Our campaign to end breed specific legislation (BSL)
Every year thousands of dogs are euthanised because of the way they look thanks to section one of the Dangerous Dogs Act. On the 12 August 2021, the legislation that makes this possible will have been in force for 30 years.
We know that the current law is ineffective and fails dogs like Duncan and Lola and we’re campaigning to change it. But we need pet lovers like you to help.
What does the current law say?
Section one of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 bans four types of breed based on their physical appearance, rather than whether the dog has behaved dangerously.
The word ‘type’ is important because it means that it isn’t just pure breeds that are illegal to own, sell, breed, give away or abandon, but crossbreeds of these or any dog which fits the physical description of these breeds as well. So, a dog can be seized and killed based on their head and body measurements alone.
What breeds are banned?
It’s illegal to own, sell, breed, give away or abandon:
- pitbull terriers
- Japanese tosas
- dogo Argentinos,
- fila Brasilerios
- crossbreeds of these breed
- any dog which fits the physical description of these breeds
Lola’s life affected forever
Lola was taken by officers and kept for two nights because they deemed the affectionate American bulldog cross staffie a risk after her measurements categorised her to be a pit bull terrier.
Her owner, Anita, was left desperately trying to find out where Lola was and what was happening to her. She was then forced to plead guilty in court to owning a banned dog.
Despite the court ruling Lola was no risk to the public, the law still meant she received a sentence of lifelong restrictions, including wearing a muzzle at all times in public, even if she’s travelling inside a car.
Lola was so traumatised by her two days in kennels that she had stopped eating and began urinating around the house once she was returned home – something she had never done before.
Duncan the gentle giant
Duncan was brought to us as an injured stray. Unfortunately, the Status Dogs Unit (SDU) confirmed he was of type and would have to be euthanised after serving his stray days.
Our team who looked after Duncan described him as a gentle giant who was very well behaved. He knew basic commands and, if he been another type of dog, would had made a great companion to someone. The law meant Duncan was denied that chance.
How you can help
Spread the message
With your help we can combat misinformation about ‘dangerous breeds’ and make sure the law is effective at protecting the public.
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and share our posts on breed specific legislation. You can also search #endBSL
Sign the petition
We’re calling for section one of the legislation, known as breed specific legislation or BSL, to be repealed and for urgent changes to be made.
Lola’s owner has also launched her own petition calling on the government to change the unfair legislation.
Write to your MP
Over 80,000 of you signed our petition to DEFRA asking it to save section one dogs from being pointlessly euthanased. But we need to keep the pressure on.
- Use our template letter below to let your MP know you support repeal of section one of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and ask them to contact the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on your behalf.
- Use this link to enter your postcode to find your local MP
- Send them an email telling them how you feel. A template is provided below but you can personalise it with your own experiences and thoughts on section 1 dogs and dog issues.
- Tell us when your MP has responded by emailing us at [email protected] or writing to Blue Cross Public Affairs, 7 Hugh Street, London SW1V 1RP. You can also find us on Twitter at @BlueCrossPA.
Tips for writing an email to your MP
- Include your full address. MPs usually request a full address so they know you're definitely a constituent of theirs. Our form just takes your postcode, so be sure to add your full address to the email.
- Personalise where possible - most MPs filter out identical messages
- You may receive an automatic reply to your message but this is usually just an acknowledgement of its arrival rather than the MP’s official response
- Allow several weeks for the MP’s reply as they receive a large amount of correspondence and cannot reply immediately to all messages
Why the law needs to change
The law unfairly punishes well-behaved dogs and focuses too much on what a dog looks like. It has torn much-loved pets away from their families and has failed to protect the public from irresponsible dog owners.
This legislation has not been effective at preventing dog attacks. In fact, between March 2005 and February 2015, hospital admissions for injuries caused by dogs increased by 76 per cent.
As a pet charity with animal hospitals and rehoming centres around the country, we often take in stray dogs. When no owner comes forward, we find stray dogs loving new families – but dogs who look like a banned breed are denied this happy ever after. We’re not allowed to rehome these dogs, even if they have the temperament and behaviour to become sociable pets and pose no danger to society.
The impact on animal welfare professionals
There’s no evidence to suggest that banned breeds pose any additional threat to the public than legal types of dog. But the law asks vets to euthanise healthy dogs that have never caused anyone any harm.
Asking vets, vet nurses, behaviourists and others to go against their professional judgement to a enforce a law which kills healthy animals is heart-breaking.
Owners of well-behaved family dogs who look like a banned breed must prove they are not a danger to the public. But the process is often stressful for these pets, who must often stay in kennels while an assessment is done.
If they prove they pose no threat, they must still follow harsh restrictions such as not being allowed off lead and wearing a muzzle in public places or while travelling in a car. These restrictions are in place for the rest of the dog’s life.
More heart-breaking stories
Kane the 'big softy'
Kane came into one of our hospitals and was signed over to us by his owner. The SDU were called and confirmed that Kane was of type and would need to be euthanized.
Kane was described by staff as a big softy who behaved like an overgrown puppy; he loved being around people and was very good with other dogs.
Our hands were tied because of the law and Kane was put to sleep as we were not able to send him on to one of our rehoming centres.
Poor Dobby had been used as a 'breeding machine'
Poor Dobby had been used as a breeding machine and once she was no longer any use, she was abandoned.
Dobby stayed with us for her seven stray days and we made sure she got the care and treatment she needed.
Throughout her week with us she learned to play, enjoy head rubs and put on weight. The SDU confirmed Dobby was an illegal type and her fate was sealed.
Each of these dogs had a life which they deserved to enjoy in a happy home with a loving family. Instead, they died simply because of the way they looked. This injustice must end.