County veterinary officer critical of “grey area” on dog control

Westmeath's county veterinary officer says the law is "too grey" when it comes to dog control, after councillors complained about certain dogs posing a threat to public safety.

Seán O'Laoide says that the "effectual control" of dogs required under legislation is open to interpretation. There is no requirement for dogs to be on a lead, except for certain restricted breeds, and an owner could argue that their dog is under control if he or she comes when they are called.

"The law is too grey - dogs only have to be under effectual control. If a dog runs out the gate and the owner can call him back, that's effectual control," he said.

Cllr Aidan Davitt also expressed serious concerns about the "macho culture" surrounding certain breeds of dogs.

"There is not enough enforcement; there are horrific attacks on a daily basis. Dangerous breeds have to wear a collar with their owner's name and address and be registered and muzzled, but there is a total disregard for the rules and the fines are not appropriate. A €100 on-the-spot fine is not strong enough," he argued.

However Mr O'Laoide said the problem is with owners rather than the dogs.

"For example, the Staffordshire bull terrier is the most popular pet in Austria but here it is classed as a dangerous breed; whereas huskies are not on the restricted breed list here. The issue is that certain types of dogs are in the wrong hands."

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