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‘Pit Bull’ ban for New South Wales

PIT BULL TERRIERS and three other dog breeds will be banned under new laws to be introduced in New South Wales, Australia, Premier Bob Carr announced last month.

The move comes after five-year-old Sydney boy Jordan Wisby was seriously injured last month by a dog alleged to be a ‘pit bull’ when he was walking home from school in Illawong, in Sydney's southern district.

A 75-year-old man is also recovering in hospital after being attacked by two other dogs – also identified as ‘pit bulls’ at Homebush in western Sydney a few days later.

The attacks bear distinct similarities to the attacks by dogs – also alleged to be ‘pit bulls’ - on six year-old Rukshana Khan and bakery worker Frank Tempest in the Spring of 1991, which led to John Major’s Tory Government enacting the discredited Dangerous Dogs Act in the UK
Mr Carr said laws would be introduced later this year to ban the sale, acquisition, breeding or giving away of pit bull terriers, American Pit Bulls, Japanese Tosas, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiros – the self -same breeds covered by the DDA. The four breeds are already prohibited from import in Australia under national laws and owners must be over 18 and keep the dogs in secure enclosures.

While current owners will be able to keep their animals, the new State laws will lead to the dogs effectively being bred out of existence, Mr Carr said. He said the community wanted the State Government to rid the streets of dangerous breeds of dogs.

"Over the years, we have seen pit bulls or pit bull crosses cause death and destruction across NSW," Mr Carr said in a statement. "It is clear the one way to minimise the risk of dog attacks is to ban these restrictive breeds."

Mr Carr said that local councils would have the power to ban the ownership of restricted dogs except where owners obtain an approval from the council. The Government will work with local councils, vets and scientists on ways to identify ‘dangerous cross breeds’ to look at future bans.

Australian anti-BSL campaigner Linda Watson slammed the plans to introduce BSL in NSW. She told OUR DOGS: "Interestingly, it was intense media focus on a number of dog bites in New South Wales, including the death of an infant as a result of an incident involving a Bull Terrier, that led the Australian Commonwealth Government, already swayed by the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act in the United Kingdom, to in 1991, to introduce an import prohibition on purebred dogs of the four breeds as described."

In 1998, in the NSW Companion Animals Act 1998 No. 87 the New South Wales Government legislated to restrict the following breeds as described: "pit bull terriers, American pit bull terriers, Japanese Tosas, Argentinian fighting dogs (dogo Argentino), Brazilian fighting dogs (fila Brasileiro) and any other dog of a breed, kind or description prescribed by the regulations". Restrictions apply only to pure bred animals of the breeds listed above or a cross between two or more of these breeds, no permit is required but various control requirements apply including keeping the dog in a child-proof enclosure and muzzling in public. With respect to breed identification the owner's opinion is accepted. Dogs are generally seized only if an owner does not comply with control requirements.

Watson continued: "The NSW Department of Local Government was required by section 97 of the Companion Animals Act 1998 to review the Act after a period of 5 years (i.e: in 2003) with focus on whether the policy objectives of the Act remain valid, and whether the terms of the Act remain appropriate for securing those objectives.

"This process extended into 2004 with the final review document stating that no expansion of the Act was necessary with respect to restricted breeds and, in particular, that after commissioning expert advice in relation to breed-specific legislation, the NSW Government had adopted a 'deed, not breed' position. The suggestion to extend restrictions to crossbreeds of dogs of restricted breeds was rejected because identification would be difficult and costly to the community; ‘as there is no reliable DNA testing available, the appearance of a dog is an inaccurate indicator of the parents' breeds and enforceability of any expanded provisions would be problematic’.

"It is with disbelief then, that less than 12 months later, on May 2nd 2005, the New South Wales Premier Bob Carr announced that the Government will move to ban ‘Pit bull terriers and American pit bull terriers’. The government is apparently also considering adding "pitbull" crossbreeds to the list of banned ‘breeds’. The Government has stated that this is a result of two dog attacks in the preceding week, one by a ‘Pit bull terrier and another by two Pit bull terrier crosses’. In one of these incidents the dog had been previously reported to the responsible Council and Police with no apparent action on their part. The identification of the dogs involved in the other incident is also somewhat dubious having been reported as different breeds by media and police.

"This is not surprising considering that the Government itself appears to be somewhat confused. Government documents and statements consistently refer to 5 breeds of dogs as being restricted with clear distinction between ‘American Pit Bull Terrier’ and ‘pit bull terrier’ yet no definition or description has ever been provided by the New South Wales Government besides reference to those breeds banned from importation by the Australian Government. The Australian Government list as one breed using the following terminology: ‘American Pit Bull terrier or pit bull terrier’. This raises many questions not the least being consistent interpretation from Council to Council with breed identification?"

New South Wales Local Government Minister Tony Kelly has also called on other state governments to impose bans on the breeding and ownership of the species.

Statements attributed to Premier Mr Carr show his ignorance regarding dogs, and his almost obsessive dislike for ‘pit bulls’. His comments include:

"Over the years, we have seen pit bulls or pit bull crosses cause death and destruction across New South Wales."

"We want to breed these dogs out of existence. They are killing machines on a leash."

"It is clear that one way to minimise the risk of dog attacks is to ban these restricted breeds - the penalties will be severe and we will continue to place strict controls over those who already own these dogs."

Watson commented: "By making such emotive statements Premier Carr appears willing to ignore his Governments own dog bite statistics nor does he recognise that previous experience by Governments around the world does not support his premise that dog attacks will be reduced by banning particular breeds."

Meanwhile, the Australian Veterinary Association has released a statement renewing its opposition to breed specific legislation, as has the Royal New South Wales Canine Council.

Throughout New South Wales and Australia support to fight these draconian laws is growing with actions to date including:

A petition proposed by the Endangered Dog Breeds Association of Australia seeking an evidence-based public inquiry with submissions on the ability and efficacy of BSL and Breed Bans to increase public safety with dogs, and to reduce the instances of injury to humans from dogs.

Gold ribbons against dog hatred with gold ribbon lapel pins purchased to fund the fight

Protest rallies against breed specific legislation in all states