Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner
by the Royal SPCA of Britain
(no individual author credited)
Reviewed by Merritt Clifton
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The Royal SPCA of Britain could scarcely have chosen a title more dismissive of dog attack victims, both animal and human, under which to try once again to dismantle The Dangerous Dogs Act, than Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner.
Thousands of British animals and humans per year now become a dog’s dinner, or at least some of their body parts do, while their bodies are still possessed of a living spirit and the capacity to suffer.
Fast-rising volume of mayhem
This was not always the case. The fast-rising volume of mayhem is occurring largely because of the unceasing efforts of the Royal SPCA and several other leading “pro-animal” charities to actively promote and contribute to the proliferation of the single dog type which is implicated in more than 80% of the disfiguring and fatal dog attacks on humans occurring within the United Kingdom, and more than 95% of the fatal dog attacks on other dogs.
These are pit bulls and a handful of other closely related fighting breeds, ranging from Jack Russell and Patterdale terriers at the small end of the spectrum, up to bull mastiffs and other pit/mastiff mixes at the large end.
Bred to attack
What all of these dogs have in common is that they were bred to attack other animals and humans, and often still are; and are not easily confused with dogs of non-fighting lineage, including the “wolf-like” dogs such as German shepherds and Malamutes which together are very distantly the next most dangerous dog category in the U.K., the U.S., and anywhere else that dog attack disfigurement and fatality information is accessible.
Opens Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner, “The Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) was introduced to the U.K. in 1991 at the time of a number of high-profile dog attacks on children.”
Most influentially, two Rottweilers bodily dismembered Kellie Alan Richardson, 11, when she lost control of them while walking them on a lead as a favor to a family friend. Her bereaved mother, Veronica Lynch, over the next several years became the first, last, and only British dog attack victim advocate to gain as much influence in Parliament––if only transiently––as advocates for dangerous dog breeds, the RSPCA included, who managed to have Rottweilers exempted from the short Dangerous Dogs Act list of proscribed breeds before the act won passage.
Along the way, Veronica Lynch received frequent death threats. Her daughter’s grave was defiled more than two dozen times.
Decent people might have realized right then that opposing, weakening, dismantling, or undermining enforcement of the Dangerous Dogs Act amounted to siding with a barbarian onslaught.
The Dangerous Dogs Act, Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner quite inaccurately recalls, was “one of the first laws in the world to apply Breed Specific Legislation with the aim of reducing the number of particular breeds or types of dogs and improving human safety by reducing dog bites.”
In truth such laws had existed, and had been enforced successfully, for more than 100 years, including at the local council level within the United Kingdom. The Dangerous Dogs Act, Section 1, as diluted before enactment under RSPCA-led pressure, seized the opportunity to narrow the list of proscribed breeds to just “American” pit bulls and three other relatively rare pit bull variants, the Japanese Tosa, Fila Braziliero, and Dogo Argentino.
A pit bull by any other name
While the Dangerous Dogs Act, Section 1 did not in itself dismantle local legislation, it thereby set a nationally (and internationally) influential precedent for pretending that pit bulls who are called anything else––such as Staffordshire or American bulldog––are not pit bulls and not as inherently dangerous.
Indeed, the narrowness of the list of proscribed breeds actually encouraged breeders to produce larger, more dangerous dogs by crossing pit bulls with mastiffs to get bull mastiffs, Presa Canarios, and cane corsos, a purportedly ancient breed descended from Roman war dogs that first appeared in “dogs for sale” ads four years after the Dangerous Dogs Act was passed.
Small wonder, then, that the Dangerous Dogs Act, as Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner alleges, “fails to deliver what it was designed to do: reduce hospital admissions from dog bites [and] improve public safety.”
But the Dangerous Dogs Act has achieved one other purpose that the RSPCA claims it had: to “reduce the breeds or types it legislates against,” to the point of becoming very difficult to enforce because the practical difference between a prohibited pit bull and a legal Staffordshire is nil: they are in truth, historically and as recognized by dogfighters and kennel clubs, the very same dog, often produced by the same breeders from the same bloodlines to wreak the same havoc.
Accurate data starts with an accurate definition
Purports Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner, while claiming to present “scientific” evidence, normally meaning a set of empirically observable and repetitively demonstrable facts: “In the U.K., accurate data about the breeds and types involved in non-fatal bite-related incidents is unavailable.”
This is the same Big Lie espoused for decades by dangerous dog advocates in the U.S., beginning with the suggestion that the issue in question is “bites.”
The issue is not “bites”
The issue is not “bites,” and never was. The issue is the very small subset of bites, about one in 10,000 dog bites of humans, which inflict fatal and disfiguring injuries. These attacks, because they are distinguished by severity, are relatively easily tracked and recorded.
From almost half a world away I have managed to log attacks by 211 dogs occurring in the U.K. since 2005, resulting in 26 human deaths and 175 disfigurements.
94 children, 117 adults
Some have been attacks by multiple dogs on a single human; some attacks on multiple humans by one dog. By coincidence, these factors have equaled each other in the U.K. since 2005, producing 94 child victims and 117 adult victims.
Dogs who would in the U.S. all be categorized as pit bulls accounted for 61% of the total attacks, 61% of the child victims, 68% of the adult victims, 58% of the fatalities, and 66% of the disfigurements.
The molosser dog category, including Rottweilers, bull mastiffs, and other mixes of pit bull and mastiff, in the U.K. accounted for 85% of the total attacks, 88% of the child victims, 87% of the adult victims, 73% of the fatalities, and 83% of the disfigurements.
“Only” 9 deaths––& 13 not counted
The RSPCA howls in Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner that “Thirty people have died in dog-related incidents since the Dangerous Dogs Act was enacted, of which 21 involved dogs that were not prohibited under the law. Only nine were carried out by dogs identified as pit bull terrier types.”
According to the Office for National Statistics, the actual toll is 68 dog attack fatalities in the U.K. since the Dangerous Dogs Act was enacted, but breed information is currently unavailable for more than half.
Among the 28 fatal “dog-related incidents” I have logged in the U.K. since 2005, which happens to be 14 years less than the total span since the Dangerous Dogs Act took effect, were indeed “only” nine deaths inflicted by pit bulls––and six inflicted by Staffordshires, one by a pit/Staffordshire mix, two by bull mastiffs, and one each by an American bulldog, a cane corso, a French mastiff (Dogue du Bordeaux), and a Rottweiler, each either a pit bull or a larger dog sharing pit bull and mastiff ancestry.
RSPCA ignores 35% of total attacks
Merely by ignoring that Staffordshires are pit bulls everywhere but in the RSPCA-weakened Dangerous Dogs Act list of proscribed breeds, the RSPCA is ignoring 35% of the total fatal and disfiguring attacks, including 39% of the attacks on children, 39% of the attacks on adults, 15% of the fatalities, and 42% of the disfigurements.
A bona fide scientific analysis does not begin by discarding more than a third of the evidence because it does not suit a politically pre-ordained conclusion.
Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner makes no bones about the RSPCA wanting to “ultimately repeal the breed specific part of the legislation,” which would in effect repeal the legislation entirely.
A dog is for life?
Meanwhile, the RSPCA would also like to see elimination of the Dangerous Dogs Exemption Scheme Order 2015, which allows owners to keep pit bulls and other dogs of proscribed breed, but “imposes severe restrictions on change of keepership of the exempted dog,” meaning that pit bulls who have been allowed to remain in the U.K. despite being contraband may not be passed along from home to home without at least creating a paper trail documenting the pit bulls’ history.
“The only circumstances in which a new person may apply to the court to be substituted as the person in charge of the dog is in the event of the death or serious illness of the current keeper,” complains the RSPCA, in implied dissent from the Dogs Trust motto that “A dog is for life, not just Christmas.”
Dogs Trust is, like the RSPCA, vehemently opposed to the Dangerous Dogs Act––and all sixteen Dogs Trust shelters, along with the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and most other U.K. shelters, are stuffed to bursting with pit bulls because of the exemptions of Staffordshires and other pit bulls by other names.
Abdication of duty toward safety
“Given that there is no other legal means of moving a dog to another keeper, this is clearly a negative move particularly for organizations such as the RSPCA,” Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner laments, “who cannot transfer ownership once the dog is in their care and ownership,” which would normally result from either impoundment or owner surrender.
Impoundment most often results from a dog running at large, meaning that the dog already recognized as dangerous is also by definition dangerously out of control. Owner surrender is likewise usually for behavioral reasons, including that the dog has bitten someone, menaced someone, or simply cannot be safely controlled.
What the RSPCA is advocating, clearly, is not responsible handling of dangerous dogs, including humane euthanasia when the dog poses a clear and present danger to other animals as well as humans, but rather for abdication of all responsibility for preventing attacks by dogs who have already been found to be dangerous and, most often, already engaged in dangerous behavior.
“May increase euthanasia”
The RSPCA objects that the Dangerous Dogs Exemption Scheme Order 2015 “may increase the euthanasia of [proscribed breed] dogs,” without a word of recognition that pit bulls and other dogs of proscribed breed would not be at risk in the first place if the Dangerous Dogs Act were to be enforced in a manner precluding anyone, including animal shelters, from making money by breeding and selling them.
Much of Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner is redundant restatement of the same talking points, with every now and then a new prevarication added to the mix.
Denies fighting dogs are more aggressive toward people
For instance, the RSPCA alleges, breed-specific laws are “underpinned by the belief that dogs traditionally selected for fighting are inherently aggressive and more aggressive than other breeds towards people. Yet there is no specific research to demonstrate that breeds bred specifically for fighting are more aggressive towards people than other dogs.”
If pit bulls, Staffordshires, bull mastiffs, and American bulldogs, all of which are really just pit bulls or pit mixes under other names, were not “more aggressive towards people than other dogs,” why else would they have led all other breed types in fatal and disfiguring attacks for as long as a historical record has been reconstructed––and by no small margin?
Documentation that “bulldogs” by any name have been more frequently deadly toward humans than all other dogs combined goes back at least 185 years in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
Against weight of evidence
Against that weight of evidence, Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner asserts that “dogs bred for fighting are reportedly selected to be non human aggressive or at least those which show aggression towards people are eliminated from the fighting population.”
If there is any historical record of that sort of selection or elimination ever occurring, pit bull advocates have yet to bring it forth. There are, however, ample records of the contrary, including the use of dogs of fighting lineage to terrorize Native Americans, slaves, and African-Americans in general for generations after slavery ended. There are also ample records of dogfighters’ pit bulls killing and disfiguring members of their own families.
John P. Colby
For example, dogfighter John P. Colby, of Newburyport, Massachusetts, popularized use of the name “Staffordshire” by selling his fighting dog culls as pets under the “Staffordshire” brand. Colby went on to form the Staffordshire Club of America in order to exhibit his dogs, after the American Kennel Club repeatedly refused to register pit bulls.
The Boston Globe on December 29, 1906 reported that police shot one of Colby’s dogs, who mauled a boy while a girl escaped. On February 2, 1909 the Globe described how one of Colby’s dogs killed Colby’s two-year-old nephew, Bert Colby Leadbetter.
There is no record that Colby culled the dogs responsible. There is record that Colby went on selling dogs from the same linage until his death in 1941. The Colby line remains among the most prolific and abundant of documented pit bull pedigrees.
“Cannot be assumed that larger & more muscular dogs are most injurious”
Continues Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner, “It also cannot be assumed that larger and more muscular dogs are most injurious,” a notion belied by both by the motivation of the breeders to produce ever-larger pit bulls and pit derivatives, and by the raw numbers.
Apart from the 85% of fatal and disfiguring dog attacks within the U.K. committed by molosser breeds, including pit bulls and their closest relatives, less than 2% have been committed by all small non-fighting breeds combined.
RSPCA opposes keeping pits on lead
Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner whines on that “Once added to the Index of Exempted Dogs, owners must comply with a series of conditions which include keeping the dog muzzled and on a lead when in a public place. While these conditions are to protect public safety, i.e restricting the dog’s ability to independently approach a person or to bite them, it is possible that keeping a dog on a lead could increase aggression rather than effectively control him/her.”
Would the RSPCA recommend that a handcuffed criminal suspect be released, simply because being handcuffed might make him angry?
Logically and rationally evaluated, the RSPCA argument against restraint is an argument that the dangerous dog should be euthanized before another animal, or human, is injured or killed.
“Activities which many dogs find enjoyable & rewarding”
Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner makes no mention of this, or indeed of any safety precautions that the caretakers of a dangerous dog should observe. But the RSPCA does object that “keeping a dog on a lead is likely to impact detrimentally upon his/her welfare through reducing the range of behavior a dog is able to, or has the choice to, perform and will restrict some activities which many dogs find enjoyable and rewarding.”
Among those activities, the RSPCA does not mention, are ripping smaller dogs, cats, children, or other relatively helpless victims to quivering bleeding shreds.
“Exempted dogs are not allowed to be unmuzzled or off lead in a public place, so secure and private areas are required for exercise and to play with toys,” Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner continues, depicting as a hardship what almost anyone except dangerous dog advocates would regard as plain common sense.
366 pit bulls vs. 5,000 animal victims
Because the Dangerous Dogs Act “does not permit rehoming organizations to rehome prohibited types of dogs to new owners,” Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner says, “the RSPCA has been forced to euthanize 366 dogs…It is the view of welfare organizations, and the public, that every animal’s life matters.”
That “every animal’s life matters” should include horses: the British Horse Society in March 2016 “confirmed that the number of reported incidents involving dogs and horses rose from 166 in 2014 to 250 in 2015 — an increase of 50%,” wrote Carolyn Bankes for Horse & Hound.
That “every animal’s life matters” should include guide dogs, more than 100 of whom per year are killed, disfigured, or otherwise injured beyond rendering further service by dog attacks, according to the British charity Guide Dogs.
That “every animal’s life matters” also should include as many as 5,000 other animal victims per year of pit bulls and closely related breeds occurring in the United Kingdom.
“A significant public health concern”
“Between March 2014 and February 2015,” acknowledges Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner, 7,227 people were admitted into hospital in England for a dog bite or strike injury…The physical and psychological consequences of a dog bite injury or fatality makes aggression towards people a significant public health concern…Therefore, efforts to prevent and reduce incidents through education are essential as well as legislation to deter and punish human offenders.”
RSPCA offers Calgary as example
But by way of “an example where responsible ownership is encouraged,” the RSPCA offers Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
“But the Calgary model didn’t work for Calgary,” recently pointed out National Post columnist Barbara Kay in the Montreal Gazette. “Dog attacks there went from 58 in 2009 to 201 in 2014, a disproportionate number of them by pit bulls. By contrast, in Ontario, which imposed a pit bull ban in 2005, serious dog-related attacks have decreased by 32% (to 329 from 486), almost entirely because of the radical diminution of the pit bull population.”
Stained with the blood of thousands
If the RSPCA generally cared about ending animal suffering and strengthening humane values, it would work ceaselessly toward reinforcing the Dangerous Dogs Act by ending the exemptions for “Staffordshires,” “American bulldogs,” bull terriers, and other pit bulls and pit bull derivatives––just as it worked to prohibit dogfighting in 1835.
Instead, the RSPCA has offered the British public a report stained with the blood of thousands of animal and human victims of dogs who, 25 years after the passage of the Dangerous Dogs Act, should no longer exist in the U.K.––and would no longer exist, had the RSPCA and other “humane” organizations not conspired to ensure that fighting breeds still exist, proliferate, and wreak mayhem.
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