§ Moved, That the Bill be now considered on Report.—(Lord Strabolgi.)
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, there is an unusual variety of Scottish subjects before us today, with the Aberdeen shoemakers that we have just dealt with, legal aid and the miscellaneous menu of subjects in the Local Government Bill to come, including the Scottish Ombudsman and the change of the day of the week for local elections. I can assure the House that I personally do not intend to spend more than a short time this afternoon on the total of all these subjects. However, as I am sure your Lordships will agree when you hear what it is about, this Bill should not pass without some assurance from the Government.
The Bill is entitled the City of Glasgow District Council Order Confirmation Bill, and there is no clue in that title as to the subject, but I can tell your Lordships that in fact it is entirely concerned with the capture and killing of dogs and nothing else. I accept the need for control and for a system of rounding up and disposing 760 of stray dogs, which can be a nuisance in a city. Action of a similar kind is being taken in other cities and towns, but that is all the more reason why we should question the Government about how it is being done. I gave notice before today to both the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and to the Scottish Office that I would raise two points.
The first is that it is not clear whether enough is to be done to determine whether a dog is a genuine stray, as distinct from being lost and being sought by its owner, and only a little time is given in which this can be sorted out. Secondly, it is not clear what are to be the conditions in which dogs are to be kept and fed by the police during the period when they are held, which is likely to be at least two weeks although the owners are only given seven days in which to claim them. Both these points may well give rise to resentment and distress among the public if they are not reassured. A lost dog may well be a family pet or a companion to a single person, who may possibly be disabled or partially blind. Under the Bill the responsibility is placed on the police, and under Scottish procedure for this kind of legislation the Government at this stage sponsor this provisional order in a Public Bill—this one.
It is therefore appropriate now to ask the Government whether they are satisfied that there will be little risk of dogs other than genuine strays being killed before their owners can trace and claim them. Have the police instructions and facilities for looking after these animals and feeding them properly during the period when they are holding them before disposal? For example, have the RSPCA been consulted, and are they content? The police are very good at looking after their own dogs, but that is a specialist occupation and they have handlers to do it. Are they ready to take on this new task?
There is a welcome provision that these dogs cannot be used for vivisection; that is written into this order. There is also a sub-paragraph saying that they shall be killed with as little pain as possible. But there is nothing else in these proposals before us about conditions of retention, and we would be reassured if the Government would give us the benefit of their views before this Bill leaves us.
§ Lord SOMERS
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord to confirm in his answer that it is compulsory for the dogs to receive humane slaughter?
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ Lord STRABOLGI
My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for what they have said and for the interest they have taken in this Bill. Perhaps I may deal first with the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell. The principal safeguard against genuine pets being destroyed by accident lies in the requirement that all dogs seized must be kept for at least seven days, and if the owner is known or an address is inscribed on the collar the owner must be notified and the dog kept thereafter for at least ten days. The main difficulty at present is caused by the fact that only the police have power to round up stray dogs, and they seldom have time to perform this function effectively. The order empowers the district council to appoint dog wardens, among whose functions would be giving advice to the public about keeping dogs and ensuring as far as possible that dogs are licensed and that the address of the owner is inscribed on the collar. If this is done, and if the owner of a dog notices that it is missing and takes the trouble to inquire from the district council, then the provisions of the Bill will ensure that no dog which is wanted by its owner will inadvertently be destroyed.
With regard to the second question raised by the noble Lord—and I am grateful to him for giving me notice of his questions—100 spare places exist at the RSPCA kennels in Cardonald. This should be sufficient, but overspill places are available also in RSPCA homes at Bothwell, Cumbernauld and Milton.
The noble Lord, Lord Somers, asked me whether it was laid down in the Bill that the dog is to be destroyed painlessly. This is so, and perhaps I may direct the noble Lord's attention to Clause 3 (4), which makes quite plain that the council must cause the dog to be destroyed with as little pain as possible.
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, with leave, may I thank the noble Lord for his reply and say that the fact that he has announced that the RSPCA will be making places available for looking 762 after these dogs will be a great reassurance? There is nothing in the Bill to indicate this.
§ On Question, Bill considered on Report.