Report 8 of the 12 May 2011 meeting of the Strategic and Operational Policing Committee, with an update on the situation regarding dangerous dogs.
Warning: This is archived material and may be out of date. The Metropolitan Police Authority has been replaced by the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC).
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Update on dangerous dogs
Date: 12 May 2011
By: Assistant Commissioner Central Operations on behalf of the Commissioner
This is an update to the report submitted to the Strategic and Operational Policing Committee on 16 September 2010.
This report gives an outline of the work of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Status Dog Unit (SDU) since the start of the current financial year and the broader situation in London regarding dangerous dogs.
That Members note the action being taken by the MPS.
B. Supporting information
Since the previous Strategic and Operational Policing Committee in September 2010 the SDU have continued to seize dogs and assist investigations at a similar level to the previous period. The number of dogs seized each month has remained broadly consistent and the emphasis of the unit has been concentrated on speeding up the removal of dogs from MPS kennels. Coupled with work to reduce kennel contract costs these measures have had a positive effect on reducing the MPS costs associated with tackling dangerous dogs in London.
Statistics 1st April 2010 to 28th February 2011
- 971 dogs seized by the MPS
- 1179 dogs out of MPS kennels
- Kennelling spend £2.58m to 28/02/11 (incl. all veterinary, transport and Court costs), £2.75m to 31/03/11
- 2278 spontaneous calls responded to by Dog Support Unit (DSU) officers
- 231 premises entered under warrant by borough and SDU officers where prohibited dogs were believed to be present
- 727 pre-planned operations to deal with dangerous dogs by DSU officers (this includes all other warrants where prohibited dogs or otherwise are on premises and present a danger)
- 429 prosecutions commenced (44% of seizures)
- 155 prohibited dogs returned to owners under the provisions of the Dangerous Dogs Act (a Court process that permits the return of certain dogs to responsible owners subject to strict conditions)
- SDU and DSU officers policed a number of large public order events and festivals such as Notting Hill Carnival, Lovebox, Carnival del Pueblo. There has been a noticeable decrease in the number of dogs being brought to such events.
MPS work on status dogs
Status Dog Unit
1. SDU priorities over this period have been concentrated upon maintaining the level of support to MPS colleagues, seizing and dealing with dogs quickly and efficiently and processing dogs out of our kennels at the earliest opportunity.
2. The numbers of dogs seized has remained relatively constant throughout the year at about 100 per month. Of those dogs seized approximately 80% are prohibited by Law.
3. Through internal organisation it has been possible to reduce the numbers of dogs kennelled by the MPS daily from its highest figure of 483 in March 2010 to 298 in February 2011.It is unlikely however that daily dog numbers can be kept at that level because as summer approaches there tends to be more seizures and as more cases are being prosecuted it follows that the dogs will need to be kept longer. As of 17th March 2011 there were 311 dogs in kennels and this number changes daily.
4. SDU officers are committed to working with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home (BDH) to encourage local boroughs to take responsibility for local issues and look to develop strategies that promote responsible dog ownership through a variety of means.
5. That work continues to be progressed in the following boroughs:
- Waltham Forest
- Tower Hamlets
6. Over this period it has become apparent that there are a number of other boroughs where irresponsible dog ownership is a significant issue and together with partners similar work is being considered in those areas.
7. Having reduced the daily dog numbers to a more manageable level the opportunity now exists to develop more proactive approaches to the problem such as intelligence led operations to target the more significant issues.
8. In each of the MPS boroughs highlighted above there is an identified police officer who acts as a single point of contact for related issues. In each area there is partnership activity involving local authorities and other agencies, based upon local needs, aimed at addressing problems associated with dangerous dogs and irresponsible dog ownership.
9. A number of initiatives are being progressed that are intended to improve local issues such as local information sharing, joint patrols, education, prevention, the introduction of tenancy agreements and other enforcement provisions. MPS borough and SDU officers have been involved in highlighting good practice for the benefit of other stakeholders, such as at the Greater London Authority (GLA) Community Safety Unit dangerous dog seminars.
10. Whilst the MPS focus upon the enforcement issues this work in isolation will not result in long term success. This will only be achieved where local authorities and criminal justice partners are fully engaged and play their part.
Seizure of dogs by boroughs 1st April 2010 to 28th February 2011
11. Appendix 1 outlines the reasons for dog seizures by London boroughs, 1 April 2010 to 28 February 2011. The appendix shows that approximately 80% of those dogs seized by the MPS are prohibited by law.
12. S.1 Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) dogs are prohibited by law.
13. S.3 DDA dogs are any type or breed that is dangerously out of control and may have caused injury to any person.
Work done to streamline processes and to reduce the length of time dogs are kennelled
14. A significant amount of work has been done by SDU officers to streamline MPS processes and reduce delays to the minimum where possible. It still remains the case that when prosecutions are commenced they can take a lengthy period of time to conclude. The MPS presently have 20 dogs that have been kenneled for more than 500 days, 14 of which have been kenneled for more than 700 days awaiting final conclusion. In a number of cases adjournments between court dates appear excessive so letters are written pointing out the costs to the MPS and associated welfare considerations. Sometimes these have a positive effect in bringing forward court proceedings.
15. The average length of stay for all dogs going out of kennels for the financial year 2009 - 2010 was 111 days. That number has increased to 117 days for all dogs leaving kennels since the start of the present financial year (1179 dogs). The average length of stay for dogs seized since the start of the financial year and released is 51 days (722 dogs). The average length of stay this financial year for all dogs dealt with via s.4b DDA 46 days (155 dogs).
16. The following initiatives are presently being progressed by SDU officers:
- A joint CPS / MPS protocol aimed at identifying decision makers and streamlining processes to improve effectiveness.
- Submission of the MPS response on dangerous dogs to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and subsequent meetings looking at practical changes that would improve enforcement capability and be positive in terms of animal welfare.
- Project work with a legal representative from Her Majesty’s Courts Service (HMCS) examining a number of sample cases from a variety of Courts, looking to identify common themes and suggesting ways to expedite cases.
17. The numbers of dogs kennelled by the MPS may fluctuate as so many factors directly influence the volume of work.
Work done to reduce costs
18. The SDU have undertaken the following work to improve management of the budget associated with dangerous dogs.
- Publication of new Standard Operating Procedures.
- Introduction of the use of the Crime Reporting and Information System (CRIS) to record all Dangerous Dog Act offences.
- Overhaul of working practices of the SDU.
- July 2010 - proposed and adopted standard pricing structure for veterinary work to achieve consistency and better value.
- February 2011 - renegotiation of daily kennelling charges with contracted kennels.
- SDU Dog Liaison Officers (DLD) trained to microchip all seized dogs.
Reported injuries to Londoners
19. Appendix 2 outlines the details of allegations of injuries caused by dogs in London boroughs, 1 March 2010 - 28 February 2011.
20. In relation to dangerous dogs the criminal allegations that are currently recorded on the MPS CRIS system are:
- Allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place and injuring any person.
- Allowing a dog to enter a non-public place and injuring any person.
21. The number of recorded offences is similar to the previous period reported (1072 offences June 2009 to May 2010 against 1046 March 2010 to February 2011). Predictably there are significantly more offences during the months April - September each year.
22. The statistics indicate that the vast majority of injuries are of a minor nature and are sustained by white - northern European adult males. This dataset gives no indication of anti social behaviour or animal welfare issues related to the ownership or possession of dogs in London. Further it gives no details about the type or breed of dogs involved.
23. From 1 April 2011 all DDA offences will be recorded on CRIS. This will enable more detailed information to be gathered and analysed about offenders and victims.
Other organisational and community implications
Equality and Diversity Impact
1. Previously the MPS did not undertake equality monitoring of offenders as most Dangerous Dogs Act offences are neither reportable nor recordable. From 1 April 2011 all Dangerous Dogs Act offences will be recorded on CRIS and that will enable collation of details that could better identify any trends of differential impact upon certain groups. At this stage that data is not recorded.
2. In relation to dog bite offences and from the statistics currently recorded/available, adult male white Northern Europeans, feature as the most prevalent victims of dog bites.
Consideration of MET Forward
3. ‘Dogs as weapons’ is a key feature of Met Forward under the heading ‘Met Streets’. There is an opportunity now to take on a more proactive approach against the breeders of such dogs. The work of the SDU directly supports this initiative and links in with other strands too, such as working with Safer Neighbourhood Teams and gang units.
Projected overspend on the dangerous dogs budget
4. The forecast overspend of £300k as reported on 16 September 2010 has been reduced over the year. The full year figure for 2010/11 is an overspend of £109k against a budget of £2.64m. The overall DSU outturn for 2010/11 is a £52k overspends against budget.
5. Changes to the Law or the way that the MPS deal with this situation may result in cost savings. Equally as we approach the London 2012 Olympic Games a more proactive enforcement approach may be required.
6. The present contract, which came into force on 1 June 2010, was based upon the daily requirement to kennel approximately 400 dogs. Within the provisions of the new contract is the requirement that the ‘daily dog rate’ includes a basic veterinary care package. Further to this the contract manager has proposed a pricing structure to the veterinary providers that ensures best value is achieved. Both measures aim to ensure that expenditure on kennelling is as cost effective as possible.
Other costs incurred by the MPS
7. In this period 155 dogs were returned to their owners following a court procedure (not a prosecution) under s.4b DDA. This is a procedure where the court permits the dog in question to be placed upon the Index of Exempted Dogs if satisfied that it does not pose a risk to the public.
8. It is a matter of speed and efficiency that the MPS pay for the costs incurred in these and other cases where dogs are returned under s.4a DDA (conviction at court and dog placed upon the Index of Exempted Dogs). There is no specific provision for the recovery of costs pre-trial. Post trial cost recovery differs between criminal and civil cases. In the former courts could impose reasonable expenses, recoverable by the court only after a Contingent Destruction Order (CDO) is made. In civil proceedings (such as s.4b DDA) there is no such provision and a change to the law would be required to enable this.
9. In any event there is no means for the MPS to enforce payment of costs and no administrative support to ensure that payments are made, received or processed. The process adopted ensures that the dogs concerned are released from kennels at the earliest opportunity thereby saving costs overall.
10. There are no direct legal implications arising from this report.
11. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (as amended), the Dogs Act 1871 and the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 set out the key statutory provisions when dealing with dangerous dog related cases.
12. This report highlights it is imperative for the police service to work together with partners to effectively deal with the issue of dangerous dogs and making London safer. The report also sets out the steps taken by the MPS to ensure the police service remains responsive to any increased incidents in the London area.
Risk (including Health and Safety) Implications
13. There are no additional environmental implications arising from this update report at this time.
14. All agencies face financial difficulties at this time. At present it is not known how this will impact upon day to day activities but it is inevitable that the public will turn to the police for assistance if local services become limited, for example stray dog service provision.
D. Background papers
D. Contact details
Report author: Trevor Hughes, Inspector, MPS
For information contact:
MPA general: 020 7202 0202
Media enquiries: 020 7202 0217/18
Appendix 1: Reasons for dog seizures by London Boroughs between 1 April 2010 and 28 February 2011
|Barking and Dagenham||25|
|Kensington and Chelsea||15|
|Richmond upon Thames||2|
|Total all BOCUs||764|
|Barking and Dagenham||4|
|Kensington and Chelsea||1|
|Richmond upon Thames||3|
|Total all BOCUs||207|
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