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Dangerous Dogs Act Breakthrough: RSPCA Back Calls For Immediate End to BSL

January 7, 2009 by Alison Green 

In a landmark event, the UK’s largest animal welfare charity the RSPCA has joined forces with DDAWatch and the Coalition For improved Dog Ownership Standards (C-fidos) to publicly call for an end to the unfair law that results in dogs being deemed ‘dangerous’ as a result of their physical appearance.

For the first time, the UK’s most prominent animal welfare organisation has been prepared to publicly support calls for a repeal of section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) - Section 1 is the part of the legislation which bans dogs based on their breed or type.

Section 1 of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act is a highly controversial and widely criticised clause that promotes breed specific legislation. Many experts, law makers and dog lovers from around the UK and globally have seen the devastation caused by breed specific legislation - which outlaws dogs by ‘type’, meaning a dog is deemed ‘dangerous’ and illegal simply based on what it looks like and not because of any offence caused by the dog. As a result of breed specific legislation (BSL) in the UK, many innocent dogs have lost their lives since the law was brought in by Ken Baker in 1991.

Now the RSPCA has set the wheels in motion for other prominent welfare groups to come out and publicly call on the law makers to end section 1 and replace it with fair, effective dog laws which do not condemn dogs to death based on what the look like. The UK can put itself in a position to follow the example set by the Netherlands in repealing section 1 in favour of a law that will place the burden of responsibility on owners rather than terminating the lives of dogs who are guilty of nothing more than looking a certain way.

The move comes about following a productive and engaging meeting between the RSPCA’s Government Relations Manager, Claire Robinson, DDAWatch and the C- fidos at the end of 2008.

The RSPCA public backing for repeal gives anti BSL campaigners the boost they have been waiting for while sending a clear message to the Government that section 1 of the DDA is a failed, unfair concept that needs to be reformed without delay.

DDAWatch - an anti BSL campaign group - has congratulated the RSPCA on the decision to call for action having been previously disheartened to hear many organisations publicly state anti BSL positions but falling short of actually calling for an immediate repeal of section 1.

Alison Green of DDAWatch:

“We are so thrilled to see the RSPCA step up to the plate on such an important issue that has cost the lives of many innocent dogs. For those people who have been actively involved in fighting section 1 cases, for those of us who’ve seen dog owner’s lives ripped apart by this appalling law, which has not protected the public at all, this announcement from the RSPCA will hopefully herald the start of many more calls for repeal and eventually the repeal itself. Now owners and anti BSL campaigners alike have some hope to cling to after so many false dawns. Now we have the opportunity of a lifetime to finally get the Government to see sense. They need to listen to the RSPCA and make the right call. Section 1 has been an unmitigated failure and an animal welfare disaster. It is such a relief to hear the RSPCA being brave and honest enough to publicly call for a repeal where other influential and supposedly anti BSL organisations have fallen short, instead citing ‘political climate’ as a reason to keep BSL.”

Ryan O’Meara, chief executive of C-fidos:

“This is truly great news. It seems such a simple thing to do, to publicly support an end to BSL - especially given that the RSPCA and other major animal welfare organisations have publicly stated their position as being anti BSL - but despite the anti BSL positions held by many organisations and individuals we still have BSL and we have it because we still have section 1 of the DDA. The way to end BSL is to end section 1 and replace it. The RSPCA coming in with public support for the position held by C-fidos and DDAWatch gives legitimacy and momentum to campaigners to call on their government to end BSL. It’s no longer a concept, being anti BSL, it’s a real, tangible opportunity to call the government to account over a highly unfair, unpopular and completely unsuccessful law.”



Kathy Wilkinson the Honorary Secretary of the Border Terrier Club poses the questions.

Why did the Kennel Club first introduce the Accredited Breeder Scheme (ABS)?

To reinforce the basic concepts of responsible breeding practice for novice breeders and puppy buyers as tried and tested by experienced breeders over many years. In so doing, to promote relevant health screening across all relevant breeds and to provide greater substance to the perceived value of a Kennel Club Registration Certificate in the eyes of the general public.

A number of people already look after the welfare of their puppies and their prospective owners and feel they do not need to join such a scheme as they are already “good” breeders. Why should they consider joining the scheme?

One of the messages that will hopefully emerge during this Q&A is the central importance of this scheme to the future of dog breeding in this country and the way that is perceived in the outside world, which actually represents the vast majority of people in the UK. We have enjoyed self-regulation for quite some time and if this is to continue, the rest of the world has to be convinced that we deserve that right. Increasing membership of the ABS and the inclusion of those experienced and well-established breeders who currently see no advantage in joining, will greatly strengthen the case for continued self-regulation. Furthermore, if more such people joined the scheme the criticism that it represents the less experienced side of the dog scene would be severely undermined.

Is the perceived threat of intervention in breeding by government-led legislation a real worry? How is your thinking here influenced by actions taken by other governments, which have attempted to introduce measures to curtail dog breeding and bring legislation in to force regarding the sale of companion dogs?

Yes and this is really not based entirely on what other governments are doing, but what they are doing paints a very sad picture. The Kennel Club’s concern regarding the threat of government-led intervention in the UK comes from extensive discussions with DEFRA and UK Government officials. Often ministers will quote the ABS in parliamentary responses to questions relating to dog breeding.

Do you anticipate that these measures and this type of legislation may spread to the UK if we do not do anything? In essence, what are the likely prospects for dog breeders if we do nothing?

If we cannot show that we are capable of responsible self-regulation, in a way that will satisfy our doubters, then government will intervene and regulate for us. If anyone doubts that this will happen and the consequences, then they should read the recent Companion Animal Welfare Council (CAWC) 2006 report ( 0870 606 6750 ext 285

In breeds where health issues deem it necessary for tests to be carried out before breeding takes place, such as eye tests, hip scoring etc, does the Kennel Club indicate that these tests should be done on all stock before breeding, if the breeder is an Accredited Breeder (AB)? At present, what is the situation concerning those tests, now or in the future, may results of tests be taken in to account before that litter can be registered under the Accredited Breeder Scheme?

The intention of the Scheme is that Accredited Breeders ideally use all of the health screening schemes, both ‘required’ and ‘recommended’ for their particular breed on all breeding stock. Checks on ‘required’ testing, however, only become feasible and are done on sire and dam at the time an AB registers a litter. These ‘required’ Schemes represent those official schemes where the KC can independently check for breeder compliance. In addition, some breeds have ‘recommended’ health checks, which usually represent breed schemes that the KC cannot independently check. They are 'recommended’ in order to raise the profile of the schemes in the breeders’ and the puppy buyers’ eyes. In the early days of the ABS, we adopted a degree of flexibility in this regard, particularly with the dogs that the AB didn’t own, usually the stud dogs. However, as the Scheme has become established, we are becoming tighter on this particular requirement of the scheme. Scheme development is ongoing and all breed clubs are invited to participate actively. Clubs could request, for example, that particular health tests be added to 'requirements’ or ‘recommendations’ for their breed. At present, the requirements are simply to  the health screening programmes so that information is available to breeders and puppy buyers; it is felt that in the future, the scheme may evolve to be able actually to impose some restrictions on the outcome of such tests. For example, those health screens that involve DNA testing for the presence or absence of a disease-causing allele. Some time in the future we could consider imposing a requirement that states that not only should both parents be DNA tested, but also that one should have a ‘normal’ result. Decisions to control registrations in this way would not, of course, be taken lightly. It may be that in the future, some breeds will choose to limit the acceptable hip score for breeding stock. Other breeds will no doubt choose not to do this. One of the advantages of the way that the ABS is designed is that certain requirements can be breed-specific. We actively encourage breed clubs and councils to work with us on tailoring the scheme to best suit their breed.

What is the present situation regarding DNA profiling, or other means of identifying dogs,

such as microchipping and tattooing, if their progeny is to be registered under this


The initial intention of the scheme was to make DNA profiling of  a litter under the scheme. We have yet to implement this because the take up of DNA profiling has still some way to go. So, at the moment parents have to be identified by either microchipping, tattooing or DNA profiling.

The Kennel Club charges a nominal fee to join the scheme and also an amount for the

purchase of puppy packs. Please outline the current costs to breeders in purely monetary

terms and outline any benefits included in the scheme.

both parents mandatory for the registration of

At present it costs £15.00 to join the scheme and, on acceptance, the member receives 10 free Puppy Sales Wallets (PSW), a certificate of membership and is entitled to use the scheme name and logo in certain agreed circumstances. We think that it is fair to say that Accredited Breeders enjoy a high level of support from The Kennel Club, particularly from the Health & Information Department who are on hand to help with various issues when these arise. Annual renewals cost £10.00. Members can defer renewal i.e. lapse their membership, if they think, for example, that they will not breed in a particular year, and can renew later, still at a cost of £10.00. One of the monetary advantages to scheme membership is free access to the Kennel Club’s Puppy Sales Register (PSR). Puppy Sales Wallets are smart scheme folders that are specifically designed to hold the written information and Registration Certificate that Accredited Breeeders are required to pass to each puppy buyer. The wallets each contain a feedback form that new owners complete and return to the Kennel Club. This is another very effective way of monitoring breeder compliance with the scheme requirements. But undoubtedly the main benefit of the scheme to breeders will eventually be acceptance of it by the puppy buying public, rather than some form of imposition of regulations by Government or by local authorities who know little or nothing about the practical aspects of dog breeding.

Some consider this to be a “money-making” scheme for the Kennel Club. Does the administration of the scheme actually cost the Kennel Club more money than it collects from those Accredited Breeders and if so, how are the costs estimated and what is involved?

We can’t really understand how people could possibly imagine that this scheme makes money for the Kennel Club! The joining fee is £15.00, but on joining the member receives Puppy Sales Wallets in a welcome pack, which all costs around £10.00 each to produce and post. So, approximately £5.00 of the initial fee is left to pay for all of the administration surrounding the scheme. Start-up costs aside, the efficient running and development of the scheme currently demands two fulltime members of staff, one part-time Accredited Breeder Advisor, a significant proportion of two senior staff members’ time not to mention a proportion of the KC Accounts Office time. Then there are the promotional, marketing and printing costs, which, from time to time, will be considerable as well as the cost of steadily reducing income from the Kennel Club Puppy Sales Register due to free inclusion of litters that are bred by Accredited Breeders. Where could people get the idea that there’s a profit in this for the Kennel Club?

Why have you allowed people to join the scheme who have not yet bred a litter of puppies? How can the scheme assist those people, the puppies they may breed and the public who may buy the puppies?

It is certainly true that some of the early members of the scheme had little, if any experience. Their memberships were accepted, and still are, because it was felt that the scheme would give them some very useful guidance  towards becoming responsible breeders and indeed guide members of the public who might consider buying from these breeders to ask the pertinent questions. In any event, we believe that the proportion of such inexperienced breeders on the ABS is steadily being reduced as more experienced breeders realise that, if the public are to be given the greatest opportunity of buying from a responsible breeder, then they need to support the Kennel Club in this sincere venture and stand on their breed’s ‘platform’ along with all other breeders who have declared that they will follow good practice as a minimum. Experienced breeders can of course use the basic scheme definitions to demonstrate just how much more than the basics they do and the recently introduced Accolades are proving effective in highlighting breeders with more knowledge and involvement.

Talking of the three Accolades you have introduced for members of the scheme - one of those is that the breeder has bred 5 or more litters. Some people are worried that this is encouraging people to breed. What was the thinking behind the inclusion of this Accolade? Please describe the reasoning behind the introduction of the other two accolades.

All three Accolades were introduced following specific criticism of the scheme by breed clubs and breeders that here was no way of distinguishing experienced Accredited Breeders from those without much knowledge. The ‘five or more litters’ Accolade was introduced to try to differentiate the experience of scheme members in the light of criticism based on the substance of your previous question. We were anxious to give clarity to the quantity of experience that an Accredited Breeder had and provide the puppy buyer with immediate visibility. Of course, we could have stated simply the number of years experience that a breeder has had, however someon e who had bred perhaps two litters say ten years apart could then claim to have ten years experience which may not necessarily give them in depth experience. We felt that five litters was a reasonable number and would usually ensure that someone would have a good understanding of what is required. The ‘breed club membership’ accolade and the ‘stud book entries’ accolade were introduced following criticism from breed clubs that the membership did not reflect commitment to the breed and to the production of ‘quality’ stock, ‘quality’ being measured by progeny performance In the show ring or in trials. Importantly, all three accolades also had to be considered in the light of whether or not we could actually verify a breeder’s claim to be assigned one or more of them. The notion that anyone would go to the trouble of breeding five litters just to be able to attain membership of the ABS, is not one we would readily agree with.

Some people are concerned about the title ‘Accredited’ and feel it may mislead members of the public into thinking that the Kennel Club has assessed each breeder and their premises and that the breeder then being accepted on to the list means that they are ‘recommended’ by the Kennel Club. Would you consider changing the name of the scheme, so that the general public would be better informed as to the manner in which breeders attain listing?

We debated long and hard about a name for this scheme and the Accredited Breeder Scheme was finally accepted. One of the definitions of the verb ‘to accredit’ is “to certify as meeting official requirements” (Chambers Dictionary), which is exactly what the scheme is, members are agreeing to abide by a set of requirements which we feel form the basis for responsible breeding practices. The Kennel Club tries to make scheme requirements clear and easily accessible to all, on promotional material as well as the website so that noone should be under any misconception as to what it actually means to be an Accredited Breeder. We are continually aiming to improve the scheme in any sense, and are therefore always open to suggestions.

At present you have one Accredited Breeder Advisor for the whole of the scheme. Please describe the duties and advise if you would consider adding to the number of Accredited Breeder Advisors in the future, say as the number of breeders joining the scheme increases?

At present, the Accredited Breeder Advisor is contractedto undertake approximately 50 visits per year, bothrandomly and also where there may be cause for concern.This involves visiting establishments, discussing the outcome of the visit with the members and preparing areport of the visit, with appropriate recommendations.Occasionally the Accredited Breeder Advisor is able to provide tips or advice which have been very willingly received even by those with many years of experience! In addition, the Accredited Breeder Advisor is collecting and preparing examples of good practice and novel ideas that will form the basis of a document that will be made available to all scheme members. Hopefully as the scheme grows, it will be possible, and  indeed even necessary, to appoint further Accredited Breeder Advisors so that we can work towards that ultimate goal of having visited every single Accredited Breeder’s premises.

Some people see the details of Accredited Breeders and the numbers bred by them and feel that they have joined the scheme purely to aid their puppy sales. Others feel that if 

Absolutely, we believe that the government will need to see that a healthy majority of breeders, irrespective of how regularly they breed litters, have signed up to the scheme in due course. While many breeders have been doing far more than the basics required by the Accredited Breeder Scheme, until now, there has not been a formal way of recognising and showing this officially to the outside world.

enough  people joined who could tick all 3 boxes of accolades, that this would ensure that the scheme was a more fair representation of the breeders in the UK who already care about their puppies and their welfare. Would you consider it essential that more people join the scheme, including those breeders who belong to breed clubs, so that any government sees that the majority are willing to self-regulate?

If you had to list three benefits to dogs, their breeders and buyers, which come from having such a scheme being universally accepted and used by the majority of breeders, what would that list include?

The ABS provides a platform from which Accredited Breeders may legitimately be promoted by the Kennel Club to the general public, and to other breeders. Importantly, it will also provide valuable guidance to new puppy buyers and increase their chances of purchasing a puppy that will live a long, happy and healthy life and give the best possible dog owning experience.

Are there any other significant points you would like to make about the scheme?

Joining the Accredited Breeder Scheme is a simple process and really any breeder or prospective breeder can apply. Remaining on the scheme is altogether more challenging and only those breeders who comply with the requirements and operate within the ‘spirit’ of the scheme will endure. Active policing, Accredited Breeder Advisor visits and puppy buyers’ feedback will help to weed out irresponsible breeders and, in time, the Accredited Breeder Scheme will become an essential banner for any reputable breeder.