Today, the 12th August 2013, marks twenty two years since the introduction of breed specific legislation, contained within section one of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (DDA), as amended. This piece of law relates to England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland also have had their own version since 1991.
Currently proceeding through the House of Commons is a Bill (once passed through stages these become laws) and within that Bill are far reaching amendments to the DDA, amendments which will not only affect those persecuted on account of their appearance, but also amendments which will affect all dogs of all breeds and types. Amendments we do not support - such as the extension of section three of the DDA and sadly instead of any move to even attempt to repeal BSL - it is to be played with in the wording - which we believe will cause more heartache, distress and potentially lead to the deaths of more innocent dogs targeted by failed law which should have by now been thrown in the mad law bin.
The breed specifics of the law will remain - dog law is being discussed in Westminster, there have been endless consultations and although there was widespread support to end BSL this hasn't been listened to.
The main animal welfare organisations, the ones who carry the clout, speak much about 'deed not breed' yet sadly there is no move in Westminster to change it, nor no big push to rid us of it after all this time - why is that? The words 'deed not breed' become empty and mean little if action doesn't back the strap line. We don't need attempts to try and make it run more smoothly - you can't improve what is so blatantly dismal and wrong in the first place.
It was a positive step forwards when national organisations actually came out and publicly signed up to the 'deed not breed' concept, which has been around since 1991 and maybe longer, but we need more and the dogs which continue to be persecuted need more.
The dogs keep dying, they keep getting seized, persecuted, labelled dangerous, and those volunteers on the front line answering the phones and emails EVERY WEEK, listening to people breaking down in tears, trying to explain how the crazy law works, involved in these ridiculous cases where dogs are judged on phenotype, looking at photos of dogs who will not make it because someone states they look wrong - well we're just left hanging on in there whilst the onslaught of BSL marches on here and it can and often does spread like a virus overseas.
One can't help but be wondering when do the Cavalry arrive to back-up the troops on the front line?Those volunteers busting a gut in the trenches, fire-fighting for their cause be it BSL, the sickening puppy farming situation, the dogs stacked up dying in the pounds as the rescues are at breaking point to name just a few of the major issues we have; if we had a flag it would have been flying upside down for some time now. You would think and hope that the well equipped political wings of the big canine organisations and professions would not let this happen yet where the hell are they all-why can't they work together and go all out to make a big difference, a real change for the better?
Instead there is so much effort to extend section three of the legislation, what about BSL-we don't need the wording tinkering with you can't improve a failed concept, you can make it even more difficult though.
Why is there no big political push to end it; to work together for national educational programmes to prevent dog bite incidents and actually protect kids, adults and dogs alike?
Instead we have the government looking at increasing the penalties for aggravated offences - the headline is 'life in jail for dogs that kill' - failing to make clear that it will actually look at increasing the penalties for dogs that cause injury - that's any injury, section three is one of strict liability and the statistics thrown about actually refer to both dog 'bites' and 'strikes' all lumped together but don't let that little fact get in the way of a juicy headline in the clamber to be seen to be getting tough.
Deja vu for some of us; the push for action, the real issues being side-stepped, certain dogs demonised and continued on as the scape-goat, the terminology is familiar - 'danger dogs seized' 'banned dogs rounded up' we may as well be back in 1991 as we head for new legislation.
Why not focus on preventing people being injured by dogs-how about giving people the tools they need to know how to keep dogs and children safer for starters?
What of the parents of a child hurt by their own dog - is the best we can do to throw the parents in jail, does anyone think hey don't leave the baby alone with the dog, we don't want a prison sentence under the new law? Seriously, with all the knowledge we now have on animal behaviour, that's the best we can offer to people and dogs alike in 2013? Stiffer penalties, go to jail, job done, move on people.
It is said it is not politically correct to ask for repeal of BSL - when will that ever change?
It's been said for twenty two years now but nothing changes unless you are prepared to stand up and speak out, if not then why not is the question?
Dogs don't get to choose what they look like - if the best anyone involved can do is turn their back on this mess and mutter it's not politically correct then fine that's your choice but this is a case of it being better to have tried than not to have tried at all - because then you send out the message that this is wrong and smaller ripples can lead to waves.
If you condone BSL and you are someone, a department, organisation etc there for the welfare and defence of our dogs, you're in it for the wrong reasons and it would do our dogs a favour if you just stand down and let someone in there with some mettle who will take a stand for all dogs.
It's 2013 and so the killing continues, rescue dogs continue to be picked out as 'type' and not given a second chance of a new home, eg, Battersea Dogs Home confirmed that 155 dogs admitted as strays were destroyed during 2012 as if no owner comes forward and they are identified as 'type' by the Met. Police - they are put to death under BSL-just another aspect of the legislation.
Puppies continue to be held and caught up in awful legal situations - entangled under the far reaching arms of BSL, it's perfectly legal in this country to hold seized puppies in kennels through their critical development periods-the time when socialisation is key, then some months later, release them if not 'type' following their mainly physical assessment with the tape measure, into the big wide-world, that's if they're lucky. Half a litter can be destroyed as 'type' the other half released as not 'type' - makes sense this BSL, you really couldn't make this stuff up.
Dogs continue to be taken and held as 'type' whilst their owner go to court to try and save them - if they are 'lucky' they get to live the rest of their lives restricted on the register of exempted dogs - labelled as dangerous by society even though they have never put a paw wrong. No health insurance available, muzzled and leashed even in the vehicle, no freedom to interact with other dogs, treated like k9 outcasts by many, branded with a tattoo - marked by society as 'dangerous'. Some owners find out their housing does not allow exempted dogs and are forced to part with their dog or face eviction, some face hundreds of pounds in court and kennelling costs heaped on top of exemption costs; being processed through the system and thrown out the other end is for many a traumatic experience with consequences.
And, so on and on it goes, but as always, we say it is Not In Our Name - as the truth must be spoken and silent we will never be - we will always continue to help and advise where we can and how we can; providing a life-line for many dogs.
We, alongside many others who care and those who join as the awareness spreads, will continue to take a stand, speak out and campaign to end the madness that is breed specific legislation.