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Italian non-Staffie BSL ‘no cause for a celebration’

A LEADING anti-BSL campaigner has cautioned Staffordshire Bull Terrier owners that the Italian Government’s recent decision not to include Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Staffordshires in its list of ‘dangerous’ breeds under new laws unveiled last week is not a cause for celebration.

The Italian Government has introduced tough new laws targeting "potentially aggressive" breeds, but has steered clear of out-and-out breed specific bans. However, the new laws are a hotchpotch of contradictions, which have branded breeds such as Border Collies, St Bernards and Corgis as ‘dangerous’ and illegal for criminals and children to own.

Earlier this month, Health Minister Girolamo Sirchia issued a decree banning the training, breeding or drugging of dogs to increase their aggression. The new legislation, passed by emergency decree after a series of pit bull attacks made front-page headlines this summer, places a number of restrictions on ownership of 92 kinds of "threatening" dogs.

British campaigner Dave Levy, the KC Liaison Officer for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Breed Council told OUR DOGS: "This is no reason for celebration amongst Stafford owners although perhaps the recent actions by the Italian Government demonstrates once and for all the futility and misunderstanding that Breed Specific Legislation brings."

Referring to an article announcing the Italian legislation in the Daily Telegraph, Levy adds: "Perhaps most worrying for Stafford owners is that part of the Telegraph article that feels it necessary to mention that Staffordshire Bull Terriers are NOT on the list of "threatening breeds". Those of us who know the breed well will know that Staffords properly bred and raised remain one of the safest dogs with humans and especially children. We all know they do not take kindly to threats from other animals but caring owners can easily avoid any difficult situations in that regard.

"The Italian Government seems to have taken the idea of threat to extremes proposing restrictions on the widest list of breeds seen to date - some of which are generally considered virtual lapdogs. Nobody wants to see dogs biting people but once again, government's only reaction is to restrict breeds with little or no thought about the consequences nor the real, underlying causes of dog attacks.

"At first sight, the restrictions may seem tame compared with outright bans experienced in the UK and Germany, but why have breed lists at all? Surely it would be sensible for ALL dog owners in Italy to have third party insurance and for criminals to be banned from owning ANY dog; children under a specified age from walking ANY breed unaccompanied by an adult. As for muzzling Old English Sheepdogs or Bulldogs, one is left to wonder at the sanity of the civil servants who drew up these laws."

The Kennel Club, British Veterinary Association, NCDL, etc. are all working to try to inform and advise the Italian authorities. Stafford owners in Italy, despite the relief of NOT being on the restricted lists are offering support to those breeds most affected by this almost comical nonsense.

Levy points out: " As we have always maintained, it is the very principle of Breed Specific Legislation that must be opposed and perhaps now, some of the other breeds in the UK that have preferred a "keep your heads down" attitude will realise the threat to THEM unless we can finally persuade the governments of Europe to introduce proper legislation dealing with the root causes of dog attacks instead of merely scrapping amongst themselves to ban more breeds than someone else."

The scenario is a worrying one – especially as Italy currently holds the Presidency of the EU at this time. Levy concludes with a chilling reminder of the possible shape of things to come with the creation of the new EU Constitution:

"Don't forget, Europe is expanding to 25 countries and it is proposed that many of the existing rights of veto will be lost. In that scenario, can we afford to ‘trust’ our politicians to defend our breeds - will they even have the power to do so?"