bunn (bunn) wrote,

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Breed specific legislation.

This is an account from someone who has been working on the advice lines which have been helping people who have had their dogs taken away because they were the wrong shape. Mostly on Merseyside, some in London.

I still don't know why this hasn't had more press coverage. I mean, yes other bad things have happened, but it's not like we've not had some non-stories in the news this year...

"The events of 1st January started a chain reaction that reached out to many people in many walks of life, around the U.K. Many of us dog people knew something * bad * was about to happen as a result. We thought it was all about the dogs and we were ready. We had dealt with dogs before in large numbers, had dealt with some DDA cases too. We were ready!

But who where we kidding? Dogs we could handle, but each telephone call you take is a window into the soul of the person speaking to you. You hear and feel every inch of pain and every tear that falls. You learn two tricks very quickly: how to cry silently and how to speak without your voice shaking.

Before the amnesty even began, the calls did. People with a dog who had to know what breed it was. Many of those sent pictures in the hope we could say they where safe, their dog wasnt *type* . But we are not breed experts. We can say an opinion but that’s all so owners, needing an answer, never got one from us. You would think that would mean they would stop asking the same question would you? But it didn’t. They just asked the same questions in different ways. Instead of “Is my dog type?” they would ask “Don’t you see Stafford/American bulldog/ Collie etc there”

I remember one of the first cases that showed how complex everything would be. An owner rang us, a lovely lady. She hadn’t walked her dog since it started because she was too scared to. Her friend had her dog seized not long after taking him to the vets to have his booster jabs. Rumours of police watching vets where rife. Her own dog was now showing signs of illness, vomiting and the runs and she was too scared to take him to the vets, because if she did, he may die instead of be made well. But the dog needed a vet. She didn’t know what to do, he could die if he didn’t see a vet, but die if he did. A few hours later she rang back, crying with relief down the phone.

She had taken her dog to the vet. A different vets the other side of town. She had put her dog in the car, hidden him under a blanket and prayed she didn’t get spotted. She used a false name and address and paid the bill in cash. Her dog had gone to the vets and it hadn’t cost him his life. Hasn’t the world turned upside down for these people? When a simple vet trip scares you senseless? What logic is there for the responsible owners, who suddenly feel they cant take their dog to the vet?

Another person told us a story of a young pup, seized by the police and signed over. The owners said they didn’t realise they had a choice, that they could keep their dog. That pup, that was walking with his owner on the way from training school, is now dead.

We heard other similar stories.

One person had signed something when the police took their dogs but they where crying and didn’t know what they had signed. They didn’t give permission to have their dogs killed but did they sign permission? While speaking with one of the owners, the realisation on what may have been signed hit them. The other owner, standing nearby listening in, rushed to the bathroom to be violently sick. In that case it turned out they had indeed signed permission but in their statment, had refused to accept their dogs where an illegal breed. Maybe that saved the dogs?

A telephone call later on, some owners had been ordered to go out to try and relax. They had and met old friends who asked after the dogs. The phone line goes with a request to help them because one of the owners has become very upset; they are worried he may do something to himself. So you call that owner, try and talk them home. You hear that person, young 20 something male crying his heart out because he just wants his dog back. His dog saved his life, gave him confidence but he doesn’t know if he can save hers. You want to tell him he will definatly save her. But you cant because nothing is definate until the dogs back home.

Owners believe we are the ones who will understand and who can offer help. Many think we have all the answers and can get their dog back home. For the large majority we can help, but we can’t get their dog home now and that’s the one thing they really want. Almost all are convinced there’s a mistake somewhere because surely this cannot be *right*? That the law doesnt make sense.

After a half dozen calls you get a set “patter” going. You need the person on the end of the phone to listen to all the facts, the possible repercussions,fines, prison terms, the stress involved. You need them to listen to that and understand what your saying. That is very hard to do because all they want to do is explain to you that their dog hasn’t ever done anything. Its got to be a mistake, they don’t need to hear what your saying, they just need the police to understand it’s a big mistake and give them their dog back. Trying to get them to listen and understand they could get a record or a fine, because they can all the owners can; is very hard. They don’t care about those things. They care about their dog. No amount of money will ever be worth their dog’s life. Only once has the thought of a record made an owner pause. She worked within a local authority with young people and that could have an affect. She went on to fight anyway. Her job could be replaced, her dog couldn’t.

Some calls have been very hard to take.

An owner, sure his dog would give up in a kennel situation, wanted to know if a suggestion he had would stop them taking his dog. He wondered if he had a vet remove all of his dog’s teeth, would that stop them taking him? Because he couldn’t hurt anyone ever then could he? Maybe if he did that, they would believe him when he said his dog wasnt dangerous and leave him alone?

Another owner, if she muzzled her dog at all times, unless in a crate in the house, would they let her keep her?

Midnight and the phone is ringing. You answer it to hear a sobbing woman on the phone. She’s hiding upstairs under the bed with her dog. Her partner is downstairs with the police. Don’t let them take her dog away, ring them and explain she’s never hurt anyone, please just make it all go away. They will do anything but don’t let the police take their friend.

It doesn’t affect just the adults either. One young child, not even 16, packed a bag and ran away with his dog. His dad was going to call in under the amnesty and fight for the dog. But that would mean that child lost his best friend for a time, his soul mate. He couldn’t let him do that. It took days to convince this scared little boy to bring his dog and himself back home. Would you go home if you thought it would lose you, your best friend?

So many people caught up in hell. Someone running from the police van while exercising their dog. They grab a leaflet as they try and escape and ring you the next day. That park was the last safe place to go, what do they do now? They are good people, they train their dog, walk it, socialise it but now they are forced indoors, too scared to go outside.They ask you if they should let relatives take their dogs. They live in another part of the country and should be safe. They wont ever see their dog again, except for the odd visit each year maybe. But they will be alive and well and while it will hurt to lose them forever, at least they know they will be safe and happy.

Its not just Merseyside either. London, one responsible owner had taken his dog to the vets only to told it would have to be pts as it looked like an illegal dog and he’s not the only one who has ended up fearful of seeking any help. Another dog, a rescue, was in training for her KC Good Citizen, she is the sweetest of dogs. The big day arrives for the examination and as her owner stands up she is yelled at and told she can’t take the test as the dog looks ‘illegal’ The room goes quiet as everyone looks on, the situation is calmed by the trainer and the little dog (who has attended classes from a puppy) goes on to sail through her examination.

Her owner drives home in tears with no certificate, no rosette, the only one not to get one.

Just last night, a knock on the door from the owner of a large Stafford, he’s been reluctant to take his dog out anymore which has resulted in an in-house scrap between two pent up dogs who were friends, one who no longer gets to go out. He wants to have her spayed and id chipped and is asking if it would be ‘safe’. He chats away whilst the dog rolls over to have her belly rubbed,. She lives with a family who all love her to bits, yet another problem has been created due to the law itself

So many things.

The day before court the phone gets busy again. Terrified owners checking and double-checking their documents. Have they missed anything? Made any mistake? Is the one thing that will save their dog in them? Checking times to make sure they wont be late. Crying. Almost all cry the day before court. I think its because its over now isn’t it? There’s nothing else they can do. In 24 hrs someone may tell them their dog will die. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Court itself is the most awful experience ever. The day of the first hearing, while waiting in the outside court to be called, we had the luxury of watching a grown woman suddenly sob hysterically and almost collapse because her sister had rushed in with a picture her kids had drawn to add to the bundle of documents. This very smart lady, well-dressed, articulate, middle class lady crying her heart out because her dog, that she still swears blind is not a pit bull, may be killed in a few hours. Small groups of owners huddled together. They show pictures to each other and hear how others lost their dogs. They exchange their greatest fears with complete strangers, hugging, crying and wishing for good news. Not one is scared they will get a fine. Not one worries about jail. They are already in a prison, a hell of their own and hope that soon it will all be all right again.

In the courtroom, one young lad beings to pale and sways to the side. Passing out because he’s so worried he forgot to breathe properly. That happens a lot. Owners hold their partners hands and look at each other offering a weak nervous smile. On the stand the tears fall as they stop reading from the written statement about their dog and just talk from the heart. Not one of them realises they have stopped reading the statement until afterwards.

If they win, there’s no greater moment for them. A group of strangers will scream, cry and hug each other. Older lady or young male they all show the same reaction. Relief, immense joy and they stand proudly again.

To watch them lose in court is something I personally havent had to witness and for that, I am gratful. A friend of ours has seen it. She was still crying days later.

We have watched owners have to make awful decisions. One owner, his dog was taken, a young friendly dog. Kennel stress can affect dogs in many different ways. This young dog, that lived with young kids and never shown any aggression, changed in kennels with such a huge change of lifestyle. His owner had won in court and now he was having to fight again for his dog. Only a young man, he fought and got permission to see his dog for himself, to see what he was really like now. He told us afterwards that his dog, the one that had been taken away from him, was no longer there. What was left was a shell, a dog that no longer recognised his owner. His owner took the heartwrenching decision to let his dog go, he had suffered enough and he couldnt be fixed now. So he did the only thing he could do, let his dog go peacefully.

After court, they have to fill in a form for the Index and that form asks them to state what breed their dog is. Every owner rings us and asks what breed is their dog?! They still do not believe it’s a pit bull. Many refuse to write pit bull on the form. I have no idea what the right answer should be, I suggest they put whatever breed they believe their dog to be followed by the words “deemed pit bull type”. I guess that is acceptable, as the Index hasn’t questioned any!

After court, once the dogs come home you speak to the owners again. Your hear fear because their dog can take the muzzle off. Upset because people now cross the road when they see their muzzled dog. Laughter because one owner painted her dogs brown baskerville muzzle with sparkly pink nail varnish because she was upset over the looks she got!

One call, the worst. Owner had to move. Wasn’t allowed his dog in the new premises, not a banned breed even registered. They search and search and find nowhere. They can’t rehome and they can’t keep. The rules don’t let them. So one day they take the dog they fought for with all their heart and soul, hold them tight and watch while they die in their arms. They cry down the phone like a child. They just lost their best friend and nothing will ever take that pain away. Speaking afterwards one line I will never forget. He said, “None of us will ever truly win will we?” I guess they don’t.

Its a very surreal situation. We could go on but its better for us not too. With each call we take, we have to switch off from the one before and try and switch off again at night to sleep well. Because of that we don’t post about it too much. Its hard to go over it all again, when all in all, your pretty helpless. You can tell them the law and the punishments for them. But they don’t mind those. The one thing they want you cannot do. You cannot bring their dog home now.

So if anyone ever thinks the owners don’t care, or find it easy, or in some strange way finding it a reason to act “hard”, well, those people who think that really don’t have any idea. To those who havent really noticed whats been going on, please stand up to this, whatever your breed of dog, wether you have a dog or not. It has to stop now. London Met police released a memo to their staff, advising that they should only seize dogs if it had to be done. They actually leave some dogs in the home until a day or two before a court hearing avoiding much stress for dogs and owners. Merseyside police are not doing this. Why? Instead they kennel the dogs for weeks or months on end, costing huge amounts of money for dogs who have never hurt anyone, nor shown any signs that they will do so. All based in the main, on the appearance of the dog.

The owners who go through all this do so for one reason only. They truly love their dog. Each time the phone rings, we fill with dread at what we will hear. But when it’s all over, what shines through is Courage, Strength and Love for their dogs. We can’t say what it is like to be in their shoes, but I for one, am awed at the dignity and courage of all the owners.

They really do deserve to win.

For more information please contact :
0870 0345563

0870 0345562

Bull breed advisory service: Enquires@bullbreedadvisoryservice.com

Deed Not Breed melanie@deednotbreed.org.uk 0870 0345564"

I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Why on earth is this law still in place? What the hell do Merseyside police think they are achieving by enforcing it in this way?

I wrote to my MP about this, and he agreed with my email. But he's a Lib Dem, so that probably doesn't help much.
Tags: bsl

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