A national task force to tackle dog fighting on UK streets should be set up as a matter of urgency, said MPs at a backbench debate yesterday.
Cross-party MPs united to back calls by animal welfare charity the League Against Cruel Sports for urgent action to be taken against dog fighting. The debate was called by Lisa Cameron MP following the launch of the League’s Project Bloodline report last month.
Dr Cameron, MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow said: “Dog fighting is a cruel, barbaric, abhorrent and violent crime with no place in the UK. It is one of the most extreme forms of animal cruelty. I am pleased and heartened by the number of Members who have come to the debate, and I urge that we work together to eradicate dog fighting once and for all. I will not rest until dogs are protected.”
Adding his voice, George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Defra, said: “This is a repugnant activity. The cruelty is not just limited to dogs in fighting, but also those animals used for bait. I’d like to pay tribute to the work that the League Against Cruel Sports have done in this area, both to highlight the issue, but more importantly some of the work they are doing with enforcement and to help bring prosecutions where evil people engage in this practice of dog fighting.”
Based on the intelligence and experience gathered from Project Bloodline, the League Against Cruel Sports is calling for the implementation of a national dog fighting action plan which can be rolled out in any area where dog fighting is prevalent.
Based around three areas of Prevention, Understanding and Prosecution (PUP), recommendations include:
- The formation of a National Task Force, led by a senior figure in Government, to ensure sufficient collaboration and action takes place to tackle dog fighting across the country.
- Details of individuals banned from keeping dogs should be held on a national register by statutory agencies, helping to prevent further offences being committed whilst increasing opportunities for enforcement action.
- Legislation and penalties for offenders must be clarified and strengthened; the League is calling for a minimum three year custodial sentence for convicted dog fighters. Sentencing should reflect the spectrum of offending in relation to dog fighting (from street level dog fighting to organised crime). Rehabilitation programmes should be offered as part of the sentencing mix.
- The Dangerous Dog Act should be reviewed as a matter of urgency as we believe breed specific legislation is fundamentally flawed.
League Against Cruel Sports CEO Eduardo Gonçalves said:
“Dog fighting is abhorrent but it is lurking on our streets and in our parks. Dog fighting thrives on invisibility but the more we investigate, the more we find. Stories of fights in parks, dogs being trained using tyres, dogs being beaten until they submit to their owner’s will. Rumours of pet cats and dogs stolen by dog fighters spread through towns and cities.
“We are potentially facing a massive problem here, so I’m delighted that Project Bloodline has inspired MPs from across the UK to come together and pledge to tackle dog fighting head on. We’ll be doing everything we can to both lead and support on this issue, because we simply cannot allow such a barbaric activity to take place in this country.”
Lisa Cameron also praised the League Against Cruel Sports and the many other animal welfare organisations and charities who work on behalf of dogs.
“Without their vital work, we would have little awareness of the existence of the hidden, heinous crime of dog fighting,” she said. “They also work tirelessly for the protection and rehabilitation of dogs. I thank them for their work and for the recent reports bringing dog fighting to the mind of the public, including, crucially, our first national report on the state of dog fighting in the UK, from Project Bloodline, which was launched last year by the League Against Cruel Sports.”
Dog fighting is usually hidden from view, so more information is required to ascertain the full extent of the problem. Members of the public can help by watching out for signs of dog fighting, including:
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- Large numbers of pit bull-type dogs being kept in one place
- Groups of people with tough-looking dogs congregating in out of the way areas
- Dogs with scars on their faces, front legs, and back end
- Training equipment such as tyres hanging from trees
- Unusually high numbers of people coming and going from a location at odd hours