A pet owner has accused the Government of “dog racism” over a law that can see the animals placed in kennels or even euthanised based on how dangerous they look.
In 2019, Anita Medhi had her pet, Lola – an 18-month-old American Bulldog/Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross – seized without warning by police from her home in Middlesbrough.
This was because it looked like one of four types of dogs banned under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act – Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosas, Fila Brasileiros or Dogo Argentinos.
A court ruled that Lola posed no threat to the public and could therefore be placed on an exemption index and returned home to its owner.
However, the fact the dog shared some of the same characteristics as a Pit Bull Terrier meant that she must still wear a lead and a muzzle at all times when outside.
After Lola was returned home, it developed a infection which caused the dog to urinate around the house, something that was attributed to the stress of her ordeal.
Ms Medhi told the PA news agency the seizure and subsequent hearing also had a negative impact on her own mental health, causing her “post-traumatic stress”.
It could have been even worse for Lola, however – many dogs face waits of months or even years in kennels while waiting for exemptions.
In addition, any stray dogs “typed” in the same way due to the legislation must be killed by vets as charities are not legally allowed to rehome them.
Campaigners such as Ms Medhi are now calling for reform of the Dangerous Dogs Act, with her recent petition now signed by 50,000 people urging ministers to change the law.
“This is dog racism, how can you determine a dog to be dangerous by its look?” she asked.
“A dog should be judged on behaviour and nothing else, if a dog is well balanced, brought up correctly there should be no issue.
“Lola was proven in court to be a well-balanced, lovely dog that has no risk to the public, there is no reason to have restrictions on her.”
“I can’t tell you how important it is to get rid of this act, I never knew a Dangerous Dog Act existed, it’s been a pain in my life every since Lola was seized.”
She added: “The longer this Act exists, more dogs will be in danger – the Government does not listen to change and now is the time to listen.”
National pet charity Blue Cross has called on the Government to scrap the relevant section of the law immediately, ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Dangerous Dogs Act on August 12.
Becky Thwaites, public affairs officer at the organisation, said the law was “ineffective” and had made no difference to the number of dog attacks in the past 30 years.
“We still see a number of dog attacks each year, it’s meaning healthy pets are put to sleep due to the way they look,” she said.
“This is a piece of legislation that does not protect the public and has a negative impact on dog welfare.
“It’s time the Government reviews the legislation and introduces something that works and is based on deed not breed.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “Dog attacks can have horrific consequences, which is why it is a criminal offence to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control.
“Any dog has the potential to be dangerously out of control and therefore it is important that the police and the courts are able to employ a range of measures to limit the risks to public safety.
“We will be formally responding to this petition in due course.”