News Date: Monday 15th March 2010

Gordon Brown's "dog tax" to penalise up to 5,490 homes across Adur

Labour Government plan to force all dog owners to pay compulsory levy

Tim Loughton MP for East Worthing and Shoreham expressed hisconcern at plans by Gordon Brown’s Government to force all families acrossAdur to pay a compulsory levy to own a dog. This would apply to all dogs - including poodles and chihuahuas.

  • The Government has announced a consultation which includes proposals to compel all dog owners to pay for compulsory third party insurance to be allowed to own their own dog. Families would face “penalties” - fines or criminal sanctions – for breaching this requirement. ·          In practice, this ‘dog tax’ would not affect the owners of the most dangerous dogs as the Dangerous Dogs Act already bans the ownership and sale of fighting dogs like pit bull terriers. It is possible for dogs to be exempted from the ban, but owners must have their dogs neutered, muzzled and obtain third party insurance. Owners of dangerous dogs which are already illegal are unlikely to take out such insurance as they will just continue to defy the law.
  • There are an estimated 5.4 million households with dogs across England and Wales, including up to 5,490 homes across Adur who would be required to pay a compulsory dog tax. Although some homes may already have pet insurance, the poorest homes will be hit the hardest by the new levy. The Government has admitted that this dog tax may result in more stray dogs and greater pressures on dog rescue centres.

Tim said:

"As always, Gordon Brown sees tax as the solution to every problem. His plans for a dog tax will penalise up to 5,490 law-abiding dog lovers across Adur and do nothing to target irresponsible dog owners. I fear this will hit the poorest homes the hardest. "We need tougher laws against the growing problem of dangerous dogs being used in acts of violence. But it is a sledgehammer to crack a nut to impose a dog tax on a poodle. Five more years of Gordon Brown will just make things worse for struggling families in Adur."


Notes to Editors


Labour’s dog tax will hit all dog owners. Labour Ministers have put forward plans which could mean that all dog owners in England and Wales will face “a requirement that all dogs are covered by third-party insurance.” They admit: “There will be a financial impact on dog owners, but there will also be an impact on dog rescues. Would those kennelling dogs, such as rescue centres or breeders need to have third party insurance until such time as a dog has a permanent owner? Would dog rescues have to take in more dogs because owners were reluctant to obtain insurance?” and “There would need to be penalties for those who fail to insure their dogs” (p.21).


DEFRA, Public Consultation on Dangerous Dogs, 9 March 2010, p.20.


Owners of dangerous dogs will not be hit. Existing dangerous dog legislation bans ownership, breeding, sale and exchange and advertising for sale of specified types of fighting dog, such as pit bull terriers. Under the Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Act 1997, it is possible for these dogs to be exempted, and avoid destruction, but only at the direction of the court and if conditions are met: exempted dogs have to be neutered, tattooed, micro-chipped, be on a lead and muzzled when in a public place, and maintain insurance against their dogs injuring third parties. This means that under Labour’s dog tax, Chihuahua and poodle owners could have to take out insurance in case their dog bites someone, but it will make no difference to the owners of the most dangerous dogs, as they will have insurance anyway. Dogs covered by the ban that do not have an exemption are already breaking the law and their owners are highly unlikely to take out any insurance. These proposals fail Labour’s own test. In 2008, Labour Minister Jonathan Shaw said “a key test of any new measure” to tackle the problem of dangerous dogs “is whether it would disproportionately target the vast majority of responsible dog owners” (Hansard, 12 June 2008, col. 497W). Insurers raise concerns over Labour’s dog tax. The Association of British Insurers has said: “While we understand the desire to reduce the number of attacks by dogs, making insurance compulsory for all dog owners is much more difficult than it looks. There is currently no stand-alone third-party insurance cover for the owners of dangerous dogs, and no desire by insurers to provide cover against this very high risk. Making it compulsory for pet owners would still not make it compulsory for insurers to offer the cover.While pet insurance policies will usually include third-party liability cover for dog owners, this would not cover dangerous dogs as defined under the Dangerous Dogs Act, and other specified breeds. Even if third-party insurance was available, how would such a system be enforced, especially as many of the owners of dangerous dogs would be unlikely to take out insurance, even if it was compulsory” (BBC News Online, 9 March 2010). The Association of British Insurers has estimated that 23 per cent of homes are currently insured with pet insurance; other owners may be covered by household insurance. Labour have failed to tackle dangerous dogs. There are 100 cases of people being sent to hospital because of dog attacks every week. There were 5,221 cases last year, up from 3,079 in 1997-98 (Hansard, 8 February 2010, col. 703W). Conservative Approach: Conservatives are reviewing the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to see how it can be made more effective, and have been working with organisations such as the RSPCA, the Dogs Trust and the Kennel Club. There needs to be greater emphasis on individual owner responsibility and ‘deed not breed’, to tackle the rise in the use of dogs as weapons. We support extending dangerous dogs law to cover all places including private property, so that postal workers for example, can be protected from dangerous dogs, and we support giving police and councils more powers to tackle the problem of dangerous dogs by the introduction of Dog Control Notices. Micro-chipping pets is part of responsible ownership and we encourage greater use of micro-chipping so that pets can be traced to a legally accountable owner and to assist with cases of stolen, abandoned and stray animals.


The table below estimates the number of homes who could be affected by Gordon Brown’s compulsory new dog tax, by government region.
Homes affected by Labour's compulsory new dog tax
All households
% households with dogs
Estimated no. of households with dogs
East of England
East Midlands
North East
North West
South East
South West
West Midlands
Yorkshire and the Humber
Total England and Wales
Data sources:

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