Friday, 22 April 2011

Statement from Lennox's family (Dorset dog pts via the council dog warden)

Lennox’s family would like to thank the public, friends and strangers, for the overwhelming support they have received following the tragic loss of their pet dog Lennox. Lenny meant the world to us and it is incredibly emotional to see that in his death he has found more friends then he would ever have known in life. He would have loved that! So thank you.

At the moment we are still in the process of gathering all the information together. As soon as we can give you the specifics we will do so we would ask you to be patient with us while we do this. We are aware that many have suggested a protest should be arranged however at present this is not something we feel will be of benefit so would respectfully ask that anyone who does decide to protest does not do so in Lennox's name. When the time is right we will be happy to be involved but our priority now is gathering information and ensuring this does not happen again.

It is amazing when we think back to last week and we were just like many of you, a family with a dog getting ready to enjoy the summer. Everything now seems totally upsidedown but we will not let Lennox down now.

We love you Lenny boy, your always in our hearts, sleep well  x x

Lennoxs family speak to the Echo

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Once upon an amnesty -this is Breed Specific Legislation

Sometimes we dont say much. Thats often because we are busy. At the moment I seem to be having two phone calls on the go at the same time most of the time. SO I thought I would post something I wrote in 2007. Its now 2011. Nothing has gotten better, its gotten worse. We are busier than we were then and things are harder. So if anyone wants to know what we may be doing, take a look at this and take your pick. Cos we still do this and more.

Once upon an amnesty

The events of 1st January 2007 started a chain reaction that reached out to many people in many walks of life, around the U.K. Many of us dog people knew something * bad * was about to happen as a result. We thought it was all about the dogs and we were ready. We had dealt with dogs before in large numbers, had dealt with some DDA cases too. We were ready!

But who where we kidding? Dogs we could handle, but each telephone call you take is a window into the soul of the person speaking to you. You hear and feel every inch of pain and every tear that falls. You learn two tricks very quickly: how to cry silently and how to speak without your voice shaking.

Before the pit bull amnesty even began, the calls did. People with a dog who had to know what breed it was. Many of those sent pictures in the hope we could say they where safe, their dog wasnt *type* . But we are not breed experts. We can say an opinion but that’s all so owners, needing an answer, never got one from us. You would think that would mean they would stop asking the same question would you? But it didn’t. They just asked the same questions in different ways. Instead of “Is my dog type?” they would ask “Don’t you see Stafford/American bulldog/ Collie etc there”

I remember one of the first cases that showed how complex everything would be. An owner rang us, a lovely lady. She hadn’t walked her dog since it started because she was too scared to. Her friend had her dog seized not long after taking him to the vets to have his booster jabs. Rumours of police watching vets where rife. Her own dog was now showing signs of illness, vomiting and the runs and she was too scared to take him to the vets, because if she did, he may die instead of be made well. But the dog needed a vet. She didn’t know what to do, he could die if he didn’t see a vet, but die if he did. A few hours later she rang back, crying with relief down the phone.

She had taken her dog to the vet. A different vets the other side of town. She had put her dog in the car, hidden him under a blanket and prayed she didn’t get spotted. She used a false name and address and paid the bill in cash. Her dog had gone to the vets and it hadn’t cost him his life. Hasn’t the world turned upside down for these people? When a simple vet trip scares you senseless? What logic is there for the responsible owners, who suddenly feel they cant take their dog to the vet?

Another person told us a story of a young pup, seized by the police and signed over. The owners said they didn’t realise they had a choice, that they could keep their dog. That pup, that was walking with his owner on the way from training school, is now dead.

We heard other similar stories.

One person had signed something when the police took their dogs but they where crying and didn’t know what they had signed. They didn’t give permission to have their dogs killed but did they sign permission? While speaking with one of the owners, the realisation on what may have been signed hit them. The other owner, standing nearby listening in, rushed to the bathroom to be violently sick. In that case it turned out they had indeed signed permission but in their statment, had refused to accept their dogs where an illegal breed. Maybe that saved the dogs?

A telephone call later on, some owners had been ordered to go out to try and relax. They had and met old friends who asked after the dogs. The phone line goes with a request to help them because one of the owners has become very upset; they are worried he may do something to himself. So you call that owner, try and talk them home. You hear that person, young 20 something male crying his heart out because he just wants his dog back. His dog saved his life, gave him confidence but he doesn’t know if he can save hers. You want to tell him he will definatly save her. But you cant because nothing is definate until the dogs back home.

Owners believe we are the ones who will understand and who can offer help. Many think we have all the answers and can get their dog back home. For the large majority we can help, but we can’t get their dog home right now and that’s the one thing they really want. Almost all are convinced there’s a mistake somewhere because surely this cannot be *right*? That the law doesnt make sense.

After a half dozen calls you get a set “patter” going. You need the person on the end of the phone to listen to all the facts, the possible repercussions,fines, prison terms, the stress involved. You need them to listen to that and understand what your saying. That is very hard to do because all they want to do is explain to you that their dog hasn’t ever done anything. Its got to be a mistake, they don’t need to hear what your saying, they just need the police to understand it’s a big mistake and give them their dog back. Trying to get them to listen and understand they could get a record or a fine, because they can all the owners can; is very hard. They don’t care about those things. They care about their dog. No amount of money will ever be worth their dog’s life. Only once has the thought of a record made an owner pause. She worked within a local authority with young people and that could have an affect. She went on to fight anyway. Her job could be replaced, her dog couldn’t.

Some calls have been very hard to take.
An owner, sure his dog would give up in a kennel situation, wanted to know if a suggestion he had would stop them taking his dog. He wondered if he had a vet remove all of his dog’s teeth, would that stop them taking him? Because he couldn’t hurt anyone ever then could he? Maybe if he did that, they would believe him when he said his dog wasnt dangerous and leave him alone?

Another owner, if she muzzled her dog at all times, unless in a crate in the house, would they let her keep her?

Midnight and the phone is ringing. You answer it to hear a sobbing woman on the phone. She’s hiding upstairs under the bed with her dog. Her partner is downstairs with the police. Don’t let them take her dog away, ring them and explain she’s never hurt anyone, please just make it all go away. They will do anything but don’t let the police take their friend.
It doesn’t affect just the adults either. One young child, not even 16, packed a bag and ran away with his dog. His dad was going to call in under the amnesty and fight for the dog. But that would mean that child lost his best friend for a time, his soul mate. He couldn’t let him do that. It took days to convince this scared little boy to bring his dog and himself back home. Would you go home if you thought it would lose you, your best friend?

So many people caught up in hell. Someone running from the police van while exercising their dog. They grab a leaflet as they try and escape and ring you the next day. That park was the last safe place to go, what do they do now? They are good people, they train their dog, walk it, socialise it but now they are forced indoors, too scared to go outside.They ask you if they should let relatives take their dogs. They live in another part of the country and should be safe. They wont ever see their dog again, except for the odd visit each year maybe. But they will be alive and well and while it will hurt to lose them forever, at least they know they will be safe and happy.
Its not just Merseyside either. London, one responsible owner had taken his dog to the vets only to told it would have to be pts as it looked like an illegal dog and he’s not the only one who has ended up fearful of seeking any help. Another dog, a rescue, was in training for her KC Good Citizen, she is the sweetest of dogs. The big day arrives for the examination and as her owner stands up she is yelled at and told she can’t take the test as the dog looks ‘illegal’ The room goes quiet as everyone looks on, the situation is calmed by the trainer and the little dog (who has attended classes from a puppy) goes on to sail through her examination.

Her owner drives home in tears with no certificate, no rosette, the only one not to get one. In fear she lost her dog too as she moved her somewhere "safe".
Just last night, a knock on the door from the owner of a large Stafford, he’s been reluctant to take his dog out anymore which has resulted in an in-house scrap between two pent up dogs who were friends, one who no longer gets to go out. He wants to have her spayed and id chipped and is asking if it would be ‘safe’. He chats away whilst the dog rolls over to have her belly rubbed,. She lives with a family who all love her to bits, yet another problem has been created due to the law itself

So many things.

The day before court the phone gets busy again. Terrified owners checking and double-checking their documents. Have they missed anything? Made any mistake? Is the one thing that will save their dog in them? Checking times to make sure they wont be late. Crying. Almost all cry the day before court. I think its because its over now isn’t it? There’s nothing else they can do. In 24 hrs someone may tell them their dog will die. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Court itself is the most awful experience ever. The day of the first hearing, while waiting in the outside court to be called, we had the luxury of watching a grown woman suddenly sob hysterically and almost collapse because her sister had rushed in with a picture her kids had drawn to add to the bundle of documents. This very smart lady, well-dressed, articulate, middle class lady crying her heart out because her dog, that she still swears blind is not a pit bull, may be killed in a few hours. Small groups of owners huddled together. They show pictures to each other and hear how others lost their dogs. They exchange their greatest fears with complete strangers, hugging, crying and wishing for good news. Not one is scared they will get a fine. Not one worries about jail. They are already in a prison, a hell of their own and hope that soon it will all be all right again.

In the courtroom, one young lad beings to pale and sways to the side. Passing out because he’s so worried he forgot to breathe properly. That happens a lot. Owners hold their partners hands and look at each other offering a weak nervous smile. On the stand the tears fall as they stop reading from the written statement about their dog and just talk from the heart. Not one of them realises they have stopped reading the statement until afterwards.

If they win, there’s no greater moment for them. A group of strangers will scream, cry and hug each other. Older lady or young male they all show the same reaction. Relief, immense joy and they stand proudly again.

To watch them lose in court is something I personally havent had to witness and for that, I am gratful. A friend of ours has seen it. She was still crying days later.

We have watched owners have to make awful decisions. One owner, his dog was taken, a young friendly dog. Kennel stress can affect dogs in many different ways. This young dog, that lived with young kids and never shown any aggression, changed in kennels with such a huge change of lifestyle. His owner had won in court and now he was having to fight again for his dog. Only a young man, he fought and got permission to see his dog for himself, to see what he was really like now. He told us afterwards that his dog, the one that had been taken away from him, was no longer there. What was left was a shell, a dog that no longer recognised his owner. His owner took the heartwrenching decision to let his dog go, he had suffered enough and he couldnt be fixed now. So he did the only thing he could do, let his dog go peacefully.

After court, they have to fill in a form for the Index and that form asks them to state what breed their dog is. Every owner rings us and asks what breed is their dog?! They still do not believe it’s a pit bull. Many refuse to write pit bull on the form. I have no idea what the right answer should be, I suggest they put whatever breed they believe their dog to be followed by the words “deemed pit bull type”. I guess that is acceptable, as the Index hasn’t questioned any!

After court, once the dogs come home you speak to the owners again. Your hear fear because their dog can take the muzzle off. Upset because people now cross the road when they see their muzzled dog. Laughter because one owner painted her dogs brown baskerville muzzle with sparkly pink nail varnish because she was upset over the looks she got!

One call, the worst. Owner had to move. Wasn’t allowed his dog in the new premises, not a banned breed even registered. They search and search and find nowhere. They can’t rehome and they can’t keep. The rules don’t let them. So one day they take the dog they fought for with all their heart and soul, hold them tight and watch while they die in their arms. They cry down the phone like a child. They just lost their best friend and nothing will ever take that pain away. Speaking afterwards one line I will never forget. He said, “None of us will ever truly win will we?” I guess they don’t.

Its a very surreal situation. We could go on but its better for us not too. With each call we take, we have to switch off from the one before and try and switch off again at night to sleep well. Because of that we don’t post about it too much. Its hard to go over it all again, when all in all, your pretty helpless. You can tell them the law and the punishments for them. But they don’t mind those. The one thing they want you cannot do. You cannot bring their dog home now.

So if anyone ever thinks the owners don’t care, or find it easy, or in some strange way finding it a reason to act “hard”, well, those people who think that really don’t have any idea. To those who havent really noticed whats been going on, please stand up to this, whatever your breed of dog, wether you have a dog or not. It has to stop now. They should only seize dogs if it had to be done. They can actually leave some dogs in the home until a day or two before a court hearing avoiding much stress for dogs and owners. Many police are not doing this. Why? Instead they kennel the dogs for weeks or months on end, costing huge amounts of money for dogs who have never hurt anyone, nor shown any signs that they will do so. All based in the main, on the appearance of the dog.

The owners who go through all this do so for one reason only. They truly love their dog. Each time the phone rings, we fill with dread at what we will hear. But when it’s all over, what shines through is Courage, Strength and Love for their dogs. We can’t say what it is like to be in their shoes, but I for one, am awed at the dignity and courage of all the owners.

They really do deserve to get their dogs back home.

Signing a life away... The devastation of BSL

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.

Maria Daines


Friday, 8 April 2011

Fighting for Fudge – outrage as puppy is killed.

Fighting for Fudge – outrage as puppy is killed.

The owner of a puppy in Liverpool has been left heartbroken after Merseyside police destroyed her 5-month-old crossbreed pet. Carole Eden, 61, claims that unqualified police officers attended her home at 9.45 pm on 22nd March and informed her that her puppy “Fudge” was a banned pit bull type.

Ms Eden says

“Fudge was asleep when they arrived but woke up wagging her tail and looking for a fuss. The police officers told me she was a pit bull and they were going to seize her. I was told to sign some forms but didn’t have my glasses so went to get them. One of the officers placed a hand on my arm to stop me and informed me the forms were simply to say I wasn’t coerced.

I believed them. You are meant to trust the authorities. I believed Fudge was being seized yet half an hour after Fudge was taken I received a phone call telling me she was dead. The forms I had signed had been to agree to have Fudge destroyed. She was just 5 months old !

This has left a whole family devastated. Fudge was part of the family and my grandkids came daily to see her. The little ones played with her and the bigger ones walked her - all under supervision, as you should do with any dog. I can honestly say I haven’t seen my family as upset as this since their dad died.”

The following day Ms Eden approached Endangered Dogs Defence and Rescue who in turn contacted DDA Watch and solicitor Tina Hay from Wheldon Law. Ms Eden was advised that as Fudge was not yet fully grown and under 9 months of age, it would be impossible to accurately determine if Fudge was a banned type or not.

An independent Breed Expert was appointed to carry out an assessment on Fudge who concluded that at present, Fudge did not have the substantial number of characteristics needed to be a pit bull type. It may be that Fudge would have grown into an illegal dog however she also had many characteristics of legal breeds and we will never know what Fudge would have become.

Ms Eden has lodged a formal complaint. While it is too late for Fudge Ms Eden is fighting for a change in law and procedure to ensure this never happens again.

A petition has been set up to repeal the breed aspects of the Dangerous Dogs Act and to push for a “48 hour cooling off period” when a sign over disclaimer has been signed until the current law is changed. This will give owners the chance to seek independent advice and to change their minds if they wish to fight for their dogs.

Alison Green from DDA Watch backs Ms Eden’s campaign to change the legislation.

“Sadly this is not the first time we have been approached by owners who did not know what they were signing. Many do not fully understand what they are signing or that they can legally keep their dogs even if the dog is deemed to be a banned type. There needs to be more transparency about the options available to owners and allow those owners the time to ensure they are making the right decision.
Had a 48 hours cooling off period been in place already, Fudge would still be alive. “

To view and sign the petition please see here:

End B.S.L.