STATUS DOGS: Politicians express concern over London’s dangerous dogs ‘epidemic’

Politicians in the British parliament have expressed concern over the rising number of incidents in London of violence involving so-called ‘danger dogs’. Since 2002, the number of ‘status dogs’ – used in fighting and as symbols of street machismo and status among some poorer youths in inner city areas – has risen sharply. The dogs, from both legally permitted breeds such as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier – informally known as Staffies, and illegal varieties like the American Pit Bull, are often mistreated to make them more violent and aggressive.

There have been reports of young men using trees in public parks as grips for dogs to work their jaw muscles on, causing considerable damage to the  branches and trunks and additional expense to local councils. Criminals also employ status dogs as personal bodyguards setting them on anyone who displeases them. Fights involving dogs are a regular and clandestine occurrence, filmed on mobiles and uploaded on YouTube. Some are forced to wear weighted collars to strengthen their neck muscles and many such fighting dogs are left severely bloodied or even killed, while the owners can walk away with thousands of pounds cash in winnings.

Status dogs have also been involved in incidents such as the attack on five police officers by an ‘out-of-control’ pitbull in Forest Gate, Newham, London in March last year that left two needing surgery and hospital treatment. Two years earlier, teenager Oluwaseyi Ogunyemi, of the Stockwell Gardens estate in south London, was mauled by two dogs owned by members of a rival group of youths. Ogunyemi was also stabbed repeatedly in his chest and stomach and died from the attack.

Staffie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Staffordshire Bull Terrier – normally a friendly family dog – are also exploited by some owners who raise them as fighting dogs and use them to attack other youths and pets.

The RSPCA, one of the UK’s largest animal welfare charities, has reported a massive jump in reports of dogfights received by their staff. In figures published recently by the Evening Standard newspaper, incidences of dogfights for entertainment or betting soared from 24 in 2004 to 328 in 2010. Officers with the Metropolitan Police have also seized increasing numbers of status dogs – from 35 in 2002 to more than 1,200 now.

George Eustice, representing the Conservative party for the constituency of Camborne and Redruth in Cornwall, recently participated in a Select Committee that has criticised government proposals to control the sale and keeping of danger dogs as “woefully inadequate” and “belated”. Alongside a report issued by the committee on environmental affairs, Mr Eustice added, ” There has been a huge increase in attacks on guide dogs by these animals. We need to address the root causes of all these problems.

Photo of Staffordshire Bull Terrier - Bull Hun...
Photo of Staffordshire Bull Terrier – Bull Hunter MARATHON MAN (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Secretly held fights between dogs are organised in places like warehouses and council estates. Many fighting dogs sustain serious damage and permanent scarring. Dog in picture is posed by a model.

The Commons committee urged the Parliament to introduce a new law to make targeted assaults on guide dogs an ‘aggravated offence’. In addition, MPs suggested that informal breeders of such ‘status dogs’ should be regulated through a licencing system. Any breeder whose dogs produce more than two litters of puppies for sale in a year will need to obtain a special licence from their borough council.

Increasing concern over the popularity of more aggressive breeds has already prompted ministers to propose a compulsory microchipping scheme for all dogs owned in the U.K., which is expected to be fully implemented by 2015. Currently dog owners are not legally required to microchip or licence their pets, which has enabled owners of dangerous breeds to slip through the net. There are also plans to criminalise owners who allow their dogs to physically attack an individual in their home. According to Conservative MP Anne McIntosh, dogs have killed seven people in private residences since 2007, and the National Health Service spends over £3 million a year treating people injured by aggressive canines. In addition, eight assistance dogs and several thousand sheep and other livestock are also attacked, and 100,000 stray dogs are being picked up on British streets each year.

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“MPs demand action over danger dogs” – Joe Murphy, London Evening Standard 15/2/13

“George Eustice” – Wikipedia LINK

“Man remanded over police dog attack” – London Evening Standard LINK

“Man cleared of south London dog attack murder” – BBC News LINK

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