The recent tragic incident involving a Pit Bull Terrier and a five-year-old child highlights the fact that the general public are not being sufficiently protected by dangerous dog legislation as it currently stands. However, the Kennel Club has grave concerns about the dangerous dog amnesties that are already underway, which call for the destruction of all Pit Bull types, and the ‘Voluntary Scheme’ being proposed by Merseyside Police to deal with these dogs, which gives owners only a small window of opportunity to register their dogs as Pit Bull types.
The amnesties are a poorly thought out and ineffective response to the situation, which will lead to the death of many well loved family pets and cause a great deal of distress to dog owners. They will do nothing to prevent further attacks, and by only running for seven days the Merseyside scheme does not provide enough time to be effective.
The Kennel Club proposes an alternative to the amnesties, and that is to re-open the Index of Exempted Dogs under the Dangerous Dogs Act. By re-opening the Index, not just for seven days but for a more realistic minimum period of three months, all owners of Pit Bull type dogs would be able to apply to a court, without fear of prosecution, for their dog to be registered on the basis that it would not constitute a danger to public safety.
Proof of this could be determined by the court’s judgement taking into account the dog’s history, the dog’s owner and the dog’s character. If indeed a dog was found to be aggressive, then it would not be able to be registered on the Index and would have to be humanely destroyed. If however, the dog in question was of a Pit Bull type but was well trained, had a responsible owner and generally posed no threat to the public then it could be registered.
The temperaments of Pit Bull type dogs vary significantly since a dog’s genetics (breed) has very little to do with its behaviour. Research shows that this is influenced most by the dog’s owner, the environment it lives in and the training it is given. In the wrong hands, any breed of dog can be dangerous - the number of dog attacks by breeds other than those on the dangerous dogs list illustrates this. Similarly, any dog that has been trained by its owner appropriately and sufficiently should not be outlawed or destroyed based on its breed alone.
It is not certain whether the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be reviewing the Dangerous Dogs Act in reaction to the tragic incident involving Ellie Lawrenson, but the Kennel Club would strongly support such a review.
The Kennel Club is now urgently requesting the general public to contact their local MP, local authorities, or local Police Station in support of the KC proposal of re-opening the Index, crucially for at least 3 months, to give everybody time to learn of the initiative and be able to act accordingly - which considering the seriousness of not doing so – death of a pet dog, or prosecution of the owner, is the minimum time needed.
Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: ‘There are estimated to be thousands of Pit Bull type dogs in the UK and it is morally objectionable for those which have done nothing wrong, which have loving and responsible owners to be killed for no good reason; this is akin to ethnic cleansing which is considered to be abhorrent in terms of human beings.
The Kennel Club has received calls from owners who have handed over their dogs during an amnesty, only to later regret their decision due to the upset and distress caused by losing what they regard as a family member. Only those who are responsible owners will react to an amnesty and so the amnesty achieves nothing since irresponsible owners are the least likely to come forward’.