Staffordshire terrier... gentle dog?
After a spate of dog attacks, the pit-bull was banned in England 17 years ago. But it appears that the Staffordshire bull terrier is seen as a pit-bull replacement.
Staffordshire bull terriers are bred in huge numbers on London's estates, sometimes trained to be aggressive and even in some cases used as weapons.
There is a lot of hysteria surrounding the Staffie. But is it justified? Brian Sewell reports.
"I've had dogs since I was 13 and for the last 30 or 40 years I've had other peoples second-hand dogs knocked about dogs that needed a lot of love to get them straight again and I'm appalled by what I see has happened to the Staffie", Brian commented.
'Staffies' are cheap
Staffie pups are bred indiscriminately and are readily available for as little as £30. If they do not mature to look sufficiently aggressive, they are often dumped.
They can also be dumped if they respond too well and become uncontrollably aggressive.
Brian visited the RSPCA Animal rescue centre at Southridge near Potters Bar and found more Staffies there than any other breed.
Brian Sewell... defends the Staffordshire terrier
Anna White from the RSPCA said: "People breed Litters indiscriminately.
"If you think about all of the Staffies that are out there now, if they are all bred, then say they all have eight puppies once or twice a year were talking in the next few years an unbelievable amount of these dogs and there are just not the number of homes out there for them.
"In the end you will have to euphemize many dogs, purely through lack of homes... absolutely criminal."
Originally a fighting dog and used in the 18th century to bait bulls and bears for entertainment, the Staffie is never the less regarded by the Kennel Club as a very reliable family pet, violent only if trained to be.
Dog Whisperer, John Uncle, lives in Muswell Hill. John trains dogs to be anything but violent.
He knows that the owners need training more often than the dogs.
John said: "Let us be proud of our dogs lets be able to take them over the park where there not gonna run and chase kids and chase other people.
"Train them to be the opposite of aggressive train them to be friendly.
"I think it is all about education, education, education."
Ray Hough, Producer Inside Out, commented: "This is a film I have felt has been necessary for a long time.
"I have been dismayed, seeing these beautiful animals owned by what I can only describe as boys and men trying to look hard.
"Friends have told me how scared they are of these Staffies when out walking their own dogs.
"John Uncle had assured me that in 99.9% of cases it is the owner not the dog who is the problem.
"We came to the conclusion that in the right hands these dogs are gorgeous and safe.
Dog whisperer, John Uncle, uncovers gentle nature
"So I could not believe my luck, as the most beautiful looking Staffie walked right past my front door with a young mum and toddler.
"Rudie jumped all over me and the only danger I felt was from being licked to death. But he was powerful."
Brian went with Rudie and his owners to see John Uncle.
Jacqui Melmoth who describes herself as Rudies mum felt that although beautifully trained and cared for, Rudies jumping up could be a problem if he knocked a toddler over in his excitement.
This wasn't a problem for John a couple of hours later he had shown Jacqui how to totally control her dog with the minimum of fuss
John Uncle commented: "It took us less than a minute to teach the dog not to jump up.
"I stood on the lead so the dog tried to jump and it had a very unpleasant feeling at his neck so he quickly thought if I jump up something unpleasant is going to happen to me.
"Then if he sat I just fed the dog.
"With practice I am convinced that within two or three days Jacqui will have a wonderfully behaved dog"
Jacqui Melmoth said: "When doing the standing on the lead thing, he is clearly beginning to notice if he tries to jump up it is not a nice feeling.
"So gradually he understands.
"The hard thing is to get other people who love being affectionate to him to understand that they have to stop him jumping.
"It is not going to be quick because he is five now so a bit set in his ways but he has definitely realised I am the boss and listens to me now."
Jacqui and her family are a great example of responsible owners having great dogs that are an addition to a civilised society.
But how do we put an end to this custom of men training their Staffies to be menacing?
Ryan O‘Meara, is Editor-in-Chief of K9 magazine. Ryan said: "What we need is a government controlled database where every dog has to be registered like a car.
Ryan O'Meara: National database required
"Also every dog owner has to pass a dog suitability test exactly like a driving license theory exam.
"A dog gets the equivalent of a tax disc if the owner hasn't got one he gets fined.
"The test would cost £40; there are over 6m dog owners in this country that is £240m which could be spent on policing it.
"It could work because we have to do something"
Although Brian Sewell believes this idea would be very difficult to police and manage he realises something has to be done, and done urgently for the sake of the Staffie Dog and asks...
Do you think a dog registration scheme could work or do you have a better idea?
Location of the week...
Kew: Matthew and the Henry Moore sculpture
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The 300 acres of Kew Gardens, four of them under glass, hold the largest collection of plant species in the world.
Originally two Royal estates, the properties were joined together in the time of George III, and under Sir Joseph Banks, the noted botanist and plant collector, the botanic garden became world famous.
Throughout its history, Kew has made important contributions to increasing the understanding of the plant kingdom.
Today, it is still first and foremost a scientific institute, but its beautiful landscapes, outstanding collections of exotic plants, historic buildings and good transport links by road or rail from London and beyond make it one of the UK’s finest days out.
last updated: 28/03/2008 at 11:41