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Dog fighting: Campaigners call for action against owners

Pit bull terrierPit Bulls are among the breeds of dog banned in the UK

Campaigners want tougher penalties for dog fighting, amid concerns about its prevalence on Britain’s streets among young people using dogs for protection and to uphold their status.

The League Against Cruel Sports says undercover investigators were offered dogs that could be trained to fight.

It is also calling for a register of banned owners and a review of England and Wales’s Dangerous Dogs Act.

The act can be used against owners of any out-of-control dog, ministers say.

But the League argues that the legislation targets particular types of dog, rather than poor behaviour by their owners.

It wants to see the law reformed, and a specific offence of dog fighting introduced with a minimum three year custodial sentence. It is currently banned under wider animal fighting laws.

A report by the League said dog fighting had moved from organised confrontations in purpose-built pits, to so-called “rolls” in which dogs on chains fight on behalf of their owners. They are often young men keen to uphold their reputation on the street, it said.

It focused on Bedfordshire, which the charity said was representative of the problem in towns and cities.

According to the League, local people said dogs had been trained to fight in one park in Luton by hanging them from trees with their jaws to improve strength. There were also reports of fights taking place in other locations.

Why certain dog breeds are banned

Dangerous dog sentences toughened up

‘Bait dogs’

Undercover investigators met a dog breeder wearing a face mask who offered Pit Bull puppies – a banned breed in the UK.

He also offered young dogs of the Bully Kutta breed – a fighting dog from Pakistan, although not a banned breed.

He said that for £1,000 he was prepared to supply dogs suitable for “protection”. The Bully Kutta, he said, could be used for fighting.

Pit bull on a treadmillAn RSPCA raid on a house in Manchester last year uncovered a dog fighting “training school”

The League’s chief executive, Eduardo Goncalves, said the problem went beyond dogs simply fighting by chance in the street.

“This is planned, it is organised, it is deliberate,” he said.

Dogs were trained to fight on treadmills, and in harnesses, with “bait” dogs used as opponents, he added.

The League showed the BBC a Staffordshire terrier, called Cupcake, which showed signs of having been used in training.

The animal’s teeth had been filed back to prevent it damaging its opponent. She also had scars around the neck, and an injured eye.

“Kay”, who rehabilitates abandoned dogs and is looking after Cupcake, said she was furious at those responsible.

“To victimise and torture a vulnerable creature to try to create a status or an image they want to be proud of is pretty despicable,” she said.

“Man up – if you have a lust for fighting go out and fight yourself.”

“Kay” is using a pseudonym because she is concerned the dog’s former owner will track it down.

Staffordshire terrier Cupcake and her filed back teeth (right)
Staffordshire terrier Cupcake had her teeth filed to prevent them damaging her opponent

Animal fighting, including dog fighting, is currently banned in the UK under theAnimal Welfare Act, with a maximum sentence of 51 weeks in prison. People can also be fined or banned from owning pets under the act.

Banned breeds

But an analysis of court reports by criminologists at Middlesex University last year suggested there had been fewer than 40 successful convictions linked to dog fighting under the current laws between 2008 and 2014.

Those using banned dog breeds to fight can be prosecuted under the Dangerous Dogs Act. It came into force in 1991, and bans four different breeds in England and Wales – the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro.

Owners of banned breeds, or dogs which injure or kill a person, will face tougher punishments in England and Wales from July, under new sentencing guidelines. Scotland and Northern Ireland have a system of dog control notices.

The Department of Food and Rural Affairs said: “Any dog can become dangerous if it is kept by irresponsible owners in the wrong environment which is why the [Dangerous Dogs] Act covers any type of dog that is dangerously out of control.”

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36365619

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Ferry firm Stena Line to tackle puppy farm dealers

The ferry operator Stena Line is to crack down on illegal puppy dealers found to be using its Belfast to Cairnryan service.

Dog

News of the move follows a BBC investigation which highlighted how the route was being used to traffic puppy-farmed dogs into Scotland.

Britain’s Puppy Dealers Exposed covertly-filmed handovers of puppies to a group of Scottish dog dealers.

The animals had been sourced from a puppy farm in Northern Ireland.

The BBC Panorama team also found evidence of dogs shipped from puppy farms in the Irish Republic which were then sold by online sellers as animals bred in Scotland.

Stena Line is working alongside Scottish SPCA investigators at the Cairnryan port as part of a multi-agency approach to target the dealers.

Under the operation – codenamed Delphin – Scottish SPCA investigators are using new powers to stop and search the vehicles of those it suspects of illegally trafficking puppies.

Dog
The BBC investigation tracked the puppy supply chain from source to sale

Anyone found to be illegally shipping dogs to the UK mainland will be stopped from travelling further and turned back to Belfast.

Those who refuse to go back face being prosecuted and having their puppies seized.

Stena said it was keen to ban illegal puppy dealers from using its service but such a move would require a change in legislation.

Diane Poole, a spokeswoman for the ferry operator, said: “Stena Line totally condemns the illegal trafficking of puppies and works hard to stamp out the practice by carrying out a number of checks to ensure the safe and comfortable transportation of pets.

“However, ultimately the legal enforcement of this responsibility lies with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development [Dard] in Northern Ireland and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs [Defra] in the rest of the UK.

“Stena Line has a close working relationship with both Dard and Defra and is working on a number of collaborative measures with the authorities to help eradicate this illegal practice.”

She added: “Stena is determined to take action where it can and to send the clear message that illegal puppy dealers are not welcome on our services.”

A spokesman for the Scottish SPCA, which is leading Operation Delphin, said: “The puppy trade is a huge business and it is unacceptable that puppies are coming in to the UK via Scotland. Our new initiative will mean that dealers will no longer be able to use Cairnryan.”

Dog
There have been calls for a clampdown on the puppy farm trade

While figures do not exist on the number of puppies trafficked into Cairnryan, it is believed that as many as 40,000 are being farmed and trafficked into the UK from Ireland each year.

The Scottish SPCA spokesman added: “It’s a huge problem. Ireland is the warehouse and the gateway – unfortunately – is often through the port of Belfast, then into Scotland and onto the rest of the UK.”

The BBC investigation tracked the puppy supply chain from source to sale, filming the conditions inside puppy farms filled with dogs bound for the UK market.

The programme also revealed the existence of so-called “show-bitches” – adult female dogs that were being provided by puppy farmers in Ireland along with litters of pups.

The bitch would then be passed off by unscrupulous Scottish puppy sellers as their own family pet.

It has led to wider calls for a clampdown on the puppy trade.

Article taken from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-36320945