Battersea Report kick starts heated debate about banned breeds

28 JULY 2016

On Monday 25 July Battersea Dogs & Cats Home launched its hard hitting report Dog Bites: what’s breed got to do with it? which highlighted the failed Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and we specifically challenged Section 1, on Breed Specific Legislation ('BSL') which bans four breeds of dog in the UK.

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Battersea has to put down healthy and rehomeable dogs because of this law. Indeed last year we were required to put to sleep 91 Pit Bull type dogs, despite our experts stating 71% of them would have made great household pets.
 
Our Report found that 74% of the UK’s top canine behaviour experts do not believe that breed is either relevant or only slightly important in determining dog aggression levels. With our detailed evidence we called on the Government to repeal Breed Specific Legislation, as Battersea does not want to see dogs condemned for what they look like, but instead judged on what they have actually done.

In news coverage we featured a Pit Bull type at Battersea called Francis and there has been a huge public response to the issue. We have been both pleased and dismayed at this response. Whilst many members of the public have spoken out about their intense dislike of the Dangerous Dogs Act and understand our position, some others have only focussed their attention on Francis, and have criticised Battersea for having to put him to sleep.
    
Battersea staff and volunteers, without exception, feel the pain and hurt every time an innocent and kindly dog loses their life to this law. We see dogs like Francis come through our gates every single week and it never gets any easier if they are certified as a banned breed. 
 
No matter how lovely they are, we have absolutely no alternative but to obey the law. Last year there were 91 such dogs at Battersea and until and unless the law is changed, there will be 91 more this year. That is why Battersea and rescues all around the country who, like us, face the same issues, are so vehemently opposed to Breed Specific Legislation.
 
We received many enquiries from supporters and dog lovers about Francis and we thank each and every one of them for their interest, advice and ideas. For the past 48 hours we have scrutinised every legal avenue, checked every piece of legislation, searched for new case law and have read everything that has been sent to us from people who have offered us their views. We have spoken in detail with the Police regarding Francis and also to the local Council where he was found.  The unequivocal outcome is there is no legal way to save Francis, as there is no legal loophole for the rehoming of a stray banned breed.
 
The clear facts are that Battersea cannot rehome him and we cannot keep him, as we cannot legally assume or take ownership. And who would take the hundreds of banned breeds that will follow him? Sadly therefore we have had to put Francis to sleep, as by law there was nothing more we were able to do.
 
But Battersea’s message remains clear. There are thousands of Section 1 dogs in this country and they all need our help. Battersea cannot break the law but with the public’s support we can try to change it, to save the lives of innocent dogs in the future.

Please contact your MP

If like us you feel strongly about this issue, you can do something about it. Please contact your MP to put pressure on the Government to change the Dangerous Dogs Act once and for all. Between us we can make a difference. If we are successful, dogs like Francis and countless more in the future, will not have died in vain.

In writing to their MP, Battersea suggests concerned members of the public use the following words:

For some 25 years, under Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 it has been  a criminal offence to have possession or custody of four proscribed types of dog:-

  • Pit Bull Terrier
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Fila Braziliero
  • Dogo Argentino

The intention behind this law was to protect public safety.  However, dog bites on people continue to rise despite this unfair and arbitrary ban.

A report published by Battersea Dogs & Cats Home on 25 July 2016 entitled “Dog bites: What’s breed got to do with it?” gives the opinions of expert behaviourists and consultants on the reasons why some dogs may be aggressive towards people. Of the 215 experts who responded, some 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.

You can see the Report and its findings here: http://www.bdch.org.uk/files/Dog-bites-whats-breed-got-to-do-with-it.pdf

This new evidence casts significant doubt on the whole basis of Breed Specific Legislation.  This has been in force for 25 years and in that time it has not protected the public but has led to the needless destruction of thousands of dogs.  The time has come, a quarter of a century later, for Parliament to reconsider this legislation and repeal it with all due speed.

So I am asking you now as my MP to contact DEFRA calling for the repeal of Section 1 of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.

I look forward to receiving your reply.

We call on the Government to review the Dangerous Dogs Act

Our new research shows the failings of this breed specific legislation

Read our report