New Battersea research provides damning verdict on the Dangerous Dogs Act, 25 years on

25 JULY 2016

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We've called on the Government to review the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act in light of new research released today.

Our new report, What’s Breed Got To Do With It?, marks the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the 1991 Act, which outlawed four breeds of dogs from the UK; the Pit Bull Terrier, the Dogo Argentino, the Japanese Tosa and the Fila Braziliero.

Battersea and many other animal welfare organisations have long opposed Section 1 of the 1991 Act that judges a dog on its looks not its behaviour, and can see them destroyed if deemed by the Police to be a banned breed. There is also little evidence that the Act has reduced dog attacks or been successful in eradicating the Pit Bull Terrier in the UK.

Last year Battersea took in 91 Pit Bull Terrier types, confirming the breeding and sale of these animals is still going on and has simply been pushed underground.

A stark picture of unnecessary euthanasia

Our report also paints a stark picture of unnecessary euthanasia of certain breeds by law, based on their physical appearance, rather than what they have actually done. 

Claire Horton, Battersea’s Chief Executive, said: “This new research by Battersea sets out the failings of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 in focusing on how a dog looks, rather than on anything that they have done or the actions of their owners. 

“There are of course some dangerous dogs on our streets but for a quarter of a century this legislation has condemned too many innocent dogs to be put to sleep, whilst systematically failing to reduce dog attacks in our communities. 

“Battersea is dismayed that this outdated, knee-jerk piece of legislation is still on the statute books. There is a clear need to replace it with a law that targets irresponsible owners.”

Breed specific legislation is flawed

Our new report surveyed 215 of the UK’s professional canine behaviour experts on the factors which were most likely to cause a dog to attack a person.

  • 74% said that breed was either irrelevant or only slightly important in determining dog aggression levels
  • Breed specific legislation is flawed – the four breeds of dog outlawed by the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 were not directly identified as being the most frequently aggressive
  • Socialisation of a dog is critical, with 86% of experts highlighting the way it was brought up by its owner, and 73% identifying the way a dog was brought up by its breeder, as very important
  • Almost 89% dismissed the notion a dog’s size was a factor in its behaviour, as “not at all important”, or “not important”
  • 98% believed adding more breeds to the banned list would have no effect in preventing further dog attacks
  • 78% of experts supported the compulsory training of new dog owners
  • 77% wanted to see all breeders who sell dogs registered.

Battersea is one of the few animal rescues that take in any dog regardless of its breed, age, or medical condition. We have taken in many hundreds of Pit Bull Terriers over the last five years alone. Of the 91 Pit Bull Terriers we took in last year, we believe we could have rehomed at least 71% of them as family pets, due to their friendly and affectionate nature. Under the law we are forced to put these dogs to sleep.

It must never be forgotten that the other victims are of course people who have been attacked by a dangerous dog of any breed and not protected by an ineffective law. Since 1991, there have been 30 dog attack fatalities involving 16 children and 14 adults. Meanwhile NHS Hospital Admission statistics show there were 7,227 hospital admissions for dog bites last year - a 6% increase year on year and a 76% increase over the last 10 years.

Read the full report

What's breed got to do with it?

We've called on the Government to review the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act

Read the full report