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Dog fighting undercover: A Panorama special


Thursday 30 August 2007, BBC 1, 9.00 pm

AS READERS of OUR DOGS will be aware, fighting dogs like the American pit bull terrier were banned in the UK in 1991 after a savage attack on a six-year-old child. But in 2007 they are still on our streets attacking children. These dogs also feature in a cruel and bloodthirsty sport – where owners and punters watch as two dogs fight to the death.

This is the view put forward by the BBC programme Panorama, which this week investigates those who breed the animals and how illegal pit bull-type dogs are imported into the UK. An undercover reporter enters a secret international network of dog fighters and traders that has never been infiltrated before - capturing on camera an organised dog fight.

According to a BBC press release, ‘The American Pitbull Terrier is an explosive crossbreed created by dog-fighters to be the ultimate canine gladiator. As the UK is increasingly finding out, it seems more and more pit bulls are on our streets than ever before.

Rukshana Khan was just six years old when she was savaged by a pit bull outside her Bradford school in 1991. ‘It got hold of me and just completely went mad basically, it just started banging me on the floor, just throwing me all round, I mean I can’t really explain how bad it was but it was just really, really horrific.’

The attack on Rukshana provoked a public outcry and was a major factor in the creation of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act which banned dogs bred for fighting. But some are now asking whether the act has failed. In just over one day’s filming Panorama captured many pit bull types on camera in Merseyside. It was here that a five-year-old girl – Ellie Lawrenson was mauled to death on New Year’s Day this year.

Christian Duncan is a plastic surgeon at the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool and treats victims of dog attacks. ‘Certainly recently we have had a significant spate of pit bull type attacks. It's certainly a very significant number and it's a significant problem because those things should be preventable.’

Panorama uncovers those who breed and fight dogs and those who casually sell them to owners in UK cities.

A review will appear in next week’s OUR DOGS.