PETA’s support for the Dangerous Dogs Act demonstrates its incompetence in influencing real change.
Google ‘Bad Legislation’ and lo and behold you will greeted by the Dangerous Dogs Act in some form or another. Google ‘How to Get Bad PR’ and PETA’s public affairs team… you get the picture.
So what on earth made PETA think submitting a response to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s Inquiry into Breed Specific Legislation in support of the Dangerous Dogs Act was a good idea? And why do they want the Staffie banned?
Well according to PETA UK (no name supplied), in a statement which simultaneously manages to be militant and conformist, they state that the Dangerous Dogs Act is ‘what’s best for dogs’ and it’s not just staffies they want to ban, PETA say they are opposed to all dog breeding.
Their reasons, to some extent, are justified.
They state the obvious fact that selective breeding, borne out of human desire to elicit a certain physical traits from dogs, can lead to dogs having to suffer a life of pain and misery. Take the Pug for example, its pushed in face causes it to suffer from severe breathing issues, while dogs bred to be imposing often suffer health problems because of their immense size.
In addition to this PETA also highlight the very genuine homeless-animal crisis, and with good reason, the Stray Dog Survey found that over 47,000 dogs were abandoned in 2015 alone. Consequently, PETA urges:
“Everyone to adopt dogs from shelters rather than buying them from pet shops and breeders and to ensure that their animals are spayed and neutered to help prevent the overpopulation problem from getting worse”
So, PETA want to protect dogs from reckless breeding and reduce the number of dogs in animal shelters. Great.
PETA want to do this by supporting the Dangerous Dogs Act and by banning the Staffordshire Bull-Terrier. Not so great.
The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is one of the most fundamentally flawed pieces of legislation in British political history. The Dangerous Dogs Act is what happens when British Tabloids carry more influence than cold, hard facts and British Politicians make rushed and ill-informed decisions to appease an even more ill-informed British public – something repeated in recent years with the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.
The Dangerous Dogs Act identifies several types of dog as ‘dangerous’, however as the RSPCA’s 2016 report Breed Specific Legislation – A Dog’s Dinner states, there is simply no reliable data which shows that the dogs banned under the Act ‘pose a heightened risk to public safety, are more involved, or are any more likely to be involved, in dog bite related incidents than any other breed or type in the UK.’
In fact, in studies which seek to establish which dogs are most likely to be involved in dog bite incidents or display a higher incidence of aggression it is often the most unlikely dogs which are indicted – for instance one study found that Chihuahuas, Dachshunds and Jack Russell terriers exhibited the highest levels of aggression across the breed.
In addition to this, in the last decade hospital admissions as a result of dog attacks rose by 76% according to the committee in charge of the inquiry – this shows Breed Specific Legislation has failed.
So what should PETA be doing if it really wants to protect dogs?
The first step should be to promote a legislative change that places the onus, in absolute terms, on dog owners instead of supporting a policy which leads to the destruction of dogs which have done little wrong, apart from being born in a country which demonises their appearance. This should include increasing the length of custodial sentences faced by irresponsible owners whose dogs are involved in attacks in order to deter owners from nurturing a dog’s aggressive tendencies.
This view is supported by the British Veterinary Association which says:
“We are opposed to any proposal or legislation that singles out particular breeds of dogs rather than targeting individual aggressive dogs. The problems caused by dangerous dogs will never be solved until dog owners appreciate that they are responsible for the actions of their animals – the “deed not breed” principle.”
In promoting this change, PETA should push for restrictions on the reckless breeding of animals which leads to physical characteristics that limit a dog’s quality of life.
In addition to this, PETA needs to increase awareness of the problems of buying pedigree and why pedigree really isn’t best. To their credit, they are campaigning against Channel 4’s continued coverage of Crufts, but in the age of social media they must do more to inform owners of how their preferences on a dog’s appearance will ultimately cost them in vet bills and their dog an early death.
Until PETA can form a coherent and deliverable dogs strategy, they should rescind their support for the Dangerous Dogs Act.
You can sign a petition against Staffordshire Bull-Terriers being added to the Dangerous Dogs Act list here:
In loving memory of Cosmo.