Battersea criticises ‘flawed’ dog control law that puts dogs down based on breed

Battersea criticises ‘flawed’ dog control law that puts dogs down based on breed

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has criticised legislation that leads to dogs being put down due to their breed rather than their behaviour.

The rescue centre and animal welfare charity is calling for a review of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, which covers orders for the destruction of dog breeds that are banned.

It applies to four types of dogs that have been historically bred for fighting, including the pit bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.

Battersea said it has had to put down 15 dogs this year, with an additional six dogs referred to police for further investigation, because they fell under the banned types.

Michael Webb, head of policy and public affairs at Battersea, condemned the approach and pointed out the lack of evidence that it helped the public.

He said that dog breeds are “incredibly ambiguous” and that “logically, if the claim is made that a breed is inherently dangerous, then littermates from the same parentage would either all be types or none would be typed”.

Speaking to The Times, Webb added that police make decisions “solely on [a dog’s] physical appearance” when deciding if it contravenes the 1991 Act.

Staff at the charity are then given “no choice but to put animals to sleep”, he said, adding: “That is irrespective of the experience of our staff, who are extremely well-trained, in dealing with that dog.”

The legislation has come under fire in the past by other dog experts. In 2018, the RSPCA urged MPs to repeal the law and said there was “no robust scientific evidence to show that these dogs are more aggressive or pose more risk to public safety than any other dog”.

At the time, the animal charity conducted research that revealed more than two-thirds of fatal dog attacks since 1991 were by breed that were not on the banned list.

In August, the RSPCA marked 31 years of the Breed Specific Legislation in the UK, adding: “That’s 31 years of dogs being judged as ‘dangerous’ based on how they look. That’s thousands of innocent dogs sentenced to needless death.”

It continued: “We believe focusing on the type of dog, rather than their individual actions, is a flawed and failing approach.”

The RSCPA said it was “very concerned” to see calls for more dog breeds to be added to the banned list, with one dog trainer warning that the Belgian Malinois could be next to go on the list.

“Dog aggression is highly complex and taking a breed-focused approach is fundamentally flawed,” the RSPCA added.