Say No To Dog Amnesty - No To A Canine Witch-Hunt! What is Proposed? It is believed that there are several dog amnesties planned, such as the one already in operation in the North West of England and one in Northern Ireland. The idea behind the concept is that dog owners, who believe that their dog may be covered by Section One of the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA), the part which prohibits specific dogs, deliver their dog to a pre-arranged collection point and sign the dog over, it is then destroyed and the owner not prosecuted. The Amnesties are set for a specific length of time e.g., one month. Exactly whether or not the dogs handed over will be assessed according to the ridiculous guidelines already laid down, what form that assessment would take, who would execute it etc, is not currently known. Regardless of the wording, the end result is the same; dogs get handed over and put to death. Will amnesties remove dangerous dogs from our streets? Protecting the public is without doubt the number one priority. Amnesties are dangerous because they are diverting attention away from the real issues, e.g., how to prevent irresponsible people from breeding, owning and misusing dogs, placing the public at greater risk because it is vote worthy to be seen to take immediate action rather than addressing the underlying causes. When there is pressure on to act and to be seen to do something, an Amnesty can naively seem like a good idea, but it will only provide a false sense of security; 'the streets are now safe as all the dangerous dogs have been rounded up,' but there will be no improvement in the situation one year from now. It is time to get proactive and not just reactive. Because a cross breed dog can unintentionally fall into the wide reaching obscure area of ‘type’ does not make it any more a danger to the public than any other type of dog. A dog’s character is predominantly a result of its socialisation, training, upbringing and environment. This is a proven scientific fact. Are those people who have dogs for all the wrong reasons and already living outside of the law really expected to suddenly take note and hand their dogs in? Even if some do, what is to stop then from owning another dog, another breed? Nothing! Round and round in circles we go. Why Say No to a dog Amnesty? An Amnesty can result in hundreds, possibly thousands, of dogs being killed based on their physical appearance alone, we could end up with a mass slaughter. It sets a dangerous precedent; when another breed or type of dog hits the headlines will an amnesty be expected for them too? Section One of the DDA refers to a ‘type of dog known as a pit bull terrier’, dogs are persecuted based foremost on their physical appearance, rather than behaviour. The real issue of owner accountability and responsibility is not even addressed as the Amnesty throws the full weight of the law against the type of dog itself. The Act was amended in 1997 giving the Courts, based on the evidence before it, the power to order a dog be registered rather than destroyed. The Amnesty will not allow owners the option of presenting their case to a court or the ability to voluntarily register a dog as was the case when the Act was first introduced. Death is the only option and this is not in accordance with the provisions specified by the DDA Amendment, an Act of law which has been debated in and approved by Parliament. The root of the problem is being overlooked; an amnesty kills a dog but does not stop or prevent an irresponsible owner from breeding or owning another dog, causing problems all over again. What of family pets and people who are misinformed, frightened, harassed? An amnesty works during a climate of hysteria and anti-dog feeling, creating panic. How will destroying pet dogs based on appearance actually increase public safety? An amnesty sends out the message that dogs are disposable, that you can easily get rid of one without question or any education as to where mistakes have been made and simply replace with another at a later date. Genuine people who may need some assistance with their dog’s behaviour are discouraged from seeking advice and help, others who may need veterinary assistance can be too frightened to ask for it, in case their dog is targeted due to its appearance. There are huge welfare implications involved; Where and how will dogs be imprisoned awaiting their fate? How long will they be held in alien environments extremely distressing to them? Will they have the right to express normal behaviour as laid down by the Animal Welfare Act? What provisions will be made for frightened dogs, older dogs, sick ones who need medication, special care, pregnant and nursing bitches? Will owners be able to stay with their pets whilst they are killed, to provide a familiar and comforting face during their last moments? What of puppies handed over, will they be slaughtered too, even though their ‘type’ cannot be known until they are fully developed or are they to endure months of confinement? What of dogs of the type abused by their owners? Our attitude is to repeatedly shift all the blame to the dog, round it up and kill it we demand. Dogs who have been abused by their owners should be shown compassion, the same as any dog who has been subjected to maltreatment. Does a dog who has been used for fighting not feel pain, does he not hurt, does he not bleed the same as any other? These dogs do not get to choose who owns them, theirs is a life of misery and sorrow but their tails still wag as they look for a friendly face. Society is all too quick to condemn the dog when it is the other end of the leash we should be looking at, perhaps looking at what these dogs have had to endure is just too disturbing as it reminds us exactly what horrific acts we humans are capable of. What do we do then? The Kennel Club, Dogs Trust and many individuals, parents, groups and rescues are opposed to an Amnesty. There are alternatives, including the possibility of re-opening the Index of Exempted Dogs so that dogs can be registered and thus brought within in the law if necessary. We need to stop Amnesties and begin discussion on alternatives. The Dog Legislation Advisory Group has drafted new legislation to address the issue of dangerous owners, this needs to be debated as a priority within parliament. What’s not needed is spontaneous reaction which once again targets specific types of dogs, changes nothing and fails our children as has happened within the UK and at international level. The Police, the Dog Wardens, the Vets, no one wants to be killing innocent dogs, the Amnesty is forcing dog and innocent owner into a corner, spreading panic, misinformation and mistrust into the community.