A CODE used by underworld dog dealers to sell banned breeds such as Pit Bull Terriers in local newspapers has been cracked by staff at the Liverpool Echo.
Code names and terms are used by unscrupulous dealers who sell fighting dogs through newspaper pets for sale columns - disguised as legitimate breeds.
Breeds banned in the UK under the Dangerous Dogs Act are American Pit Bull Terriers, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasiliero and Japanese Tosa - but dealers use code names such as ‘Irish Stafford’ and ‘American Stafford’ to sneak them into classified advertising columns.
Now the Echo, working with the Pet Advertising Advisory Group - made up of UK animal charities - has produced a definitive list of banned dog breeds, fake breeds and code words used to describe fighting dogs.
The ‘code breaker’ means that newspaper advertising staff can quickly identify any breeders trying to sell banned breeds or dogs specifically bred for fighting.
The list was produced as part of the newspaper's ‘Biteback’ campaign, which is calling for tougher punishments for irresponsible owners and compulsory microchipping and registration for all dogs.
The campaign was launched after the newspaper challenged Home Secretary John Reid to toughen up the Dangerous Dogs Act following a spate of attacks on people and pets in the city.
Dr Reid asked the ECHO to provide evidence of increasing attacks - and after an overwhelming response from readers asked his staff to review the law and to liase with the Dog Legislation Advisory Group (DLAG) which is currently drafting new legislation which may replace existing canine legislation.
Echo Editor Ali Machray said: ‘We launched Biteback as we were worried by the growing number of incidents where thugs were using dogs as weapons.
‘The RSPCA and Merseyside police back us, and there has been a tremendous response from readers.
‘But some breeders pointed out our own classified columns were being used to sell illegal breeds or fighting dogs, using code names and descriptions only others in the trade would recognise.
‘The list means we can now spot these terms and refuse to accept the adverts.’