The handling of dog aggression according to Norwegian law
MetadataShow full item record
The Norwegian legislation regarding dog keeping is the LOV 2003-07-04 nr 74 (2003), issued by The Ministry of Justice and the Police. The legislation regulates safety aspects related to dogs; Securing of dogs; stray dogs; rights and obligations in emergency situations; precautions regarding problematic dogs including the prohibited breeds; and the requirements for euthanasia, liability and punishment. Previously to 2003, the legal aspects concerning dogs were given according to several different legislations. The current legislation is intended to give the police, the local authorities and municipalities a more well defined and specific judicial basis to act upon. The most important changes compared to the previous legislations are the more specified description on how to handle dangerous dogs. The role of the Police is defined, enabling to decide euthanasia or rehoming of dogs following unwanted episodes. Decisions of euthanasia should normally be open to appeal, while the dog is kept in custody. The previous list of prohibited breeds has been extended. The background for the addition is mentioned first of all to be the link between the breeds to maladjusted social groupings. The Norwegian Institute of Public Health estimates the yearly number of bite injuries in 2010 to be about 5000 cases, with 400,000 dogs in the country. For comparison, the estimated yearly number in the time period 1990-1997 was 4000 bite injuries, with 330,000 dogs in the country. Based on these estimations, the new legislation can not be said to have had a major positive effect. However, the estimates do not give information about the severity of the injuries, which is of importance. As reporting dog bite injuries is not obligatory for Norwegian medical practitioners, the exact information can not be obtained. An effective way to diminish the problem on a national basis is to place effort in informing owners about proper dog training methods. The causatives and severity of canine aggression might show substantial variation, and the term may be challenging in the legal handling. Inconsistency of legal handling is currently a problem, mainly for cases of intraspecies aggression. It should be clarified whether this aggression form is judged to increase the danger for humans. Caution should be taken when stating an “additive effect” for different aggression forms, as they are not necessarily connected. The Norwegian legislation gives the possibility for behavior evaluation when the nature of the dog is in doubt. Professional, independent opinions on the behavior are the most trustworthy source of information, and in relevant cases the option should be used. The owner must be informed of the possibility. In addition to testing the dog alone, I would suggest to include an observation of the dog and owner together. This will give a more correct description of the actual situation, as the dog is normally familiar with being under influence of its owner. The police is the main official organ involved in cases of legal disputes concerning canines. Their opinion will often have substantial impact on the further case handling. The police statements are an important and useful source of information. However, in some cases the officers are not necessarily skilled within the subject. To achieve a more uniform case handling, it would be useful to give basic training at the Norwegian Police University College. The suggested topics for the training should include recognition of the breeds on the illegal breed list, and a short summary of canine behavior signaling and psychology. It would also be strongly advised to give a regulation for the juridical process duration, if the dog is placed in kenneling by the police. The risk of substantial economical burden can possibly prevent some owners from using their legal rights. A regulation of this aspect will provide a possibility for monetary estimation, which is difficult at present time. A concern in the current legislation is the section related to dogs chasing wildlife or other animals. It seems to be some confusion about the proper reactions, and in particular the use of immediate euthanasia. The Ministry of Justice and the Police is at the moment reviewing this part of the legislation. The Norwegian legislation is intended for reduction and prevention of problematic dog keeping. Canine aggression is a serious matter, and the legislation can be said to work with a solid safety margin to ensure protection of the public, other animals and the environment. In certain aspects of the legislation, there is need for improvement when it comes to ensure the legal protection of dog owners and their dogs. The results of the survey presented, where 77 dog owners were asked for their opinion, enforce this statement; 71,5 % of the dog owners have one or more points of concern regarding the legislation. In comparison, 3,1 % was satisfied with the current legislation, and 9,1 % stated that the legislation should be more strict in certain aspects. 15,6 % of the owners did not have an opinion about the subject. The representationalism of the respondents in the survey is not sufficient to draw a definite conclusion from the statistic. However, the tendency should be noted.