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Thorny issue over man's best friend

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Guy Smith | 19:34 UK time, Thursday, 15 July 2010

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It's the "deed not the breed".

A phrase I keep hearing more and more often now.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 has been controversial. Passions clearly run high on this subject and the law is expected to be reviewed.

Meanwhile, four breeds of dog are banned under the legislation. Many owners of so-called "attack" dogs feel particularly aggrieved when they get a knock on the door by a Metropolitan Police officer and their pet is taken away.

It's becoming increasingly common these days. More than 1700 dogs have been seized in the past 18 months by the Met's specialist Status Dogs Unit.

Today I was out with the local borough police in Harrow.

They have a new "breed" of cop called a Dog Legislation Officer (DLO). There are only 24 of them in the country.

Harrow is the first borough in the capital to have their very own dedicated dog expert to speed things along, identifying quickly whether the animal is banned and potentially saving money on expensive kennel fees.

The Metropolitan Police Authority only recently authorised £10.6 million pounds to pay for kennelling.

The new DLO role is funded by the Met and the local council.

It was a direct response to a vicious attack on a man out walking his dog in Harrow on New Year's Eve.

The borough, like many other areas in London, has a problem. It's unclear if this idea will catch on.

This afternoon, one owner who had her 11 month old dog seized was distraught.

But she can be comforted by this thought. She may have it returned even if it's categorised as a banned breed.

The DLO officer told me if the owner is deemed responsible and the dog is properly socialised, then it could be exempted by the magistrates' court.

It would, however, have to be muzzled and kept on a leash in public, registered and insured, neutered, tattooed and receive a microchip.

There are many issues here. I've reported on gangs using them not just for status but as weapons.

So do you feel safe in your local park? Have you had your dog seized? Is the Met overreacting? Your thoughts please!


  • Comment number 1.


    Yes, this is a very thorny issue of man's best friend; But, I very much support the Met(ropolitian) Police decision on this situation......


  • Comment number 2.

    the expression "it's the deed not the breed" is a cop-out; no different than the NRA's "guns don't kill people, people kill people". if i understand it correctly, its position is that it's alright to have a dangerous, unpredictable, poorly-trained predator in your possession, so long as it doesn't actually attack anyone - and until it does, you should have some sort of fundamental right to its ownership. does this mean i get to own a tiger?

    if people in this city want a family pet or companion, they can get a spaniel, or a labrador, or a setter, or any one of hundreds of practical, good-natured, friendly breeds. the reason people have these pit bulls (oh, sorry, staffie crosses) is to intimidate people, pure and simple.

  • Comment number 3.

    I have had 'bull' breed dogs all my life and currently have a boxer bitch. I have always loved this type of dog as they are friendly and fun to have around. But this trend of using them as trophy dogs alarms me. I have seen young men with these dogs in London and its a trend which I hope will die out. In the 70s there was a similar trend to have Alsatians and Rottweilers and these breeds are much rarer now. Grant

  • Comment number 4.

    1 don`t understand why they don`t bring a law where all dogs while out in public domain are all muzzled.that would take away all fears.and yes i have 2 dogs(Beagles)myself and if the law says they have to be muzzled then so be it i would not have a problem.

  • Comment number 5.

    "spaniel, or a labrador, or a setter, or any one of hundreds of practical, good-natured, friendly breeds"

    Labrador you say? Did you know that the first ever partial face transplant was carried out on a woman called Isabelle Dinoire from France after she was mauled by her own pet labrador?

    At the end of the day it does boil down to how you bring a dog up, I have a Rottweiler and we have had them as family pets since my family rescued a mistreated puppy when I was about 5, me and my brothers are all still here to tell the tail and have all of our limbs and fingers intact :) We have always had Rottweiler as we love the breed and it's history, I do despise people who dogs like Rottweiler’s, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and other similar dogs a status symbols, makes my blood boil, same applies for people who automatically assume that my Rottweiler is a vicious beast but I don't suppose I can blame them with the bad name they have been given over the years.

  • Comment number 6.

    Could not agree more with Dawn - c comments about it is how you train your dog. I had a labrador when I was younger, it bit me, I had 17 stitches to my face and was lucky not to lose the sight in my eyes. Now I have fianlly relented and we have a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. She has just turned 5 and a more fiendlier dog you could not ask for. She is loving and gentle and very well behaved and likes nothing more than to be around you and enjoy your company.

  • Comment number 7.

    @hedonist86 No, you do not understand the term 'blame the deed not the breed' correctly

    At the moment if you own a dog which is or is suspected of being of type, ie have the DNA of one of the banned breeds in it's genetic makeup it can be seized and executed. It could be a well trained, well socialised, dog and child friendly family pet, that makes no difference.

  • Comment number 8.

    i completely understand the dangers and fears in owning a dog both to the owner and to the public, i have 2 dogs of my own a Doberman cross and a boarder collie my dad who often brings his dogs to my house has a doberman Wienerama and a yorkshire terrier, all of which are part of the family and socialise well with the younger family members including the babies. but i'm always aware that dogs are animals and have temperaments the important thing is to remember that they act like a pack and that i must be alpha male. its definitely a case of nurture over nature, good owners will maintain good control over there pets regardless of the breed, discipline when appropriate ensures our pets are well under control, and good treatment builds the loyalty particularly as a iron rod does nothing to help them socialise, it should definitely be a matter of targeting those owners with evil and immoral deeds rather than the breeds themselves, i also believe that licenses should b adopted for the protection and well being of not only the public but the animals themselves, you dont have to look far to see reports of animal abuse!!!

  • Comment number 9.

    okay, so labradors were perhaps not the best breed to use as an example, and it may be true that well-trained bull terriers are perfectly lovely creatures. but no matter how they nice they can be, when i see one striding down the road, dragging a bored-looking 14-year-old behind it on a length of string, i don't feel safe. and why should i not feel entitled to a walk down the shops without a well-justified fear of mutilation?

    i think we should bring back dog licences in cities, along with stricter rules on pet ownership. criminal record? no dog licence. still got a dog? either sell it, give it away, or face a strict liability fine and hundreds of hours of community service. dog off its leash anywhere but a designated park area? fixed penalty charge, and revocation of their dog licence for a year. certain dogs in a public place without a muzzle? etc etc.

    charge people for the licence, renewable every year, and surprise dog owners with spot-checks. ownership of a potentially dangerous animal in an urban environment comes with certain responsibilities, and the law should penalise those who fail to live up to them - and should do so pre-emptively, not after the toddler has been mauled to death in their grannie's front room.

  • Comment number 10.

    The simplest solution is to have all dogs, classified as dangerous, muzzled in a public place. Licensing doesn't work not unlike the thousands of uninsured vehicles on the roads....too expensive to monitor. If a dog is muzzled it can't bite. If found with its owner in a public place without a muzzle then the penalty would be for the dog to be seized and put down. No warnings, no magistates court, no pleading that it's the family pet.....put the responsibility where it lies....with the owner or keeper. This is a job for the police and they must enforce it. The argument that it's not only dangerous dogs that bite....a little Jack Russell for example, the same level of responsibilty rests with the owner. They know if their dog is likely to attack and bite. If this possibility exists......muzzle it.

    By the way, I'm a dog owner and consequently a 'dog freak'. I love having them around me....happy and well-trained...of course!

  • Comment number 11.

    Downwind13: The muzzle idea is interesting but seizing and putting it down seems a touch harsh. A fine would be a better option, don't you think?

    Hedonist86: I agree with Downwind13 on licensing. It would be difficult to enforce in a city and what happens if you live in the country and bring your pet into town?

  • Comment number 12. shouldn't be a question of whether a punishment is harsh or not. I'm suggesting that what you have to do is focus the minds of those owners who prefer to own a dangerous dog. There will be those who say that it's harsh on the dog which is put down. Of course I've every sympathy with that point of view, (I'd rather put down the owners - joke!) but the reality is that a policy of 'zero tolerance' would soon eliminate the problem in the interests of all dogs and their owners, their possible victims and the general public at large. I would then feel perfectly relaxed and comfortable walking my English Cocker Spaniel on Hampstead Heath or anywhere else in London.

  • Comment number 13.

    "when i see one striding down the road, dragging a bored-looking 14-year-old behind it on a length of string, i don't feel safe. and why should i not feel entitled to a walk down the shops without a well-justified fear of mutilation?"

    my question is simply this.....would you still have the same fear if instead of a length of string, it was a proper lead being held by a suited thirty-something, on a family stroll with his wife and 2 kids?
    I can only presume not, does this not indicate it is the owner not the breed of dog that makes you anxious?

  • Comment number 14.

    I do feel extremely sorry for people who live on estates and are faced day in and day out with intimidating gangs and their status dogs... however, regardless of the breed of dog, whether they own a labrador, sharpe, german shephard etc - they will be just as intimidating and threatening.
    I own a Staff cross Great Dane, she was a rescue from a London pound.. she is chipped, spayed and even DNA'd to prove her breed, we are responsible owners, and she attends training classes, YET in the wrong place at the wrong time she would be seized, snatched from a loving family home and placed in, what only can be descibed as a prison ... for doing nothing but 'looking' like a dangerous breed.

    Also to point out, a lot of dogs that are seized are not returned days later, many are kept for months, sometimes even YEARS... the state in which they are returned is shocking. Sores, cuts, broken teeth etc.

    Why don't the police spend their time and our money looking into the real problem - the owners that make their dogs dangerous, surely if all pitbull types were banned they will only move onto a different breed of dog!

  • Comment number 15.

    Im the person who was on the news and had her dog seized. It was very upsenting going trough all this, knowing that gaza didnt hurt anyone and it was taken from us just because he looked evil. He is our family pet not just some dog to make us feel more tough! I have gazas mum and a friend of mine has his dad and they are both brilliant staffies. Gazas mum had 6 puppies and gaza just happen to be the largest of the litter and the one who has features from a pit bull.Gaza was classified has a pit bull type, but not dangerous to people and hes going to be on index of exempted dogs list.I had my court case today and gaza is coming home soon, thanks for all the support given from relatives, friends and even others that didnt know me! Justice was made...the ower does the dog.

  • Comment number 16.

    This problem has been brought about by irresponsible dog ownership and the status dog issue but unfortunately the paranoia is getting out of control. I am an owner of a large breed and have numerous concerns with the lack of socialisation of many smaller breeds owned by decent people. Owners of "small, cute" breeds often don't seem to understand that they need socialising. It is all too common for a small unsocialised dog to initiate problems and the owner assume it's all the fault of the other. The dogs don't think small and cute they just think dog.

    I fully support licencing with mandatory socialisation and training for ALL dogs. Then anyone not having followed this can be dealt with severely. But lets not get hysterical over what is still a small problem. It would be interesting to see the statistics compared to other dangers.

    It made me shudder when I watched the interview with Lord Baker on the Daily Politics. He is clearly a very prejudiced man and just wants to see draconian measures. He didn't seem to care about anything other than having all Pitbull looking dogs slaughtered whilst denigrating anyone on a council estate owning a dog. Bizarre. Dogs bring great pleasure to many families across the class divide.


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