"Where is your dog's muzzle?" she asked
"Excuse me" the four of us replied in unison, taken aback by such a ridiculous question. My dog neither owned a muzzle nor needed one.
"Where is you dogs muzzle?" she repeated "She is a dangerous dog, she should be wearing a muzzle!"
I own a staffie, so I'm well-versed with people crossing the road to avoid us or turning their noses up at our family pet. Yet, no one has ever actually said anything like that before - or at least not to our faces.
So, why, when on a family walk one sunny Saturday morning, were we being told to muzzle our 'dangerous dog'? Particularly when, our staffie already had and continued to, ignore all 6 dogs this lady was walking.
It later transpired that someone, who has never actually met my dog, had twisted a previous incident and had subsequently been making up lies about her. Lies which became local gossip - which, as gossip tends to do, particularly in a small village, spread like wildfire.
These lies weren't just spread by word of mouth, they were posted in the local village Facebook group. Word such as 'vicious' 'unprovoked attack' and 'could have killed' were used.
She had also gone as far as to tell her tale to a local dog warden, who then proceeded to write to us and inform us that we may have to be muzzle our dog on every walk if another incident occurred.
When confronted by the woman who had passed her lies on to us, the complainant actually admitted she had lied - but despite this, she continued to spread her poison on social media.
Unbeknown to us, she had told a taller tale still, exclaiming that our dog was well known to the authorities due to getting into countless fights, and was known in the area as an aggressive dog.
My dog has never been in a fight. So, it goes without saying, that we've never had anything to do with a Dog Warden either. After much frustration, we resolved to speak to the Warden ourselves, and thankfully she confirmed, as we knew, that this simply wasn't true. But the damage was done.
Sadly, lies such as these, and people's misinformation and perception of Staffordshire Bull Terriers plays a huge role in continued prejudice against the breed.
For my staffie, this situation could have resulted in her wearing a muzzle for the rest of her life. For others the outcome could be far, far worse...
"Dangerous" dogs have dominated the news recently - not because they have been killing people in their thousands - but because they are being unfairly treated due, primarily, to the way they look.
You may have noticed #SaveHank trending on Twitter?
Hank, a beloved family pet with no history of aggression was taken from his home and condemned to die purely because he looks like a Pitbull - despite the fact that his owners stated he is actually a Staffie-Labrador cross. The race was now on to save the life of their four legged family member who hadn't done anything wrong, other than look like a 'dangerous' dog.
A petition was set up and nearly 300,000 signatures later, Hank has been safely returned to his owner. He was, luckily, saved from his imminent death sentences, thanks to educated, open-minded humans safeguarding his life.
However, over at Battersea dogs home, Francis - another happy, healthy dog destined to be 'destroyed' due to his breed, wasn't so lucky. Despite also being the subject of a petition signed by thousands, Battersea had no choice but to abide by the law and put him to sleep, simply for being a Pitbull.
They aren't the first dogs to go through this, and unfortunately, they won't be the last.
This all stems from an outdated piece of legislation - the Dangerous Dogs Act, which prevents people from owning certain types of dogs that are believed to be bred for fighting - including the Pitbull Terrier.
Battersea Dogs home are now calling for this to be repealed in order to stop happy, friendly and healthy dogs from being killed. Sadly, Battersea had to 'destroy' 91 gentle, innocent dogs last year, purely for the fact that each one had been identified by the police as a banned breed.
My argument is this: believing that dogs are dangerous due to their breed is obsolete. We don't (or at least we shouldn't) arrest people on the basis of how they look, but on the actions they take. So why is this not the same for dogs?
There is no doubt that some dogs are dangerous, but I believe that this is due to the hand that holds their lead, not their DNA. It's also true that some dogs are more powerful than others, but again, I argue that it's inadequate training that makes these dogs 'dangerous', and not their muscle composition.
Due to their physical likeness to Pitbulls (and the image they're given in the media), some people believe Staffies should be put on the 'dangerous' dogs list. But what people forget is that they are also incredibly loyal - and it is this combination when left in the hands of an unsuitable owner that they become 'dangerous'. When handled correctly, shown affection, proper training and boundless love, Staffordshire Bull Terriers are ideal family pets. The Kennel Club has named them 'Nanny' dogs, one of the few breeds awarded the title due to the fact that they're so good with children. Hardly the makings of a dangerous dog, is it?
We need to stand up to people who make assumptions based on breed - educate them, help others to see the prejudice, and reaffirm that humans are the ones at fault.
It isn't nice to have rumours spread about yourself, but at least we can voice our grievances and defend our reputations. Sadly, dogs can't.
This is why we need to speak up for them.
If you'd like to make a difference, help Battersea Dogs Home with their mission: click here to find out more.
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