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Staffies - RSPCA wants to give the dog a good name

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Media captionThe RSPCA want to rebrand the dogs as loving, loyal and friendly

Loving, loyal and friendly. Maybe not the words you would normally associate with the Staffordshire bull terrier, but according to the RSPCA that is exactly what they are.

The Staffordshire bull terrier was first recognised as a British breed in 1935 and throughout the last century was seen as a loving pet and became an army mascot for the Staffordshire regiment.

The charity says all that has changed in the last 10 years. It says many people are training the breed to fight, and this is leading to more attacks on people.

One such attack happened on 31 December last year, when 13-year-old Liam Monks was severely injured by a Staffordshire bull terrier. He suffered a leg injury and needed plastic surgery.

Video campaign

But the RSPCA says it wants to show another side to the Staffordshire bull terrier, as a loving family pet. It has released a video on its website to encourage people to consider giving a new home to them.

It says 80% of dogs in many of its centres are either Staffordshire bull terriers or Staffie cross breeds and this percentage is rising.

Inspector Tony Woodley, who works at the RSPCA headquarters in Southwater, West Sussex, says many people confuse the Staffordshire bull terrier with the pit bull, which is banned under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.

The charity thinks this misunderstanding is leading to fewer people coming to RSPCA centres and then adopting them as pets.

Mr Woodley says: "From the numbers we take into our dog centres, it's clear that increasing numbers of Staffies have been poorly trained and badly treated, and then abandoned when their owners find them too hard to manage."

He says the video shows how rewarding owning a Staffie can be and, when they are trained properly, they can become tremendous companions.

Bad press

Some dog experts believe the Staffies' poor image is all down to the owner. Mike Mullen, 72, is a qualified dog instructor from Rugby, Warwickshire.

He has worked with hundreds of Staffies over the years, and says the solution is simply better training for dog owners.

He believes some young people just want to bring out the wrong side of the dog, which is quite easy to do if they are not properly trained.

He wants to see an eight-week dog training course in place for all owners.

Mr Mullen says: "It's very unfair to blame the dog, it's always the people who own the dog. People should be given a certificate in basic dog training and grooming, (and) every single dog ought to be microchipped."

He believes this would help keep a check on all dog owners, and would also help to get rid of the Staffie's violent image.

Mr Mullen adds: "Too many young lads want a macho dog to encourage the growl or snarl side of the dog."

'Adorable'

Katy Swabey, 46, from Oxted, Surrey, owns a two-year-old Staffordshire cross called Taz.

She lives with five children and has five dogs.

"It is different to having a normal dog, because a lot more care and attention is required."

She does admit people tend to be a bit wary when she takes him for a walk, especially those who have not seen him before.

"(But) he's very adorable, not aggressive at all."

The RSPCA hopes responsible owners like Katy will finally restore the image of a much-maligned breed and reduce the number which are abandoned by those who can't look after them properly.

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