We are a nation of dog lovers. When you think of perfect pooches, what breeds come to mind? Pretty Poodles, cuddly Collies, lavish Labradors and cheeky Chihuahuas? But what if you are after a Japanese Tosa, a Dogo Argentino, a Fila Brasiliero or a Pit Bull Terrier? Unfortunately, these are the four breeds which have been categorized as ‘fighting dogs’ and have therefore been banned from being bred or bought in Britain. Despite this, the number of dog attacks has actually escalated since this ban was enforced, suggesting that the problem lies within our society, not with this handful of ‘deadly’ dogs. It is about time that the government buried this archaic law which serves no other purpose than to condemn a handful of innocent scapegoats.
The Dangerous Dog Act (DDA) was introduced in 1991 in order to protect the public from any potential threat from our favorite pet. In the same year, the media pounced on several incidents of dog attacks, instilling fear in the public who soon demanded action. The Home Secretary promised to “rid the country of the menace of these fighting dogs” which soon resulted in the ban on the four breeds who were allegedly too vicious to appear in public. Although the Dangerous Dog Act implemented sensible change such as to make it illegal for dogs to be out of control in public places, to incriminate only four breeds is just ludicrous. The DDA was amended in 2014 to include private property so if a dog was to attack an intruder in your own garden, it was seen by the court to be an offence. Despite this legislation, dog attacks are – sadly – still a regular occurrence within British society.
The Breed-Specific Legislation was also brought into place in 1991 as a part of the Dangerous Dog Act. The BSL introduced the ban of the aforementioned four dogs. Despite the fact that the four banned breeds were traditionally bred for fighting purposes, there is no definitive research to show that these breeds are more dangerous than others. Even dogs resembling one of the four banned breeds could be seized on sight and ripped from your possession by the police, to be locked in a kennel and assessed by professionals. If you were suspected of owning an illegal breed, your pooch would get taken away to most likely be euthanized. On the rare occasion that a dog ever managed to make it home, they were kept under lock and key, living out the rest of their lives as social outcasts. As if this wasn’t punishment enough, owners could face prosecution and spend up to six months in prison or receive an eye-watering monetary fine. The Breed-Specific Legislation doesn’t target the root cause of our problem which lies with the owners, not our pooches. The act simply fails, time and time again, to protect the public. All that happened was the destruction of hundreds upon hundreds of innocent canines.
Surely by now it is obvious that the Act is ineffective and needs to be reassessed. You only have to look at the staggering amount of dog attacks over the last two decades to realize that even with the allegedly ‘dangerous’ dogs off our streets, the problem is actually escalating. According to official hospital statistics, admissions for injuries caused by dogs has actually risen by a colossal 76% in England over the past decade. Many tragedies have hysterically hit the headlines over the years such as Claire Neal from Blyth, Northumberland, who allowed her Staffordshire Bullterrier to escape from her home. The dog went on the rampage and ran into a playground, where it mauled twelve children. One girl’s leg was so badly damaged in the attack that it was described as being ‘like Swiss cheese’. She pleaded guilty to owning a dog that was dangerously out of control and was jailed for four years. What transpired was that the dog had previously attacked two children but nothing had been done. Another catastrophic example of a dog attack was the fatality of Eliza-Mae Mullane, a six-day old baby girl, who was savagely killed by the family pet after being pulled from her pram. The dog was an Alaskan Malamute, similar to a Husky, not one known for its aggressive nature. Violent incidents such as these have brought fresh calls for a drastic change to the useless legislation.
Deaths such as Eliza-Mae’s have reignited the issue on public safety where dogs are concerned and whether or not enough is being done to deal with negligent owners. High-profile dog-related deaths have caused an alleged ‘toughening up’ of the law in 2014 which was amended to include private property as well as public places. In addition, any dogs perceived to look aggressive, without actively threatening or causing harm, could be seized. Despite these strict amendments, the number of dog attacks shows no signs of decreasing. Indeed, the Dogs Trust, Britain’s largest welfare charity, said even more needs to be done to prevent tragedies occurring in the first place. It should be clear by now that our problems lie with owners, some of whom take so little responsibility for their dog that acts such as the DDA and the BSL have been necessary. They have been implemented by the government in the desperate hope that the number of dog-related attacks and fatalities will be reduced. In hindsight, however, the act has not been successful in targeting the root cause of dog attacks.
Over time, it is apparent that more and more members of the public are growing increasingly concerned at the escalation of dog attacks in our communities. What has not helped are the misleading and often-confusing acts, which must be simplified so that there are no grey areas. For those in authority to be allowed to seize your dog from your own private property, without any valid reason, is atrocious.