By DDA Watch Volunteer Maria Daines
I became aware of breed specific legislation in the UK, through the story of Bruce, a family dog seized and removed from his loving family and his home, and incarcerated in isolation, deemed to be a ‘dangerous’ breed of dog, around 2 years ago. Thankfully Bruce was one of the lucky ones, though not entirely lucky, he was allowed to live but he could never go back home or be part of his family again. Being lucky is not a regular occurrence in the enforcement of breed specific legislation, it’s more a case of who is fighting for you and what ‘weapons’ of legal credibility you can bring to the arena in the battle to save your dog’s life.
Every week more dogs are seized, some go quietly to their deaths because as yet their families have not heard of this law or have any idea how to ask for help, and many do not even know where to look for help. The law operates quite happily under this screen of ignorance, yet the tide is turning, and more people are learning what BSL is all about, and most informed members of the public want to see this ludicrous piece of legislation repealed, not least because it is costing the taxpayer millions and solving none of the problems associated with truly dangerous dogs, whose irresponsible owners care nothing for the risk their dog may pose to society.
When I first heard about Bruce and became involved in the campaign to save him I looked around for ways to be of use, surely someone had the answers? Having my eyes opened to the issue and the heinous facts that hit me like a sledgehammer, I wondered how this legislation (introduced in the United Kingdom in 1991) and its cruel effects, could have escaped my attention for 18 years. The reality that innocent family dogs are dying every day because of a tape measure (might as well be a piece of string!) surely begs for a massive public outcry and sustained campaign to parliament to get this rubbish law off the statute books, pronto! My questions could only be answered when I found DDA Watch, a small but powerful group campaigning for fair dog laws, and subsequently I joined as a volunteer, believing I could do something to make a difference. That’s when the heartbreak really kicked in.
You think that with knowledge and a means to work together for a common and vital cause, you’ll have the missing piece, the all important link that will propel your campaign forward and right an obvious wrong. You wake up every day in a hopeful mood, you are driven and you have a driving force all around you, and thousands of supporters alongside you. You see the pictures of the dogs that didn’t make it, their eyes connect with your soul and you know it’s too late for them, but there are all the others waiting for a lifeline, waiting to go home, waiting for a last hug from mum and dad. You read their stories, you write your letters in their defence, you talk to owners of the seized and you listen to them holding back their tears, you communicate on as many levels and in as many visible ways as possible, you show people what you are doing and why, you think, and think, and shed your own hopeless tears and you try to keep everyone’s spirits high and strong. But you always have that nagging thread of doubt that will not let you be at peace. What if we never make a breakthrough? What if we never end BSL? What then?
As a songwriter I try to bring forth issues that have affected me and songs about BSL are listed in our back catalogue alongside other musical tributes to the dead. I see BSL in this light, it’s a dead law, a dead loss, it is leaving a graveyard in its wake and everyone who is affected by this flawed legislation - those who have lost their precious family members, simply because those members are deemed unfit to live, can never forget, nor move on believing that justice and the law is correct. BSL thrives and steals the lives of our innocent treasured friends, our companion dogs.
So today, in light of the recent news that yet another puppy, a sweet waggy tailed baby called Fudge, has been killed because of BSL, and with the ongoing struggle to help Lennox get home to his family ever present in a million hearts and minds, I think of the last two years and where this time has taken me personally. Certainly to the depths of despair and to places in my heart that I never wished to know about or have to feel.
BSL is not about feelings; it’s about a piece of paper that carries a death warrant because a living being looks a certain way. You may choose to ignore what’s happening and keep your head buried in the sand of blissful ignorance. But you won’t be able to do that forever. Of course you could say this law does not apply to you if you don’t have a dog, but it does apply to you and you and you; it applies to each and every one of us in the United Kingdom and in many countries beyond. If you are part of a community, if you use your library, or the hospital, or if your mother or father needs a place in a care home, if your children go to school, if you wish to receive a pension when you reach the eligible age, if you want your roads repaired, if you want good public services like trains and buses, BSL does apply to you. Because the money spent on upholding and implementing a law that seizes and destroys innocent family pets, is paid for by your taxes.
You may choose not to look or listen or have anything to do with how your MP’s and your government spends your money, but when the circle of BSL widens and spends that bit more each year, one day you will wish you’d looked up and taken note of what’s happening around you, and then that 5 month old puppy that was killed and the endless list of others who were also killed, and the ones in the future that will be killed, might just catch your eye and your attention.
BSL is not about protecting people from bad dogs, it’s really about people having protection from bad laws.
It’s time we all looked and listened.