Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) a charity that is dedicated to “protecting animals” has responded to the government’s consultation on the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. It has stated that it supports the ban on breeding pitbulls and has called for Staffordshire Bull Terriers to be added to the list.
This legislation, which ultimately prevents people from owning certain types of dogs that are believed to be bred for fighting, needs to be discussed. It doesn’t protect public safety as it set out to do - according to the RSPCA, 37 people have died since 1991 due to dog-related incidents, 28 involving dogs not prohibited by BSL. They also found that hospital admissions, due to dog bites, increased by over 76% from 2005 to 2015 despite the prohibition of certain breeds.
To see the breeds on this list, or any dog for that matter, as inherently dangerous is an incredibly outdated and unjust way of thinking.
In a blog post Peta claim to support the legislation because it is ‘what’s best for the dogs.’ The reason they want to reduce their numbers is to avoid shelters having to ‘euthanise countless dogs every year simply because there are not enough good homes to go around.’
Healthy, innocent dogs are being put to sleep because of the Dangerous Dog Act. But, including Staffies - rather than removing breeds - is not the answer. All this will do is add fuel to the prejudice they already face.
Peta are apparently concerned that these dogs are ‘abused, neglected and tortured’ and they ‘don’t want these breeds being born into a world that treats them so badly.’
Does that not say more about humans than it does dogs?
The loyalty of these breeds coupled with their powerful physique can, in the wrong hand, be deadly. Why should these breeds suffer - more than they already have - at the hands of those that choose to mistreat them?
And, what about responsible dog owners who provide a loving environment for their pet? If you are a Staffie owner you won’t be surprised to hear that they came fourth in a list of the 100 favourite dog breeds in Britain and that they are described by the Kennel Club as a ‘wonderful family pet.’ They bring as much to our lives as we do to theirs.
PETA are, however, willing to add in a clause that says dogs that are spayed, neutered and well-cared for can see out the rest of their days in the family home.
Imagine if, rather than fighting for the rights of a marginalised race we created a law which prevented them from reproducing so that eventually they would die out. We would, quite rightly, be outraged. So, why is it OK to treat a certain breed of dog in this way?
The answer isn’t updating the Dangerous Dogs Act with more breeds, the answer is education - including a better understanding of why dogs bite. We need to look out for these animals but how can eliminating them ever be the answer to this? We should be protecting dogs from humans, not the other way around which means looking at the root cause - irresponsible owners.
The Blue Cross, Battersea Dogs Home and the RSPCA are just a few of the prominent charities that have called for an end to Breed Specific Legislation. The latter has put together this report with proposed solutions and recommendations which includes a section on how to protect dog welfare.
As for Staffordshire Bull Terriers, if they were a danger to the public they wouldn’t be qualifying as police dogs or winning the Blue Cross Medal for their work as a ‘Pets as Therapy’ dog. Battersea’s ‘Softer then you think’ campaign aims to address misperceptions and show the truly soft nature of the breed. This runs alongside their report which highlights the failings of the Dangerous Dogs Act, specifically challenging BSL. The report found that 74% of the UK’s top canine behaviour experts do not believe that breed is relevant - or even slightly important - when it comes to determining a dogs aggression levels.
Whether the call to add Staffies to the list is taken seriously or not, the fact it has been contemplated is damaging enough. Referring to them as ‘dangerous dogs’ only adds substance to the misconceptions some people already have of these gentle dogs.