News Charity Defends Dogs On Death Row

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Charity defends dogs on death row
12th August 2019

By Karen Pickwick

The RSPCA is again calling on the Government to review the Dangerous Dogs Act after thousands of dogs have been put to sleep in the UK in the 28 years since the legislation was introduced.

Today (August 12) marks the 28th anniversary of the introduction of the 1991 ACT, which includes Section 1, the prohibition of four types of dogs considered ‘dangerous’ predominantly due to their appearance.

To mark this anniversary, the animal welfare charity has released a series of images in memory of five of the dogs that have lost their lives due to this law.

Dr Samantha Gaines, RSPCA dog welfare expert and lead author of the Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner report, said: “The law is letting down dogs who look a certain way, who have specific measurements, or who tick an unfortunate number of boxes on a list. This is unfair, unjust and wrong.

“The Dangerous Dogs Act was a knee-jerk piece of legislation, introduced in response to a series of high-profile dog attacks. But in the 28 years since its inception, hospital admissions due to dog bites have continued to rise, tragic fatalities as a result of dog incidents have continued, and thousands of dogs have needlessly lost their lives.

PUBLIC SAFETY

“It’s high time the UK Government respond to the scientific research, follow in the footsteps of other nations around the world who have repealed BSL and do, not just what is right for dogs, but for public safety and ensure both are better protected.”

Breed specific legislation – or BSL – prohibits the owning, breeding, selling, advertising or rehoming of four types of dogs: pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, gila Brasiliero and dogo Argentino. All four types of dogs were traditionally bred for fighting but the RSPCA says there is no robust scientific evidence to suggest that any pose greater risk of being aggressive or causing more damage should they bite.

In the UK, any dog suspected of being a prohibited type will be assessed by a police dog legislation officer and compared with a breed standard. Depending on how closely the dog matches the standard they could be identified as being of type. Their parentage and genetics will not be considered as part of the assessment. For some dogs, being identified as a prohibited type means living with lifelong restrictions but for others, the way they look is a death sentence.

The RSPCA launched its #EndBSL campaign in 2016 to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the legislation, calling on the Government to launch a public inquiry into the Dangerous Dogs Act.

In 2018, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Select Committee launched an inquiry into the legislation and recommended that the Government urgently review the law, particularly around Section 1.

ILLEGAL


The legislation makes it illegal to rehome or give away any dogs that have been identified as a prohibited type, which means it is illegal for the RSPCA to find new homes for these dogs even if they would otherwise be considered ideal for rehoming with a family. This means that legally, they have to be put to sleep, which is distressing for staff and volunteers who form close bonds with these dogs.

This week, the charity is profiling five dogs who were all euthanised due to BSL.

Dr Gaines added: “Defra has commissioned research by Middlesex University and we’re awaiting the results. We hope that this will show once and for all that BSL has no scientific basis, is ineffective and needs urgent repeal.

“Breed or type is not a good predictor of risk. Whether a dog chooses to use aggression is extremely complex and depends on their breeding, rearing and early-life experiences.

“Unfortunately, BSL can mislead people to believe that some breeds of dogs are safe when any dog has the potential to bite - and that’s why it’s so important that adults and children know how to interact safely with dogs and what warning signs to look out for that suggest a dog is uncomfortable. It’s also incredibly important that dog owners are responsible with their pets, keep them under control in public places and speak to a vet or clinical animal behaviourist if they show any concerning behaviour.

“BSL fails to protect public safety and seriously compromises dog welfare. We’re calling for the general public to help us stand up and speak up for these dogs.”