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Updated 14/9/01

RSPCA seize 12 'fighting dogs'

TWELVE DOGS were seized by RSPCA Officers across the UK in a joint operation with police forces against suspected dog fighters. The raids took place over the past three weeks under the codename 'Flute', in which the RSPCA's special operations unit targeted the homes of a number of individuals suspected of dog fighting.

The most recent raid took place in the West Country when 11 police officers and five RSPCA Inspectors entered a suspect's house at 7am with a search warrant and seized three dogs, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and two Mastiffs. Police also removed two videotapes from the house.

The RSPCA claim the dogs are 'fighting types', although their 37 year-old owner denies this, saying they are family pets.

The owner, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was arrested and questioned by police before being released without charge, and has been bailed to return to a local police station on September 20th. A police spokesman stated that three "pit bulls" had been seized and were currently being held by the RSPCA at a secret location. He added that the owner had been arrested on suspicion of dog fighting and that the warrant to enter the premises had been issued under the Dangerous Dogs Act, which would allow the seizure of unregistered, illegal pit bull 'type' dogs.

The spokesman added that a decision would be taken whether an offence had been committed and whether charges should be made against the man. "If there is no offence, then the dogs will be returned to him," he stated.

An RSPCA spokesman confirmed that the dogs had been seized in the raid and alleged that one of them had an injury "associated with dog fighting" and added that investigations into the case are "ongoing".

The dogs' owner has been in contact with OUR DOGS newspaper and has passed details of the raid and various associated matters. At this stage, the owner has been advised by his solicitor not to speak in detail to the press, although he was prepared to give brief details of the raid:

"At the moment I have been told by my solicitor not to speak about my case. I have not as yet been charged with anything. I have had three dogs seized, none of which are Pit Bull Terriers. It seems because the RSPCA and the police have had such a tough time making the DDA stick they now come at it from another angle.

"One of my dogs that was seized - the Staffordshire Bull Terrier - had three small scabs that were ready to drop off as a result of a fallout with a Mastiff I still have. Three scabs in my opinion - and the opinion of several people I have spoken to, including a couple of vets - hardly represent injuries resulting from an organised dogfight. This is what they tried to imply on the day they took the dogs."

"Since the raid on August 13th, the hours have been like a strange nightmare. We have one dog left, a Neapolitan Mastiff. He has had to be put on tranquillisers to calm him down. He shared his kennel with the bitch they took and has since been distraught without her.

"I phoned the RSPCA Special Operations inspector to ask about the welfare of the dogs. He said that they were all fine and had been inspected by a vet and were in good health. He also said that they had not at that point been looked at by their 'expert' to assess them for 'type'. A day prior to this phone call he made a statement to the local press - they actually quoted him by name - that two "Pit Bulls" had been seized and a Mastiff crossbreed. He also stated that one of the "Pit Bulls" was seriously injured.

"How can they be Pit Bulls when they had not yet been assessed by their 'expert'? He admitted on tape that he was no expert. How could one of them have been seriously injured one day and in good health the next?"

Nine more dogs were seized and three men arrested in further raids as part of Operation Flute, which took place in London, Birmingham, Scunthorpe and Surrey.

Chief Inspector Mike Butcher of the RSPCA's Special Operations Unit said: "This is part of our ongoing campaign against these barbaric sports."

The RSPCA and police have made no further comments as investigations continue.