Introduction

 

We are a nation
of dog lovers with almost as many dogs as people. It is believed that almost
every other household has a pet and 81 per cent of dog owners say they treat their animal like
“like another member of the family”.

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I want to investigate whether dangerous dogs
are always going to be dangerous due to biological factors such as breeding or
whether environmental factors such as their upbringing or exposure to events
are to blame and create the monsters that we see in the news. We are a nation
of dog lovers with almost as many dogs as people in the United Kingdom. It is
believed that almost every other household has a pet and 81 per cent of dog owners say they treat their animal like ‘like
another member of the family’. Tragically even with legislation in place there
has been at least 21 fatalities, including 13 children or babies over the last
10 years. The UK’s leading animal welfare charity said ‘more needed to be done
to prevent these tragedies in the first place’. In
1991 when the Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced, Britain became one of the
first countries in the world to ban certain breeds of dog. The then Home
Secretary Kenneth Baker promised “to rid the
country of the menace of these fighting dogs”. The Act made it illegal to
own; the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Fila Brasileiro and Dogo Argentino,
all traditionally bred for fighting.
Our government feels that these four specific breeds are more than likely to be
predisposed and are more easily trained for aggression. These breeds were
singled out due to their incredibly strong jaws which were measured by pressure
per square inch and thus capable of inflicting considerable damage. However,
there has been much debate as to whether these banned dogs are aggressive by
default with many dog owners and supporters expressing that the training and
handling the dogs has that determines their temperament.

Dangerous dogs list

 

The
Dangerous Dog’s Act was a law passed in the United Kingdom in 1991 and its main
aim was to reduce the number of dog attacks by the specific breeds that were
put on this list. It has made it illegal to own any listed dogs unless there is
an exemption by the courts. If any of the breeds banned are exempted then they
must be muzzled, kept on a lead in any public place, registered, microchipped
so the dog can easily be identified (although this is law for all dogs have to
be microchipped since the 6TH of April 2016, (Club, 2016)
and insured by their owner. These dogs must also be spayed/ neutered to prevent
further breeding of these breeds

The
English Parliament created this act after a number of incidents where there was
serious injury

This
is shown on the website Canine journal (Brannan, 2017) where reports are written
in conjunction to news and changes as well as politic stories in the world of
dogs.

Dogs
currently on the Dangerous dogs list:

The Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Fila Brasileiro and Dogo Argentino.

A
big question that has to be asked in regards to this overall topic is, ‘Does
the dangerous dogs Act 1991 actually protect us against animal attacks?’. In an
article (B.Klaassen, 1995), a study was
completed on the numbers of attacks both before the Dangerous Dogs act was
introduced and after the implementation of the act. The statics show that ‘Dogs
were found to bite most commonly: in the pre-legislative group 73.9 percent
were due to dog bites and in the post-legislation group 73.1 percent.’ This
shows that although there were more dog attacks recorded before that Act was
implemented there wasn’t actually a big percentage difference after the Act was
bought in as it was expected. Therefore, this measured study clearly makes
evident that there has been a minor effect in the number of injuries caused
since the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991. Moreover, if the
legislation aims to actually reduce and prevent the potential injuries and
attacks, then currently it is failing to meet this obligation and in its
present form doing all but nothing to protect the public. This particular study
and many of my other research suggests that a wider control of the dog
population is required in order to protect us not only from the dogs that are
already on the dangerous dogs list but also those that should potentially be
added.

Breed Specific legislation has been
around since the introduction of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act. It gives the
government power to seize any dog in order to assess whether this dog is a
banned ‘type’. The Pit Bull which is not banned in America is usually comprised
of a terrier breed with a bull breed and not really considered a breed but a
type. Its ancestry includes the American Pit Bull, the Staffordshire Bull
Terrier and the Bull Terrier. These dogs can be any colour from white to black,
varying in size and head shape. These dogs were originally used to bait bulls
until 1835 when the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed that outlawed
“Blood Sports”, they then went on to assist with the hunting and management
of livestock. In more recent years bull breeds have been referred to as the
‘nanny’ breed due to their love of children. The main issue is that this type
of dog is very often grossly misunderstood. They have lots of positive qualities
that make them great family pets such as their unwavering loyalty which
unfortunately also makes them a status symbol for undesirable people gaining
these dogs a reputation in recent years for being dangerous. In 2016 Battersea had to
euthanise ’91 pit bull type dogs that were healthy’, because of the law. This
source goes on to shockingly report that they believed at least ‘71% of them
could have been rehomed as family pets due to their friendly and affectionate
nature’. This is the stark truth of what is happening in our county where
healthy and affectionate pets are being killed due to how they look. Dr Samantha Gaines, RSPCA dog welfare expert, said the law should look
at dogs “on an individual case-by-case basis – irrespective of their breed
or type”. If this were the case, I strongly believe that there would be a
noticeable change in public perception of certain breeds as well as less
hospital admissions as the government would be spending less time
discriminating on perfectly well behaved bull breed and focusing on the real
dangerous dogs of any breed.

 

What
makes the Nature and the Nurture of a dog?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stereotypes

 

In recent year’s dangerous dogs have been the accessory of choice for
youths and gangs, many have a preference for bull breeds due to their strength
and loyalty. Dog fighting has
been illegal in the United Kingdom for over 200 years. However, regardless of this
legislation being put into place, dog fighting is still happening, illegally.
These dogs used have been chosen for their genetic traits such as loyalty and
willingness to protect, breeders will take advantage of these dogs to make them
more aggressive with other dogs and people. This underground practice is
barbaric and most of these dogs spend considerable hours chained, training or fighting.
Fighting dogs are kept in horrendous conditions such as small cages and locked
up in abandoned garages or warehouses, often very close but just out of reach
to other dogs to increase their antagonism. These people subject them to carry weights
in order to gain upper body strength as well as injecting them with illegal
steroids. Professional dogfighters will also employ tactics such as filling
their dog’s teeth to be as sharp as possible to inflict maximum damage.  In my opinion although many of these dogs
could banned types, it’s the environmental factors that are making these dogs a
danger to our community. Their unwavering loyalty and protective nature is
being exploited by young men who want the status that a dangerous dog can
bring, subjecting them to live in horrendous conditions and taking advantage of
their intelligent nature and ability to learn. Ending up a monster not of the
genetic kind as these dogs have been made to behave in this dangerous way by how
they’ve been raised. This can also be considered as ‘nurturing’ although in a
very horrific and far from ideal environment. It is this minority of dogs that
are portrayed in the media giving the gentle Staffordshire Bull Terrier a bad
reputation.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier has one of the
worst reputations in the United Kingdom, known simply as the ‘staffy’. They are
often stigmatised heavily by the media and the general public as ‘devil dogs’.
Battersea Dogs Home and other dog rehoming organisations report that the staffy
is the most common dog in their establishments. According to BBC News, (Potts, 2015) they are considered
by many as a ‘chav dog’ for the lower classes. The article also went on to
report that the staffy is ‘painted as aggressive, vicious and worthy of a place
on the “dangerous dogs list”. However, for every negative comment on the
article for this pint sized dog there was considerable praise for the breeds
‘loyalty and affectionate character’. This could explain why they are ‘the
third most popular breed in the UK’. A well respected senior lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, Dr Thomas Fletcher
said “Staffies do have a particularly bad reputation, but it is important
to recognise that those we hear about represent the minority of the breed. I
think it’s as much to do with the owner. Animals are individuals and I think
it’s very much about nurture over nature.” I feel that this is a very
strong argument for all dogs regardless of whether they appear on the Dangerous
Dogs Act 1991 or not. Clearly as this evidence suggests when these dogs are
owned by undesirable people they are never going to have a positive
reputation.  I personally feel that it’s
the owners that fail the dogs in our society, if our pets are not given the
chance to be successful how can we expect them to prove themselves. This leads
me on to discussing what makes a well behaved dog.

Who
can own a dog?

Dogs are very cleaver animals and each breed have unique needs and
requirements that many do not research or anticipated in the first place.
Furthermore, anyone can buy a dog and no licence is required meaning that
people may acquire dogs that they are not suitable for or should not even be
allowed to own a dog at all. Animal welfare organisations, unlike backstreet
breeders have strict rehoming policies that mean that the right dog will only
be placed in the ideal home. Unfortunately, due to the fact that anyone can
purchase a dog many fall into the wrong hands. With
more than 2.3 million dogs are routinely left
alone for five hours or more whilst owners are working full time causing severe
impact on mental wellbeing which I feel is often overlooked in people
let alone our pets.
A responsible dog owner will give their pets the best change possible to have a
happy, healthy and safe life. From early socialisation
classes to adequate stimulation and exercise with a high level of training and
discipline to teach their dog boundaries which dogs both need and respect. There
should also be emphasis on education with children on dog bite prevention. Many
children are not disciplined by their parents and told how to behave
around dogs. There have been many incidents of dogs biting children when the
child has been allowed to pull the dogs tails, jump on the dogs, take bones or
toys away for the dog which is very irresponsible of owners of pets. The
Guardian newspaper reported that ‘Children aged
under 10 were most likely to be admitted to hospital after being attacked by a
dog, with 1,159 requiring inpatient treatment, equivalent to 17.6 per 100,000.’  The Dogs Trust still
feels that even though the Dangerous Dogs Act is in place there is more that
needs to be done to prevent tragedies happening in the first place. Trevor
Cooper, the charity’s law specialist, said: “Dogs Trust remains frustrated that
legislation focusing on issues around dangerous dogs and dog attacks remains
ineffective at preventing these incidents happening in the first
place. “Dogs Trust is focused on preventive measures that keep children
and adults safe around dogs.”

A
dog’s typical temperament

 

News
Paper reports

 

The Independent newspaper released a report
last year according to a pet insurance company, Animal Friends in conjunction
with personal injury claim that had been made. This report revealed that in
fact the breed of dog that is most likely to bite, attack or act with dangerous
behaviour and therefore to blame for the highest number of canine attacks, is
the Labrador. Which is very surprising considering this breed is stereotyped as
a ‘family favourite’ and overall a very popular breed among dog owners. One
counter point that must be made in consideration to this fact is that the
Labrador Retriever is currently the most popular dog breed to be owned in the
UK. According the official Kennel Club website there were 33,856 Labs
registered to be owned in 2016, with the Cocker Spaniel coming in at number 2
with subsequently less being owned at 21,854. Comparing this with the
Staffordshire Bull Terrier only 4,213 were registered to be owned. This is very
misleading as we will never know exactly how many dogs of each breed are
currently in the UK as not every dog is likely to be registered espically the
Staffordshire Bull Terrier as there are currently so many being dumped and
unclaimed in rescue. Therefore, as the Labrador is the most owned breed of dog
it is understandable that it is also the dog that causes the most attacks,
however it cannot be disputed that dog is a danger to our society.

 

Conclusion

 

To
conclude, I believe that all dogs in the wrong hands can become dangerous. Some
breeds such as the…. are genetically predisposed to be aggressive through
centuries of selective breeding for fighting. However, the nurture argument is
strong and many owners fail their dogs through failing to attend socialisation
classes as puppies or even giving their dogs very little stimulating or
exercise and effectively keeping their beloved pets locked away in a prison day
after day. No wonder we are still experiencing problems after the legislation
to protect us was implemented in 1991. As a county I truly believe we are
missing the critical chance to educate our children
on dog bite prevention. We will never live in a world without dog bites or
risks, nor will we ever live in a world without irresponsible people. We can,
though, live in a world where dogs are judged as individuals and by their
actions rather than their appearance, and owners are held accountable for the actions
of their dogs.

As
a result, I will hopefully be able to see if there are any ways of managing
dangerous dogs and reducing the number of attacks.

 

Bibliography

 

Dangerous Dogs: Nature v Nurture

For
my project I’m going to investigate whether the nature of the dog or the
nurture a dog is given is an influence to creating a dangerous dog.

Throughout
my project I will be looking at a variety of aspects that will all contribute
my overall outcome as to the creation of a dangerous dog.

I
will be looking at the types of dogs that are currently on the Dangerous dogs
list, whether they are rightfully justified and if more should more be added.

I
will then be looking into what the what certain dogs were traditionally bred
for E.G. Bull Terrier, baiting bulls. This will then lead me on to the history
of dangers dogs and over the year’s dogs that were stereotyped as dangerous
E.G. German Shepard’s, Rottweilers and Dobermans.

From
here I will be covering what a dog’s typical temperament is when nurtured right
with a particular looking into the ‘bull breeds’. This will then lead me onto
the upbringing of the dogs that are classed as dangerous with a particular
focus of stereotypes of the dangerous dogs espically gang related.

Lastly,
I will be looking at news articles and ‘real-life’ attacks that have occurred
by ‘dangerous dogs’ I will then be able to compare the breeding type of the
dogs and the dogs general type of upbringing. As a result, I will hopefully be
able to see if there are any ways of managing dangerous dogs and reducing the
number of attacks.