A crackdown on dangerous dogs in Wales could be ditched in the face of opposition from the UK Government, campaigners have warned.
Fears that the proposed Control of Dogs (Wales) Bill could be shelved have escalated since it emerged the UK Government believed it could be beyond the Assembly’s powers.
The Welsh Government had planned to introduce the Bill for “dog control notices” (DCNs).
A consultation on the Bill ended on March 1, with responses currently being examined by the Natural Resources and Food Minister Alun Davies.
The law could see owners banned from owning dogs if they fail to keep their dogs under control or comply with proposed DCNs and would extend scope for prosecution and redress to cover attacks on private property, as well as public places.
But the UK Government has suggested that the Welsh law – which would amend the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) to incorporate Wales – could be beyond the Assembly’s powers.
It is pressing the Welsh Government to rely instead on a draft antisocial behaviour Bill that would apply to England and Wales.
Campaigners say that Bill is too wide-ranging and doesn’t have adequate focus on dog welfare, training or dog-specific control measures that are contained in the Welsh Bill.
Cardiff Llandaff North councillor Dilwar Ali has campaigned for a dangerous dogs law in Wales since his son Erfan was mauled by a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog in 2011.
Erfan was permanently scarred at the age of six when the dog leapt over the garden fence at his Gabalfa home in Cardiff as he was helping his mother bring in the washing.
The youngster needed more than 100 stitches.
Neighbour Kevin Large, the dog’s owner, was jailed for four months after admitting a charge under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
The court was told it was not the first time the dog had got into the Ali family’s garden.
Accompanied by supporters and representatives of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) – which represents postal workers – Mr Ali presented a 1,119-signature petition to Petitions Committee chair William Powell on Tuesday, calling on the Welsh Government to move ahead with its own Bill.
“For the last three weeks I’ve been really worried because the Bill is not going as planned,” he said.
“There’s a concern over whether the Bill should be implemented in Wales or England.”
He added: “My son is physically and mentally scarred. He worries, even when he sees a cat, he cries.
“To have a normal life will take years and years. He has had to have ongoing operations as well.
“As a family it is really horrifying that another family could go through the same. We need this law urgently.”
Julie Morgan, AM for Cardiff North, said the question over whether Wales has the competence to introduce the Bill was “frustrating” at such an advanced stage.
“The point about the Welsh Bill is that there are dog-specific powers there, whereas the Westminster Bill is an antisocial behaviour Bill, which is much wider,” she said.
“It’s a general antisocial behaviour Bill. What could be built into legislation later, we don’t know, but we think it would be much better to have a Bill in Wales.”
But she conceded that even if the Welsh Government proceeded, there could be repercussions further down the legislative process if the UK Government wanted it referred to the Supreme Court for adjudication.
She added: “It’s more frustrating for people that have been victims of it and have worked so hard to get this Bill on the agenda. We’re at a bit of a hiatus at the moment.”
Dave Joyce, National Health, Safety and Environment Officer at the CWU, said several workers were having fingers bitten off each year.
Mr Joyce said Wales had “got it right” compared to the UK Bill, which was “insufficient” and “flawed” and contained no dog control measures in it.
He said: “We’ve made some great progress in Wales, we want to see that law progressed and we want it introduced.
“We’ve had enough of our people delivering mail, delivering services, doing a good job right across the UK, and every time they step on to private property, they’ve got no protection in law at all.
“It doesn’t matter how severe the attack is, there will be no prosecution.
“That has got to change. It’s absolutely perverse.”
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “Work to analyse responses to our consultation on the draft Control of Dogs bill is still underway.
“The Minister for Natural Resources and Food is expected to make a statement on next steps shortly.”