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Council dog powers appeal issued

All local authorities have been urged to take action against out-of-control dogs amid figures showing wide regional disparities in investigations and use of dog control notices.

Investigations into out-of-control dogs have almost doubled throughout Scotland in the space of a year, council figures show.

There were 2,080 local authority investigations in 2012/13 compared to 1,114 the year before, according to figures obtained by the Conservatives.

The number of dog control notices increased from 92 to 147 in that period.

The most investigations took place in Aberdeen (317), followed by West Lothian (214) and Aberdeenshire (198). Other local authorities, such as East Renfrewshire and Inverclyde, had very few investigations.

Community safety minister Roseanna Cunningham said some councils are not using their powers while the Conservatives say it is "worrying that some councils appear to be treating this as a priority while others are paying hardly any attention to the matter".

First Minister Alex Salmond has taken a keen interest in the effectiveness of dog controls.

He met the parents of eight-year-old dog attack victim Broagan McCuiag and other families last month, has launched a dog control consultation and summit, and made a rare appearance at a Labour-led member's debate on dog controls earlier this month.

Proposals for compulsory microchipping of dogs and the reintroduction of licensing with restrictions on ownership have also found favour with Ms Cunningham, who was bitten on the face by a dachshund as a child.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "These figures, which we published in our recent responsible dog ownership consultation, show some local authorities are making good use of their new powers to investigate out-of-control dogs to help keep their communities safe.

"By investigating reports and speaking to and warning owners, this can help ensure responsible dog owners keep their dogs under control.

"Some local authorities though, as highlighted by minister for community Roseanna Cunningham last week in Parliament, are not using their powers and our forthcoming summit will bring together local authorities so best practice can be shared between the best and the worst."

Conservative MSP Nanette Milne said: "Last year was a particularly bad one for dog attacks in Scotland, with a number of high-profile cases right across the country.

"The fact these investigations have increased shows you just how concerned the public is about this serious issue.

"However, it is worrying that some councils appear to be treating this as a priority while others are paying hardly any attention to the matter.

"I'm glad the Scottish Government is taking some action on this by way of a summit.

"But what we really need to do is target these puppy farms where dangerous dogs are being illegally bred and given no kind of controlled upbringing whatsoever.

"The breeding and control of dogs in socially-rented properties also has to be addressed by local authorities as a matter of urgency."

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