Today marked the final day of the EFRA Committee’s oral evidence sessions into breed specific legislation.
While previous sessions have seen various experts, police chiefs, vets, behaviourists and animal charity workers, give evidence about breed specific legislation in the UK to the committee, today Senior DEFRA Civil servant Marc Casale gave evidence and the position his organisation seem steadfast in holding is quite frankly disturbing, especially when you hear his reasons.
Currently, four dog breeds are banned in the UK under Section One of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. These are the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro.
This piece of legislation deems dogs dangerous based solely on their physical appearance, not behaviour or genetics, and as a result, cross-breed dogs can be deemed ‘type’ – purely because of their size and appearance.
As a result, the dog can be seized from their home and owners because the dog is suspected, without evidence or wrongdoing, to be related to a banned breed – having done nothing wrong except look a certain way. In some cases, they can be taken and locked up in kennels for months, even years, while their owners fight to save their lives.
During previous evidence sessions with the EFRA Committee, experts have sought to share experiences and as a result, debunk myths around dangerous dogs.
Mark Berry, representing local government, said the evidence “shows breed specification doesn’t work” and Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard; lead for dangerous dogs, National Police Chiefs Council told the inquiry he was happy for the Dangerous Dogs Act “to be looked at again.”
But today Senior DEFRA Civil servant Marc Casale undermined all of that by sharing outdated and frankly, inexcusable views stated as fact, which could see more dogs needlessly die purely because of how they look rather than act.
Casale said they were unwilling to consider a repeal of Section One and delivered worrying information about one of the banned breeds –the Pit Bull Terrier – stating they are inherently dangerous and can lock their jaws.
Wrong. So just in case DEFRA decide to educate themselves, let’s clear something up: Pit Bulls cannot lock their jaws.
Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, Ph.D., Senior Scientist of University of Georgia has studied this and concluded, “There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of ‘locking mechanism’ unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier”.
Shockingly, DEFRA also refused again the many calls from rescue centres to be able to rehome innocent dogs who have displayed no aggressive behaviour but are condemned to death simply on looks alone as a result of this legislation.
When the committee asked Casale whether dogs like these should be considered acceptable ‘collateral damage’ of the policy the Minister responded ‘yes’.
Speaking afterwards, Becky Thwaites, Head of Public Affairs said “Blue Cross is extremely disappointed at the evidence presented today from DEFRA. A wealth of scientific evidence has been put forward to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of this law and the number of innocent dogs who are losing their lives. In the face of this, representatives seem happy to stick to the mantra about some breeds being inherently dangerous; something which is simply not true.
“We would welcome a more concise piece of Dangerous Dogs legislation which would be easier to enforce and allow them to concentrate on the deed of the dog rather than the breed.
“This would help them to focus on securing swifter prosecutions of irresponsible dog owners and ensure a consistent approach by police forces, local authorities and courts across the country.
“We know there is a postcode lottery when it comes to how dogs suspected of being Section One are treated across the country by police forces and local authorities who are under-funded and may lack the necessary resources and knowledge to properly enforce the current law
“This means many innocent dogs suffer because of a lack of understanding of the haphazard and overcomplicated legislation.
“No dog can be classed as dangerous simply based on how they look. Breed specific legislation is failing to protect the public and leading to thousands of innocent dogs being put to sleep or kennelled unnecessarily while dog attacks continue to rise.”
Should we be surprised the Government aren’t taking notice of experts?
Possibly not. It was only yesterday they made it known that they don’t wish to reform pet theft laws to reclassify pets as more than an inanimate object.
You can still make a difference and make your opinion known to DEFRA and your local MP. The tide may turn at some point.