the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, to point out that his amendment would have prevented the use of the rescue dog, which inherently must be off the lead. But the Bill as it stands would also prevent many other dogs being off the lead.
I remember living for a short time on a sheep farm in Scotland where I learnt a great deal about collies. My friend had one collie which he could tell to move ewes from one field to another without him having to leave the kitchen. Dogs are invaluable to shepherds but I wonder how they will manage if their collies have to be on leads, as proposed in the Bill.
Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will reciprocate by giving way. This regulation applies only to those who exercise the right of access under the Bill. A shepherd who looks after his sheep does not come onto the land pursuant to the Bill but as of right as owner or occupier of the land. Nothing in this Bill affects anything that can be done at the moment; it relates only to those who exercise their right under the legislation.
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, if the noble Viscount is correct I am greatly relieved. Looking at the text of the Bill, I believe that there is doubt about it, although I am not a lawyer. I hate to think that a shepherd must manage without a collie. That is not the only problem which will arise. If people want to exercise their right of access and prepare for shooting grouse on 12th August they will have only 11 days during which their dogs can be free. If they are the owners of the land and the noble Viscount is correct, there is no problem. However, if visitors exercise their right of access it may be that, when we come to the election campaign, the Government will be accused of attacking shooting by the back door.
Another activity which would be threatened is hound trailing. My noble friend Lord Bragg knows a great deal about it and may wish to assist the House with the benefit of his considerable experience in that field. It is reasonable to require that dogs are properly controlled, but I hate to think that in all the criticism about dogs there is inadequate awareness of what happens in areas under the aegis of the Kennel Club. I note that my noble friend Lord Hoyle has entered the House; I did not invite him to do so. I suddenly realised that his two dogs had received the Kennel Club's Good Citizen Award because of the splendid control and training which he devoted to them.
At Cruft's, which is still the top dog show in the world, one sees the most astonishing achievements in the field of training, obedience and work. That activity is developing very rapidly. My noble friend Lord Whitty referred to the large number of dog owners. Increasing numbers are being drawn into the network of training, working trials and all the rest of it. It is a much larger activity than it was, say, five or six years ago; and certainly it has been the subject of tremendous development over the past 20 years. The large number of people involved in Kennel Club activities throughout the country need encouragement and commendation so that there are far fewer irresponsible dog owners and badly behaved dogs.
Those who live in access areas are placed in particular difficulty. For example, tonight we have agreed that there should be a 20-metre protected area around each dwelling in access land in order that people can be exempt from the obligations of the Bill. That is not a long distance for the purposes of training dogs. When one trains dogs sometimes they must be let off the lead. If a dog is to learn to come to its owner or to stay it must be allowed off the lead for that purpose. It is essential that those who live on access land, or areas adjoining it, are not placed in a position where for a very large part of the year they are unable to take their dogs off the lead. That will not help the dog's conduct or training.
In order to present the country with a balanced and sensible measure I commend this amendment to the House. It enables a farmer or landowner to give permission to his neighbours to exercise and train their dogs on his land. He knows whether they are capable of handling the dogs properly. That will not interfere with proper recreation, whether it be hound trailing, sheep dog trials, hound shows, village exemption dog shows and all the rest of it. Those activities can continue without much harm and provide reassurance and encouragement for those who wish their dogs to behave properly. I beg to move.
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