Half of dan­ger dogs de­stroyed ‘harm no one’

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Pa­trick Sawer Pa­trick Scott

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MORE than half the dogs killed after be­ing seized by po­lice have not harmed any­one, fig­ures show, prompt­ing calls for ur­gent re­form of the leg­is­la­tion.

The ma­jor­ity of dogs de­stroyed after be­ing seized un­der the Dan­ger­ous Dogs Act, which bans breeds such as pit bull ter­ri­ers and Ja­pa­nese tosas, had not ex­hib­ited any dan­ger­ous be­hav­iour or been in­volved in any in­ci­dent with the pub­lic.

The lat­est avail­able fig­ures show that in 2015-16 a to­tal of 307 dogs were de- stroyed after be­ing seized, but that 175 of these would be widely re­garded as “in­no­cent”. The vast ma­jor­ity of dogs seized dur­ing that pe­riod – 599 out of a to­tal of 731 – had not at­tacked any­body or showed dan­ger­ous in­ten­tions.

The fig­ures, ob­tained through a free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest, have prompted an­i­mal wel­fare char­i­ties to de­nounce the Dan­ger­ous Dogs Act as a blunt in­stru­ment which al­lows po­lice to seize and de­stroy dogs be­cause they be­long to a banned breed, not be­cause they have done any­thing wrong. Cam­paign­ers say it ig­nores the po­ten­tial dan­ger posed by dogs that are not banned, lulling the pub­lic into a false sense of se­cu­rity.

Born In­no­cent, which cam­paigns for the act to be re­placed, said it al­lows for po­lice to seize dogs of any breed or cross-breed that may look like a pit bull, ir­re­spec­tive of be­hav­iour.

The char­ity said: “Bites and mor­tal­ity have grown since the act was in­tro­duced and one of the rea­sons, ac­cord­ing to ex­pert re­searchers, is that it cre­ates a false be­lief that all other dogs are safe.”

The char­ity has found that in the past eight years £3mil­lion has been spent on ken­nelling seized dogs and more than £5mil­lion on po­lice costs for in­ves­ti­ga­tions and prose­cu­tions. It ar­gues that in­stead sus­pected banned breeds should be al­lowed to stay at home dur­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions. The new data comes after it was re­vealed that po­lice in Northamp­ton­shire seized a puppy when it bit an of­fi­cer on the hand and arm. The of­fi­cer had tried to stop the dog after it ran out of the drive of the fam­ily’s home. Bun­gle, a chow chow, was later re­turned after its own­ers agreed to a vol­un­tary con­trol or­der.

Last month, MPs on the en­vi­ron­ment, food and ru­ral af­fairs com­mit­tee called for a re­view of leg­is­la­tion. Neil Parish, the com­mit­tee chair­man, said: “All dogs can be dan­ger­ous, and we can’t ban all dogs that might one day bite some­one. The Govern­ment should fo­cus in­stead on en­cour­ag­ing re­spon­si­ble own­er­ship, im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion, and en­sur­ing of­fend­ers face ro­bust penal­ties.”

De­fra said: “The Dan­ger­ous Dogs Act makes it a crim­i­nal of­fence for any dog to be dan­ger­ously out of con­trol, and the po­lice can seize such dogs.

“When a dog is seized, it will be for the courts to de­cide whether the owner can keep it, based on the dog’s tem­per­a­ment and whether the owner is a fit and proper per­son, in­clud­ing that they have the right ac­com­mo­da­tion to care for the dog.”

Bun­gle, a chow chow, was seized by po­lice of­fi­cers after it ran into the road, and was later re­turned to its own­ers

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