Battersea calls on concerned public to help change law on banned breeds

There has been a huge public response in the 24 hours since Battersea Dogs & Cats Home launched its damning report on the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. A quarter of a century since the law was passed, Battersea is calling for a repeal of Section One of the Act which outlawed four breeds of dogs from the UK: the Pit Bull Terrier, the Dogo Argentino, the Japanese Tosa and the Fila Braziliero.

To illustrate that dogs should not be condemned for their breed and only for what they have actually done, Battersea told the tragic story of Francis, an 18 month old stray identified by the Police as being a Pit Bull type who will by law, have to be put to sleep.

Battersea has to deal with such heart-breaking cases every week of the year as it is a charity that takes in all dogs, regardless of their breed, medical history, or temperament. The public have responded in their thousands in support of Francis and future dogs like him who face the same outcome.

The world-famous charity has been greatly heartened by this overwhelming public response to the issue of banned breeds and people’s heartfelt desire to help individual dogs like Francis. The Home is now asking for the public to help bring about a change in the law.

Battersea Chief Executive Claire Horton says: “Our staff and volunteers face heart-breaking cases like Francis every week of the year. Until the law is changed, so that a dog is not judged by its breed, but by what it has actually done, dogs like Francis and many more in the future will have to be put to sleep.” 

“Battersea cannot break the law but with public support we can try to change it, to save the lives of innocent dogs in the future. That’s why we’re urging people to write to their MP and point out the ineffectiveness and injustice of the Dangerous Dogs Act.”

The charity is asking concerned members of the public to write to their MP and highlight the urgent need for change, as outlined in its new report Dog bites: What’s breed got to do with it? The report surveyed 215 expert behaviourists and consultants on the reasons why some dogs may be aggressive towards people. 74% argued that breed was either not at all important or only slightly important, whilst an overwhelming 86% believed it was due to the way that the dog was brought up by its owner.

Battersea’s legal consultant and dog law solicitor Trevor Cooper adds: “This new evidence confirms why this law is so wrong. The only way of changing Breed Specific Legislation is through Parliament and so we are asking those who  agree with Battersea to please write to your MP and tell them it should be repealed. If we can achieve this, then dogs like Francis will not die in vain.”

Battersea has drafted words the public might like to use in writing to their MP.

-Ends-

For more information and images please contact 020 7627 9294 or email press@battersea.org.uk 

Notes to editors  

Established in 1860, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home aims never to turn away a dog or cat in need of our help, caring for them until their owners or loving new homes can be found, no matter how long it takes. We are champions for, and supporters of, vulnerable dogs and cats, determined to create lasting changes for animals in our society.

Breed Specific Legislation in England & Wales:

It is a criminal offence under Section 1(3) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to have a Section 1 dog in your ‘possession or custody’ unless it has been exempted from the prohibition (ie. it has been proven that the dog would not be a danger to public safety and the Court has allowed the dog to go onto the Index of Exempted Dogs).  

We act on behalf of many Local Authorities in London for whom we take in their stray dogs.  Such a stray dog doesn’t belong to us – it remains in the ownership of its owner until 7 days have passed.  After that time, if the owner hasn’t come forward to claim their dog it is open to the Council to transfer ownership of the dog to us, but they cannot do so in the case of a Section 1 dog because it is a criminal offence under Section 1(2) to:-

(b)  sell or exchange such a dog…, or
(c)  make or offer to make a gift of such a dog

Under the same sections it is also a criminal offence to advertise or expose such a dog for sale, exchange or gift.

We have to act in a transparent manner and will contact the Police if we have a suspicion that a stray dog might be an unlawful type.  If the Police do an assessment which confirm this suspicion then, after waiting the 7 stray days, we will put the dog to sleep.

If we did not put such a Section 1 dog down after the 7 stray days (1) the dog may be seized by the Police, and (2) the Police may prosecute Battersea for having committed a criminal offence.  Putting aside the fact we would get a criminal conviction and possible punishment & costs, we cannot have a Section 1 dog exempted in our name due to the wording of the Dangerous Dog Exemption Schemes (England and Wales) Order 2015 which says in Article 2 that a dog can only be exempted in the name of a “natural person and does not include a body of persons corporate or unincorporate”

Furthermore changes to the Sentencing Guidelines which came into force 1st July 2016, would appear to prevent a dog from being exempted to someone it hadn’t previously been living with:-

“…the court must be satisfied that the person who is assessed by the court as a fit and proper person can demonstrate that they are the owner or the person ordinarily in charge of that dog at the time the court is considering whether the dog is a danger to public safety. Someone who has previously not been in charge of the dog should not be considered for this assessment because it is an offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to make a gift of a prohibited dog.”