MERSEYSIDE POLICE have received close on 400 calls in the first five days since the launch of their Dangerous Dogs ‘hand-in’ last week.
The week long initiative aimed to give owners of illegal dog breeds the chance to hand in their pets without being prosecuted, and specifically covered pit bull terriers, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brazileiro breeds, which are banned under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, although it is unlikely that any police officers seriously expected anything other than pit bull ‘type’ dogs to be handed in.
The amnesty was launched by Merseyside Chief Constable Bernard Hogan-Howe, who said it was up to dog owners to contact them to arrange for dogs to be collected from their homes. Mr Hogan-Howe played up the emotion saying: ‘You may not agree with the hand in but I am sure all parents will want to prioritise the safety of their children above the affection for their dogs.’
However, if owners of alleged pit bull type dogs chose not to hand them over voluntarily by the time the amnesty was due to end at midnight this Tuesday, they will have their animals seized and be taken to court under Section One of the DDA. If found guilty, they could face a £5,000 fine and six months imprisonment, whilst the court would then decide if the dog was to be destroyed.
If the dog was not destroyed, it would be placed on the Index of Exempted Dogs but it would have to be neutered, tattooed and micro-chipped in addition to being kept on a lead and muzzled when in a public place, in accordance with the terms of the DDA
The pressure continued on Monday of this week when police warned dangerous dog owners: ‘Call us in the next 24 hours or we will come after you.’
According to the Liverpool Echo, officers were ‘planning a blitz’ on seizing alleged pit bull type dogs as soon as the amnesty ended.
On Monday, Merseyside’s Assistant Chief Constable Helen King said: ‘The amnesty ends tomorrow. In the weeks and months afterwards, we will be targeting people who are involved in dog fighting and breeding illegal dogs, people who are using banned dogs in criminal activities, and who are not keeping banned dogs under proper control. Any illegal dogs we come across will be seized.’
As of 10.30am on Monday this week, the police had received 385 calls about potentially illegal dogs, which included calls from owners, neighbours and other informants. Following the calls, police made visits to the owners and 73 dogs were seized.
Of these dogs, eight owners disputed that their dogs were illegal and opted to go to court to fight their case, with 81 other dogs that were visited by police were deemed not to be of the pit bull ‘type’. It is understood that a number of the dogs were surrendered voluntarily and will later be destroyed.
No figures had been released relating to any dogs having been destroyed, although it is believed that police were waiting until the end of the amnesty before taking such action.