The reality of breed bans

Shakira Free-Miles discusses why dog breed specific legislation does not work, and why she felt obliged to speak out about this welfare issue.

I have been a qualified veterinary nurse for seven years, mostly working within the charity sector during this time. I now run a campaign known as The SaveABulls. This is the only veterinary led campaign against the breed specific legislation (BSL) section of The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (DDA) - the law banning and killing dogs based entirely on their appearance. 

Imagine taking your beloved dog for a walk down the road and then having them taken from you by the police, because it looked ‘dangerous’ Imagine then having no idea where your dog is, or if you will get them back at all. Unfortunately, this is happening to all kinds of people and their innocent dogs on a daily basis. 

How are dogs considered ‘dangerous’, based on their appearance?

Any cross-breeds who look like a Labrador and ‘staffie’ mix is of high risk, regardless of their temperament. You may be familiar with the term ‘Pit Bull’, which is one of the banned ‘breeds’, however this is not a breed, but an umbrella term used to describe short-coated, muscly mongrels. An American show standard by the American Dog Breeders Associations (ADBA) was created in 1977, and this is what is used in the UK to determine if a dog fits the conformation criteria. If the dog has a ‘substantial amount’ of show standards, then he or she could be considered a banned ‘breed’. However, the meaning of substantial has never been defined by law; therefore, a dog that is 21% of the show standard can be considered a ‘Pit Bull type’ and be considered as a ‘dangerous’ dog.

Breed specific legislation does not protect the public from dog bites

It is quite logical to know that the length of a dog’s legs and width of its head does not determine if a dog is dangerous or not, yet this is the law the UK follows, costing the tax payers millions of pounds per year and is not protecting the public. Banning, seizing and euthanising dogs and prosecuting owners is not protecting the public against dog bites. This has been proven in every country that has ‘breed’ bans. In the UK dog bites incidents have increased by 76% over the last 10 years. The current DDA is known to have failed and is not fit to serve its original intentions, which was to reduce dog bites and protect the public against dog bites. 

The impact of this failed piece of legislation is huge

People’s family dogs are taken away from them in awful circumstances and are held in secret locations for months, sometimes years, with little or no human interaction. Some dogs may be returned home after several months or years of confinement with no restrictions if they have not been deemed as Pit Bulls, however if considered as a Pit Bull 'type' by the court, but considered to be safe in public, they are then entered onto the Index of Exempted dogs, with strict rules and restrictions. One of the exemption rules is that the dog is neutered before being returned to the owner, but many dogs are returned home to their owners without basic pain relief after major surgery. Also, I have had many cases brought to my attention in which dogs are returned underweight and with some clear behavioural changes.

Additionally, bull breed dogs in rehoming centers have to be looked at by a Dog Legislation Officer (DLO) to determine if they are a Pit Bull ‘type’, and quite often this is done with just a quick glace through the kennel bars. As a veterinary professional I am then expected to euthanise these dogs and puppies alike, based on one DLO’s opinion. 

The impact of the entire ordeal is just shameful, as a professional I am obliged to do something about this serious animal welfare issue which has been kept quiet for far too long. 

Please join my campaign The SaveABulls

Facebook: The SaveABulls
Twitter: @saveabulls
Instagram: the_saveabulls


* This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions represented in this blog belong solely to the blog owner and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of World Animal Protection.