A BAN on the ownership and breeding of so-called dangerous dogs must be introduced on an all-Ireland basis, animal welfare experts warned recently.
The USPCA believes that dog-fight organisers may be exploiting differences in legislation between Northern Ireland and the Republic to bring unlicensed animals dogs across the border.
The call came just days after a banned pit bull terrier-type dog was seized from the Tyrone home of top Gaelic Rules football player Gerard Cavlan, who later denied ownership of the dog via his solicitor. The dog, believed to have been involved in an illegal fighting ring, travelled on a pet passport from Finland to Germany and into Dublin, but only became illegal when it crossed the border into Northern Ireland, which is covered by the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
The ruling was implemented in the UK after a spate of attacks by dogs alleged to be American Pit Bull Terriers on people and other dogs. The DDA also bans the Fila Brasiliera, Dogo Argentino and Japanese Tosa. However, Pit bull terrier-type dogs are not illegal in the Republic of Ireland.
Other European countries such as Germany have banned a number of breeds from all over the world, under Breed Specific Legislation, often closely based on the DDA, while native breeds such as Rottweilers and Dobermanns must be kept under strict control.
Steven Philpott, chief executive of the USPCA, said that the charity had been aware for some time that dog-fighting enthusiasts had been exploiting the border to bring pit bulls into Northern Ireland.
"If Northern Ireland and the Republic had similar legislation it would go a long way in solving the difficulties that we experience," he said. "Shared legislation on banned breeds could help crack down on the practice."