Monday August 21st 2017

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Government Urged To Act as Innocent Dogs Destroyed

A leading animal charity is repeating its call for an urgent overhaul of the Dangerous Dogs Act after the BBC documentary Death Row Dogs exposed the shocking failings of the law (10.35pm, Tuesday 24 January, BBC1).

The Blue Cross said the hard-hitting programme is a wake-up call for the government to act now after film crews following West Midlands Police captured the shocking realities of terrified and neglected dogs kept in appalling conditions and sociable, healthy dogs being destroyed simply because they are a banned breed.

Twenty years after it was first introduced, the charity is calling for the much-criticised dangerous dogs legislation to be scrapped due to clear failures in its aims to protect the public and ensure animal welfare.

Steve Goody, director of external affairs at The Blue Cross, said, “This documentary brings to life what many of us in the animal welfare industry already know – innocent dogs are suffering due to the serious flaws of the Dangerous Dogs Act.

“As the film showed, police resources and tax payers’ money are being diverted to seize, kennel and often destroy dogs who are guilty of nothing more than looking a certain way.

“Any dog can be a safe and loving pet in the right hands, if socialised and trained properly from an early age. So-called ‘dangerous dogs’ are created by the irresponsible actions of their owners.”

As Death Row Dogs showed, the police’s hands are tied when they seize a banned breed, even if they have shown no signs of being dangerous. If the dog is deemed safe and friendly, but the previous owner’s home is unsuitable, the dog will be destroyed as police are banned from finding it a new home.

Steve added, “Viewers will have been shocked to see moving scenes of a friendly and sociable dog being put to sleep because he was a banned breed with an unsuitable owner, and the law forbids him from finding a loving new home. This is a major flaw in the act and a serious animal welfare concern, and the sad reality is that it happens all the time.

“The public is behind a change in the law and the government needs to act now before more people are seriously injured and thousands more dogs needlessly destroyed.”

The Blue Cross has been calling for an overhaul of the law to focus on ‘deed not breed’ and hold owners to account for the behaviour of their dogs.  Key changes called for include:

• The introduction of dog control orders allowing authorities to step in with a range of measures to correct signs of anti-social behaviour before a serious attack takes place, such as muzzling a dog, keeping it on a lead or ordering training classes.

• A fairer assessment of dogs suspected to be banned breeds in their own homes, saving tax payers’ money on kennelling costs and avoiding the fear and distress of dogs who are seized and thrown into kennels for long periods of time.

• If a dog is deemed safe, police or animal welfare organisations should be allowed to rehome it to an appropriate owner.

• A change in the law to criminalise dog attacks on private as well as public property.

The Blue Cross, which relies entirely on public donations, helps thousands of needy and sick pets through its network of rehoming centres and animal hospitals and also campaigns for improved animal welfare. For more information, visit www.bluecross.org.uk.

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