Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Government Admits Dangerous Dogs Act Mistake

Government Admits Dangerous Dogs Act Mistake

June 8, 2009 by Alison Green

(just a shame they haven’t actually done anything to fix their error all these years on!)

Twelve years on and thousands of dogs later….

Today is a special day for anti BSL campaigners within England, Scotland and Wales as 12 years ago our government did something amazing. They held their hands up, said “We made a mistake” and took the first step towards correcting that mistake by amending the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, a piece of legislation that has cost thousands of innocent lives.

Prior to 8th June 1997 a dog branded “pit bull type” had to be killed regardless of how wonderful and friendly a pet the dog was or how responsible an owner. Any dog fitting the loose description of “type” died by lethal injection. After the 8th June 1997 however the courts were able to use their discretion when sentencing and could allow a dog that posed no danger to the public, to live. The dogs had to be entered onto the Index of Exempted Dogs and owners had to abide by strict restrictions but we no longer had mandatory destruction of dogs based on their physical appearance and the Dangerous Dogs Act (Amendment) 1997 came into force.

For those who stood against the mindless killing of pet dogs this was indeed a triumph, a rare occurrence of the Government admitting it had made a mistake. Sheer hard work, constant pressure and quite literally blood, sweat and tears brought about a change that would save some dogs from death by lethal injection.

I was originally going to write about what has happened since and take a look at what the future may hold but as I was nearly finished a picture came into my mind, a picture that illustrated what some have already been saying, the amendment is NOT enough.

The picture in my mind was of a dog called Oscar.

Oscar is a ghost, a dog that haunts me often. A beautiful red lad with a wonderful family who adored him. Oscar was a “wonky dog” who had been saved by a young lad who himself was very ill. He saw himself in Oscar and took him home as a young pup. Oscar and his new owner kept each other going until one day Oscar was seized. I spoke with Oscar’s family almost daily as they waited to go to court and win him back. They were so excited that he would be coming home but worried about his health problems and the care he would get in kennels. Messages regarding treatment was relayed to the Police and assurance’s it would be done given. Waiting for court was stressful as Oscar’s owner’s condition worsened and as court dates came and went without them, concerns arose.

There’s little point explaining all the ins and outs, you probably already know where it ended. For me the fight for Oscar ended with a phone call. A heartbroken screaming down the phone “they have killed him “. Over and over and over, heart wrenching sobs as the realisation they would never see Oscar, their “wonky dog” again, began to hit home. The police had logged Oscar incorrectly on their computer. He had been destroyed some time previously as a stray dog; his body had been disposed of. Oscar was gone.

We have the amendment but it didn’t save Oscar. We brought in the law, we brought in the amendment and we stopped bothering to change it anymore. Because of this Oscar died.

There are others like Oscar. There’s over a hundred that didn’t go home within the Met police alone recently. Seized and held in “secure kennels” with a “duty of care” to provide for those dogs, to protect them yet they failed. Some of the dogs that die in “police care” may not be “pit bull type” so if your reading this thinking your dog is safe, think again.

There’s hundreds being killed in rescue centres and pounds across the country. We have tried to gather figures on exact numbers killed in London but few seem to have any. We know its at least 100 in London alone over the last year, probably much more.

There are dogs being “identified” by people whose decision is going unchallenged, as owners don’t know where to turn, feel there is no alternative. Those dogs are dying too.

Dogs like Cassie. Her owners knew she wouldn’t cope with being away from her family. They cuddled her weeping as her life ebbed away.

There are dogs like Barney and Missey. Seized and registered but the confines of “secure kennels” has had its affect on them and they are unable to settle back into family life. Barney’s owner rang me after he let Barney go.

“ We never really win do we?” he asked and we don’t. The dogs don’t win and neither does the public. Everybody loses and the dogs are still dying even with the amendment.

These ghosts are a mere drop in the ocean of lost souls. These are some of the ones we know of, some of the ones we hoped to save. For each dog we know of you can be sure another dog at least has also lost its life.
It’s been twelve years since the Government gave limited discretion to the courts allowing some dogs to live. Twelve years since any change was made to the worst piece of legislation this country has known. We are offered our medication to accept this by way of “Leave at home” policies but while we may cheer and pat ourselves on the backs this offers little for the dogs. Do you intend to wait another 12 years before Section one of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is repealed for good?

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