Dangerous dogs

An injury to a man's arm after an attack by a Rhodesian ridgeback

An injury to a man’s arm after an attack by a Rhodesian ridgeback

I’ve just read an item placed by the League against Cruel Sports on Twitter that relates to pet dogs in Cornwall being taken and used as bait for fighting dogs. The article claims that dogs advertised as ‘free to a good home’ may be a source of dogs for this purpose. The unfortunate dog is thrown into a ring or enclosed area with two fighting dogs and mauled, sometimes killed, to get the two fighting dogs ‘riled up before they tear into each other.’ Aware of the intelligence I deal with regularly at the National Wildlife Crime Unit I don’t doubt this for a minute, and  I’d be rather surprised if any of these ‘bait’ dogs survive.

The article continues: ‘According to intelligence gathered by the RSPCA, dog- fight organisers moved from the United States to London and then branched out across the country, eventually making their way to Cornwall. Mr Butcher (of the RSPCA) said “What’s being described here is organised in a sense, but I’ve never heard of the top fighters using bait dogs: but we have had reports on top fights that do happen in Cornwall and investigations are under way right now in the area to put a stop to this. “Our last conviction was around two years ago. We always welcome intelligence.”

Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed they had executed warrants in the past in relation to dog-fighting, but the last was two years ago. However, they would welcome any information about dog-fighting and could treat it confidentially.’

Animal welfare crimes that are jointly investigated by police and animal welfare charities have a good chance of success, using police powers and an amalgam of the experience and expertise of the different organisations.

It was ironic that when I was out walking my dog this afternoon a skinny youth sporting a purple crew cut and holding on to a huge pit bull terrier-type dog that was heavier than he was passed on the other side of the road. The pony-sized dog, straining on its lead, looked over at my dog and was barely contained by its puny owner, who told it, “Leave it, it’s just a fucking terrier.” Had this giant caught its owner by surprise and ran over the road there is probably little I could have done to save my dog. If I had lifted it up the youth’s dog would be higher than I am had it risen on its hind legs.

This was a case where a killing machine was in completely the wrong hands. I have seen this so often, especially in the late 1980s during my three and a half years in the drug squad when every house we went in to had a pit bull terrier, a German shepherd, a rottweiler or a doberman. Even yet many of the neds and criminals sport a Staffordshire terrier at the end of a lead. These are incredibly friendly dogs if in the right hands, but I suspect that a high proportion of these lovely dogs end up with completely the wrong type of owner. It is hardly surprising that there are so many instances where people – especially youngsters – are attacked and sometimes killed by large out-of-control dogs.

So the purple headed clown may either be a visitor to or a newcomer in my village. Either way I’ll be looking out for him and will have a better look next time at whether or not his dog might be legal or otherwise. I also look forward to the day when we have effective dog legislation.

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