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BSL spreads to Australia
A victory for campaigners


AUSTRALIA IS the latest country to introduce Breed Specific legislation (BSL) to combat the problem of so-called ‘Dangerous Dogs’ and, like France, Germany and several US states before it, Australia is using the UK’s discredited 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act as the ‘workable’ template for this legislation.

The State of Queensland was the first Australian State to begin full-scale BSL, watched closely by other States governments and, indeed, the national government.

The tragedy of the Queensland BSL is that it was implemented with the help of so-called dog experts and enthusiasts, as well as the Australian RSPCA, in a grim echo of the UK’s own Kennel Club and RSPCA being instrumental in helping to draft the DDA back in 1991.

The Queensland Canine Control Council (QCCC) played a pivotal role in helping the legislators enact the laws to assist in the identification of four allegedly ‘dangerous’ breeds, including the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Queensland Canine Control Council supplied four judges to train Council Animal Control Officers in breed identification of the four restricted breeds.

The training supplied by CCCQ judges Ms J E Jeffs, Mrs PY Carpenter, Mr E G Ryder and Mr GF Kill (sic) in Queensland took just two weeks. Each Animal Control Officer received a four-hour training session conducted from books and video footage by judges on breeds they have never judged & most likely even seen.

Opposed

The Australian National Kennel Club vehemently opposed the introduction of BSL, but the Queensland State Parliament ignored its protests with the same political arrogance that has dismissed anti-BSL protests from genuine dog experts in other countries.

By assisting the State Government with identification of ‘restricted breeds’ the QCCC hoped to gain favour for their breeds. Unfortunately for all concerned this did not work, and in the May 2002 issue of QLD Dog World, the following list of restricted breeds was released to their members.

• 56 Local governments have made the Pit Bull Terrier some form of dangerous dog;
• 50 Local governments have made the Bull Terrier some form of dangerous dog;
• 31 Local governments have made the Fila Brasileiro and Japanese Tosa some form of dangerous dog;
Of these 31 local government, 29 have made the Dogo Argentina some form
Of dangerous dog.
• 3 Local governments have made the Dobermann some form of dangerous dog;
• 2 Local governments have made the German Shepherd some form of dangerous dog;
and a further local government has taken similar action in respect to Alsatian;
• 2 Local governments have made the Rottweiler some form of dangerous dog;
•l 1 Local governments has made the Bullmastiff some form of dangerous dog;
• 1 Local governments has made the Neapolitan Mastiff some form of dangerous dog;
• 1 Local governments has made the Maremma Sheepdog some form of dangerous dog;
• 1 Local governments has made the Anatolian (Karabash) Shepherd Dog some form of dangerous dog;
• 1 Local governments has made the Rhodesian Ridgeback some form of dangerous dog;
• 1 Local governments has made the Great Dane some form of dangerous dog.

Veterinary surgeons and the Australian Veterinarian Association all oppose Breed Specific Legislation on Scientific grounds. BSL has been scientifically proven to be, expensive, unenforceable & ineffective.

Under the QLD legislation Vets have been made the expert in Identification of restricted dogs. If a Council obtains an expert opinion the decision is final and there is no recourse to use the courts. However if a Vet states the dog to not be of a restricted breed, the Council may still make the declaration if it deems the dog to be ‘dangerous’.

This legislation was enacted on the 1st June 2002, already massive animal rights issue are becoming evident.

A pressure group was founded to fight BSL. In May 2002, People against Discriminating Dog Laws (PADDL) came into being, formed in Cairns Far North Queensland, on Sunday the 13 May 2002. PADDL’s objective is to fight Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in Queensland and throughout Australia as a whole.

Steven Dean of PADDL told OUR DOGS: "PADDL strongly believe that there are more effective ways to reduce vicious and sometimes fatal dog attacks occurring. On average In QLD there are six serious attacks on humans requiring medical treatment daily. In Queensland and Victoria, the four breeds restricted are responsible for 1.01% and 3% of attacks respectively.

Impossible

"Further PADDL is concerned that the legislation is unlawful and constitutionally vague, as it is impossible to identify the particular breeds reliably.

Resulting in law abiding, rate-paying members of the community having their civil rights impinged and their family pet destroyed because of its look not its breed.

Dean continues to recite the grim statistics of BSL: "In the city of Cairns alone with a population of 100 000 people there has been 65 so-called "American Pit Bull Terriers" destroyed. In QLD there is 126 local Councils PADDL estimates that there could have been as many as 6000 so called " American Pit Bull Terriers" destroyed since this legislation was implemented.

The American Pit Bull Terrier has been banned from importation into Australia for over ten years, it is not a recognised breed in Australia nor does it have any ruling body to issue breed papers or police the introduction of falsified breed paper in this country.

"PADDL believe that purebred "American Pit Bull Terrier" barely exists in Australian society today and many of the so-called APBT are crossbred dogs, which display some characteristics of the pure breed APBT but are in no way related to the American Pit Bull Terrier breed. "

Misidentification of Staffordshire Bull Terrier crossbreeds and other crossbreeds is common.

Many crossbred dogs and even some ‘purebred’ dogs have certain characteristics and traits of the APBT. This legislation is based on a visual inspection of the dog in question as there is no scientific way to prove a dog’s breed, compounded when the dog in question is a puppy and is clearly not developed but deemed restricted and destroyed.

A number of grim stories relating to the QLD BSL have been catalogued by PADDL during their fight against the laws:

• A PADDL member who owned a nine-year-old dog (Restricted Breed) and lived on a large property was told that if he did not build a 1.8metre fence around his property at a cost of $18000.00 the dog would be destroyed in 28 days. The dog was destroyed; it had never done anything wrong.

• A local member of the community, who owned a restricted breed that had puppies after the legislation was implemented, had her bitch along with 6 - 11 week old puppies seized and destroyed because she could not afford the fence or the registration.

Matters came to a head in July when Steve Dean’s own dog ‘Digger’ fell foul of Cairns’ BSL – and ended up becoming an martyr to the whole anti-BSL movement.

Responsible

"Using my dog Digger as an example this is the legislation: Digger was purchased out of the local paper four years ago for $50.00 as a ‘pit bull’ (he was sold with no papers), I then took digger to puppy school where he gained level 3 obedience training and some advanced training methods. This entitled me to a 65% reduction on Digger’s registration fees at my local council. Reducing it from $88.00 per year to $33.00 per year, because I was deemed to be a responsible pet owner and had a very obedient and well-trained dog. In the next four years Digger’s training was kept at an acceptable level and was proven to be worth every penny, as we did not have any problems with him or the council."

But one day in April 2002, Dean arrived home from work to find a letter from Cairns Council stating that if he wanted to keep Digger he would need to move house, as it is illegal to own a ‘restricted’ dog in a Duplex, even though it had a large fully fenced yard. Furthermore, he would need to have the dog neutered and pay $480.00 per year in registration fees.

"Overnight I went from being a responsible pet owner to some sort of criminal with a killer dog in my yard." says Dean.

Despite extensive correspondence with the city council. Dean received no meaningful answers and was simply ‘fobbed off’ with computer generated standard letters in reply. We met with Nita Cunningham, minister for local Government, responsible for drafting the legislation and Cairns City Council Animal control officers all to no avail," continues Dean. "Digger was dead if I didn’t move, comply and pay the massive fees."

Then, salvation came in an unexpected way. During a routine trip to his local vet, Dean was surprised when the vet studied Digger carefully and said, "To the best of my knowledge the dog is not a restricted breed". Even better, the vet was willing to put this in writing.

Digger was now officially classed as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross, black with white blaze. His training certificates would now stand again and Dean would not have to pay the $480.00 per year registration, just the normal $33.00.

But the council was not prepared to let the matter rest. When Dean went to his local council offices to re-register Digger, he was informed that the Council would not accept his vets advice and wanted to assess Digger themselves, using their own ‘experts’, along with taking several photographs of the dog for their files.

"Being a responsible pet owner and also knowing the law, I laughed and said why not," says Dean. " I then had the pleasure of two Animal Control Officers at my house in uniform and a big white van. It was all very official except for the breed assessment that took place.

"The ACO in question was in full conversation with me and my partner when he stated after only 2 minutes and 15 second and - mind you - not even looking at or touching the dog that in his opinion, ‘Digger is a pit bull cross with around 30% Pit Bull in him’. The animal control officer then went on to say that ‘it is very hard to identify these dogs, especially in Far North Queensland were there is a lot of cross breeding for pig hunting’.

" I did not know what to say except ‘I’ll see you in court!’ After this I obtained some legal advice and was quite happy with the response. The Council was going to challenge the vet’s 40 years experience with an officer who has no qualifications in animals and had only attended a four hour course; the lawyers assured me it would be O.K. We then instructed the lawyers to draw up proceeding, as we wanted to meet the Council in court.

"Within the first six weeks of the legislation being enacted, it was set to be challenged, and we were ready to win. The papers were given to the Council on a Monday morning and Digger was registered the next day as a Staffie Cross! The council had obtained advice from lawyers and the State Government and would not be challenging my dogs again."

This set a precedent for hundreds of other people in Steve Dean’s community and throughout the State of Queensland to re-register their dogs as they too had vets’ advice.
Dean concludes: "For PADDL as an organisation, this was the first step in fighting BSL and a win for all dog owners in this State. Only a small win but indeed a win that at least saved some good family pets from destruction and many responsible owners from unwanted stress and financial hardship. "

PADDL is now raising funds to continue to fight BSL and have the Queensland State Government in their sights, as well as any other State Government that introduces BSL.

Dean declares PADDL’s aim emphatically: "We firmly believe that this legislation will not work and it will be the direct cause of a mass killing of innocent dogs because of their look, not their breed."

Council environmental assessment manager Laurie Phipps said that Cairns Council would "find it difficult to fight cases in court if dog owners had a veterinarian’s certificate stating their animal was not a Pit Bull. However, added Phipps, "the council would pursue in court any matter where it felt it could prove a dog was one of a restricted breed."

Endangered Dogs’ Breed Association
(Australia) comments:-

Once again the media is supporting flawed and failed legislation that seems to be ALP policy, "Breed Specific Legislation".

Quote from the media release, by Alan Griffiths of the Hawk ALP Government (1991). "While the latter two breeds aren't currently in Australia, the decision to ban them is based on a similar move recently in Britain". ?

Failure

It seems ludicrous to model legislation on an Act that divided the nation, and is constantly held up as a failure of government and a knee jerk reaction, some ten years later.

The UK DDA is a failure, not only because it resulted in the death of thousands of American Pit Bull Terriers that were perfectly sociable and well raised, or because it mistakenly killed many more dogs that were not members of the "restricted category", or because it cost millions of pounds in the first two years alone. The main reason it is a total failure is it has never reduced dog attacks by a single percent in frequency or severity. Obviously reducing dog attacks should be the aim of any dog control laws?

Yet when asked for clear and scientific evidence to support this proposal e.g. proof that these breeds are biting more, or are responsible for a majority of serious attacks. The ALP State Governments seems only capable of one answer, "due to the import ban"?

This legislation goes against ALL qualified advice, and is obviously becoming policy because it is perceived to be popular.

This is a Band-Aid solution, that is vastly expensive, and will lead to the irresponsible changing to another breed and the saga will repeat. Once the German Shepherd, Dobermann, Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, now the APBT, who is next?

There are laws that do reduce dog attacks, but they are non-breed specific.

P. Whitemin.
C.E.O. Endangered Dog Breeds Australia (E.D.B.A.)
www.edba.org.au