Battersea Dogs and Cats Home is calling on the Government to review the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, saying current legislation is “flawed” and instead should target irresponsible owners.
The law – which banned the pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo argentino and fila braziliero breeds based on their physical appearance – was introduced 25 years ago this month.
It comes amid an ongoing internet campaign in Belfast targeting official rules around dangerous dogs.
Leonard Collins began the campaign after officials seized his dog Hank when it was reported to them as being a suspected pit bull – a breed which is banned in Northern Ireland.
Mr Collins said the dog is in fact a Staffie-Labrador cross, and while no decision has yet been taken on its future, he is urging the council to avoid putting it down.
Calling breed-specific offences in Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act “particularly controversial”, the Battersea report states it results in the “unnecessary destruction” of healthy and good-natured animals with “little added protection to the public”.
Findings from a survey of 215 canine behaviour experts, who were quizzed by the charity on the factors most likely to cause a dog to attack, have been released to coincide with the anniversary.
The What’s Breed Got To Do With It? report reveals 74 per cent of professionals said breed was either irrelevant or only slightly important in determining aggression levels in dogs.
A total of 86 per cent said the way a dog is brought up by its owner is an important attack factor – with the socialisation of man’s best friend playing a critical role.
A dog’s size was only considered relevant in terms of an attack outcome as “small dogs are just as likely to attack as larger dogs”, but larger dogs have the capacity to “inflict greater injury and damage”.
Claire Horton, Battersea’s chief executive, said: “This new research by Battersea sets out the failings of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 in focusing on how a dog looks, rather than on anything that it has done or the actions of its owner.
“There are, of course, some dangerous dogs on our streets but for a quarter of a century this legislation has condemned too many innocent dogs to be put to sleep whilst systematically failing to reduce dog attacks in our communities.
“Battersea is dismayed that this outdated, knee-jerk piece of legislation is still on the statute books. There is a clear need to replace it with a law that targets irresponsible owners.”