The topic of dangerous dogs particularly interests me due to an incident in the summer involving a pit bull, a few juicy chunks out of my legs and derrière, and sadly, a torn pair of jeggings :(
The Dangerous Dogs Act, (1991), bans ownership, breeding, sale and exchange and advertising for sale of specified types of fighting dog. The dogs covered are known as:
Pit Bull Terrier – This breed was originally bred to take part in bull-baiting, a gambling “game” where they attacked bulls in pits. When the practice was banned in 1835 they were then bred for dog fighting. They were bred to be aggressive with a high pain threshold, but they were not trained to be aggressive towards humans. This is interesting due to the pit bull terrier being most responsible for dog attacks on humans now, some so brutal (like the case in 2007 of 5 year-old Ellie Lawrenson from Merseyside) that they can be fatal.
Japanese Tosa – This breed is thought to have first emerged after the 1850s when the Japanese Shikoku Inu was crossed with European dogs. The aim was to create a bigger fighting dog. In traditional Japanese dogfights, Tosas would “wrestle” each other and the fights followed similar rules to those of sumo wrestling.
Fila Brasileiro – The Fila Brasileiro is thought to have been developed from a number of breeds, including the Mastiff, the Bulldog, and the Bloodhound. They were originally found on farms and plantations and were reportedly used to track Brazilian slaves and fugitives. They are renowned for their aggression towards strangers.
Dogo Argentino – This breed was developed in Argentina after the 1920s from the now extinct Cordoba Fighting Dog and was intended to be a hunting dog. They were specifically bred to avoid the aggression of Cordoba Fighting Dogs while hunting. They are used today for tracking, search and rescue and general police work.
The maximum fine for illegal possession of a prohibited dog is £5,000 and/or six months imprisonment. The dog can be destroyed but the courts have discretion to grant exemptions for seized dogs if they feel it would not compromise public safety.
The Act says it applies not only to “pure” Pit Bull Terriers but also to any dog “of the type known as the Pit Bull Terrier”. This relates to dogs with the physical and behavioural characteristics of these dogs. However, cross breeds within these dogs such as a Pit Bull crossed with a Staffordshire Bull Terrier can often get away with being owned as pets due to such breeds having similar physical characteristics. Crossbreeds have therefore been called a ‘grey area’ in terms of regulation. I’m sure that the dog that attacked me was this particular crossbreed.
Recently, the Government have announced plans that all dogs are to be compulsorily micro chipped so that their owners can be more easily traced under a crackdown on dangerous dogs. The package will include extending the dangerous dogs laws to cover attacks by dogs on private property to protect postmen, and making third-party insurance compulsory so that victims can be financially compensated. The measures will be set out by the home secretary, Alan Johnson, who will point to rising public concern that “status dogs” are being used by some irresponsible owners to intimidate communities, or as a weapon by gangs.
Most of the reason the Dangerous Dogs Act was first introduced in 1991 was due to a moral panic started by the media and their exaggerated stories of dog attacks. However, recently “status dogs” are becoming increasingly common, and stories concerning dog attacks and gangs using dogs as weapons are not rare. A growing street culture gives the impression that dangerous dogs are some form of fashion accessory.
I think it’s appalling how some owners treat their dogs. Dangerous dogs are made to be even more aggressive by reckless owners, causing certain breeds to be subjected to a bad reputation, which is obviously heightened by media coverage. Last month, 22 year-old Chrisdian Johnson was found guilty of murder and will serve a minimum of 24 years for using a dangerous dog as a weapon to bring down a boy before he stabbed him six times in Stockwell, South London. This will not be the last story concerning death by dog unless the Government really do make the laws tighter and owners stop training their dogs to be aggressive ‘weapons’.
En route to Uni recently, whilst walking through lower Stanmore, (where dangerous dogs make very frequent appearances), a Rottweiler proceeded to run across the road in front of two friends and me so it could get to another dog, which it then started attacking. If your dog has an aggressive temperament, or is likely to misbehave in a public place when cars and other dogs are involved , then put it on a lead! What would have happened if a car had hit this Rottweiler when it ran across the road? I’m guessing the owner wouldn’t have been too pleased!
The issue of dangerous dogs will always be in the spotlight, but a great deal of the responsibility lies with the owner. Control your dogs! There is a reason for muzzles and leads, parks, fields and commons. Oh and don’t forget to clean up after your dog, I don’t think anyone is a fan of poo plimsolls…