National Dog Warden Association (NDWA)
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Dangerous Dogs In The Media - Questions Need To Be Answered

Mon, 17 Mar 2008
I sat down for a nice quiet evening on Saturday 15th of March to watch of my long time favourite, semi-soap programmes, ‘Casualty’, only to find that most of the programme portrayed a ‘dangerous dog’ situation. Worse was to come as the programme makers had somehow got hold of a dog which I am reasonably certain, from the images shown, physically conformed to PBT ‘type’.

That leads to my first question, how were they able to use a dog of ‘type’ un-muzzled and off lead in a public place for the purposes of filming without being prosecuted, when this ‘type’ (for which conformity to physical standards can be sufficient proof) was deemed in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to be dangerous (without further incident or ‘deed’ being necessary proof) and was prohibited?

Second question, which is even more important; why did the owner of this particular dog (who, with some clever ‘defence expert’ as they like to call themselves, may, for all I know, have proved to the satisfaction of the court that his or her dog is not of ‘type’) then allow their non-dangerous dog to portray a dangerous dog for the purpose of a television programme? Especially when over-dubbing was clearly used to turn non-aggressive behaviour into ‘staged’ aggression.

The public watching the programme will have easily identified this dog to be of the ‘type’ which they understand to be dangerous, and now they will have had their stereotypes reinforced having seen it portrayed as a ‘top’ fighting dog that goes on to savage three or more people seriously (in one case to the point of exhibiting the severe post traumatic stress). What owner wants that badge to be given to their breed even by a fictional drama?

Of course had the programme used a Jack Russell or a Border Collie or even a Great Dane or Dog de Bordeaux or even an American Bulldog or a Boerboel (all perfectly legal dogs) it would not have been as ‘topical’ as the use of the ‘type’ already prohibited yet still able to be identified, rightly or wrongly, as responsible for public nuisance and alleged attacks on people and animals; which I suspect speaks volumes about how ineffective breed specific legislation really is at dealing with the real problems.

Then I heard that on another channel what were clearly Staffordshire Bull Terriers were used in reconstructions of Pit Bull Terrier (‘type’) attacks. A bit of ‘dramatic licence’ perhaps, and at least using a perfectly legal dog in front of camera, but ultimately totally confusing the general public viewing it, especially when they are then confronted in the same programme with dogs which are accused of being of ‘type’, whose owner denies they are of ‘type’ by denouncing dogs of type as dogs she would never have in the house; and yet from those experienced people who have told me about the programme the dogs were clearly of ‘type’ – and she had them in the house. So what is a Staffie and what is a Pit Bull? The public are certainly no wiser now!

So, in one dreadful weekend without any person actually being injured the public’s misconceptions about breeds and their behaviour, about owners and their behaviour and about the law which can be used to control it has been totally confused. I just don’t understand how the people who own the dogs or participate in these programmes think that they are doing any good whatsoever to public perception. It is not a good subject for the media even if treated relatively intelligently and I recommend that anyone invited to participate deflate their ego and think very hard about what the programme makers are proposing before doing so.

This article first appeared on the K9 Magazine website on Monday 17th March 2008.

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