More than 50,000 people have backed the RSPCA’s campaign calling for an end to the controversial legislation which bans four types of dogs being kept in the UK. Four months since the launch, groups, bodies and individuals from around the world have also supported the petition.

In August, the UK’s largest and oldest animal welfare charity launched its campaign calling for the Government to hold a public inquiry into section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) which uses breed specific legislation (BSL) to ban pit bull terriers, Japanese tosas, fila Brazilieros, and dogo Argentinos.

The campaign – called #EndBSL – sought to raise awareness of the plight of thousands of dogs whose welfare is compromised due to the law and also highlight the ineffectiveness of the legislation at protecting public safety.

Four months on, the RSPCA’s petition has been signed by more than 52,000 people and the charity’s opposition to BSL has received support from around the world.

RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines – lead author of the charity’s BSL report ‘A Dog’s Dinner’ – said: “Our message is simple: BSL is ineffective in protecting public safety and results in the suffering and euthanasia of many dogs. We believe BSL should be repealed and issues surrounding human safety tackled using education and effective legislative measures that do not unnecessarily compromise dog welfare.

“Since publishing our report and launching our campaign in August – marking 25 years since the Dangerous Dogs Act was implemented – we’ve received support from around the world, not only from members of the public, dog lovers and people who have experienced the devastating effects of BSL first-hand, but also from other UK and international organisations, charities and bodies.”

The need to repeal BSL has already been backed by more than 30 organisations around the world, from countries as far-flung as Australia, Japan and USA, including:

Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC)

Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC)

British Veterinary Behaviour Association (BVBA)

British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA)

Deed Not Breed

DDA Watch

Dogs Trust

Dutch Veterinary Behaviour Group

EU Dog & Cat Alliance

Eurogroup for Animals

European Society for Clinical Veterinary Ethology (ESCVE)

The International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants (IAABC)

The Kennel Club

Massachusetts SPCA (MSPCA)

People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA)

RSPCA Australia


Renowned experts including Dr Emily Blackwell and Dr Emma Milne are also in support, as well as behaviourists Sarah Fisher – and her actor partner, Anthony Head – and Victoria Stilwell.

Dr Milne said: “The Dangerous Dogs Act, that came into force in 1991, was and remains one of the most pointless laws we’ve ever had. The fact is that dogs’ behaviour is dictated by so many factors beyond their breed.

“If we had used the last 20 odd years using the law to make people better dog owners it would have been a much better use of the law.

“The whole thing has been a mess for far too long and the time has come for the law to be repealed and for the politicians to try and do something constructive to improve the lives of dogs and reduce bite injuries.”

And Dr Valerie Jonckheer-Sheehy, chair of the Dutch Veterinary Behaviour Group, said: “Breed specific legislation will not resolve dog bite incidents.

“The focus must be on educating the public on dog behaviour and welfare, and ensuring that dog breeders breed healthy animals who are able to cope with the mental demands that they may be challenged within their day-to-day life.”

In another positive step, in December, the London Assembly unanimously agreed to support a motion for the Mayor of the city to write to the Secretary for State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs officially requesting an inquiry into the law.

“Hopefully, with the support of these wonderful organisations and the backing of tens of thousands of voices, we stand a chance of getting the Government to sit up and listen,” Dr Gaines added.

“It’s high time we made a change that will not only make the public in the UK safer, but will also ensure dogs are not punished for simply looking a certain way.”

In November, Becky Hughes discovered the BSL issue for the first time – when one of her two blue Staffordshire bull terriers, 18-month-old Chesney (pictured), was seized by police under Section 1 of the DDA.

He was taken away and returned a few days later under the interim exemption scheme. Becky, from Chester-le-Street, must now go through the court process to have Chesney exempted permanently.

She said: “What doesn’t make sense is that Chesney is being punished when he has done nothing wrong.

“I had no idea about BSL, what it meant, or how common it is? It baffles me. Even the police said Chesney is a lovely, friendly dog but look what the legislation is doing to him? It’s crazy.”

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  1. If only ending BSL was as simple as popular opinion or a majority vote.

    BSL is only referred to as a Call to Public Safety as a cover to politics.
    Anyone in any city globally that enforces BSL… they can do even the slightest of research/ digging on the origin of the legislation in that city and find numbers that dont add up.
    Special interest groups who help fund a re-election, those with alot of money who help fund re-election, other politicians who can help with re-election, etc… they all do so with some sort of return expected. All those campaign donors have ideas of their own and include that in that expected return.

    For the rest of us… we look at dog bite statistics, beefing up responsible dog ownership in a community, referring to the professional animal welfare community (Veterinarians, Trainers, Behaviorists, Animal Control Officers, etc) and their views and we popularize model legislation that addresses the problem at its source… Irresponsible dog owners.

    When legislators are presented with data, statistics, a trend in official position from the pro’s… and no one is listening at city hall: Something isnt kosher in the hen house.

    Team Pit-a-Full
    Dog Training & Rehabilitation
    Denver, CO, US

  2. Wrong. It’s people!!!
    If a dog is taught how to be aggressive. It will.
    Also, ignorance about owning a dog doesn’t help. People should do homework before owning a dog and then reading up on the breed they wish to add to their household.
    Also children need to be taught how to act around dogs, this type of ignorance can hurt y any dog!!

  3. It’s easy to sensationalise the fact that a Pitbull has maimed/mauled,. A Labrador, collie or Yorkie doesn’t quite hit the button really, yet they are just as much a culprit of biting people but no one is aware as they are perceived as a “vicious”dog.
    I love my Staffie and Staffie crosses and I am aware of their personalities in and outside and accommodate that. Not everyone does. With this in mind, is it still the dogs fault??

  4. Unfortunately if you come from the victims advocates side of the fence, which is where I have been for over four years, you understand that these attacks do not need to be hyped up by the media. IN FACT many attacks aren’t even reported, usually just the severe ones!
    They come pre packaged because once they occur and the dog snaps, it’s a full on assault until the attacker or the victim is subdued (severely injured or dead). Most of the hundreds of victims and grieving parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, grandparents, friends, etc of these victims were victimized by their own or another well raised family pet. I know, I work with them. It’s not something that I heard or read. You can say all you want about your personal experience or your organization but the facts are the facts…….there are WAY TOO MANY SEVERE ATTACKS HAPPENING DAILY by these dog breed(s) to ignore. All pit/mix/other bully advocates INSIST that the attacks are happening because the dogs were raised wrong. “It’s the owners” they say. Yet the ONLY WAY to regulate owners of these breeds is to focus on them and REGULATE them through Breed Specific Legislation. So why are you all saying one thing and then advocating against it?
    The SOLE PURPOSE of Breed Specific Legislation is to DECREASE SEVERE AND FATAL DOG ATTACKS (not stop dog bites….who could EVER do that? That’s ludicrous). EVERY SINGLE group of statistics calculated show that pit bulls, staffys, their mixes and few other bully breeds/derivatives are TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR 60%+ of ALL SEVERE AND FATAL ATTACKS. That’s ASTRONOMICAL! Especially given that these dogs are only around 5% of the total dog population. There’s a reason that all dog breeds were created. You can see it in their behavior. There’s a reason that bully breeds were created, in particular pit bulls, to fight and to kill. That’s what they do. I work with their victims daily. I’ve seen their damage up close. NO AMOUNT of “it’s how you raise them” or “my dog is the most loveable and best pet ever” testimonies will bring back the dead children or adults or pets or arms or eyes or faces. No amount of persuasion about your particular circumstance or your own solution will stop the next attack, or the next one, or the next one. Breed Specific Regulation will put laws to work that force owners to vaccinate, chip, insure and properly care for and CONTAIN these high risk dogs. BSL will limit breeders to stop overproduction, will instruct veterinarians to follow laws regarding dangerous dogs and reporting, will force rescues to fully disclose breed types and dangerous histories and force euthanasia on dangerous individuals. BSL will target dog fighters and breeders for fighters and illegal training. BSL will force accountability on the few who choose to own a risky dog, whether they believe it to be risky or not. The ENFORCEMENT OF BSL will be key to making it work. Stiff penalties, fines, jail terms for people who REFUSE to follow the laws MUST be enforced. And if a community WONT take the laws seriously, then a ban should be enforced.
    If you own a dog like this and fully believe that your dog is good and support these breeds then you won’t mind following a few rules with your pet in order to keep our communities safe from those “bad owners”, right?
    One last thing, ANY AND ALL DOG BREEDS that are SEVERELY INJURING AND KILLING PEOPLE and PETS on a regular basis should be targeted. NOT ALL BREEDS, thus THE SPECIFIC in BSL. This makes sense because the public needs to UNDERSTAND the danger from certain dogs that they are in or that they are exposing their children to (especially 4 and 5 year olds -threat level), in order to be AWARE AND ALERT to the danger. We CANNOT go on PRETENDING and REPEATING that these dogs are equally as dangerous as any other breed, it SIMPLY NOT TRUE. We cannot continue to put people and pets in harm’s way.

    1. “One last thing, ANY AND ALL DOG BREEDS that are SEVERELY INJURING AND KILLING PEOPLE and PETS on a regular basis should be targeted. NOT ALL BREEDS, thus THE SPECIFIC in BSL. This makes sense because the public needs to UNDERSTAND the danger from certain dogs that they are in or that they are exposing their children to (especially 4 and 5 year olds -threat level), in order to be AWARE AND ALERT to the danger. We CANNOT go on PRETENDING and REPEATING that these dogs are equally as dangerous as any other breed, it SIMPLY NOT TRUE. We cannot continue to put people and pets in harm’s way.” I will refer to this part only. So you think the solution is to get rid off certain type of dogs to keep people safe? So that they don’t need to be alert and careful around dogs because those who stay alive will be assumed safe? I am sorry, but we are creating a generation of people incapable of survival and interacting with their environment, entitled to being provided the guarantee that nothing happens to them. If things that might hurt them or pose any threat should just be removed, can we have cars, electricity, animals in zoos, animals in the wild and certain type of people removed to so that no one is exposed to risk that they couldn’t handle if they encountered one? I am not sure what is greater – the number of pit bull type (being actually any type at all) dogs that were put down for no apparent reason or the number of dogs that were actually dangerous but omitted because authorities are to busy assessing dogs’ appearance to focus on behaviour indicators in individuals or to target bad ownership that creates dangerous dogs. The problem with this article is that it doesn’t really explains that what means pit bull in America, is American Bulldog in the UK, and mongrel with the unfortunate features, and boxer non-pit cross, and staffordshire terrier that is not the same as american terrier and their crosses, in fact any bull or terrier cross of certain size and head shape can be targeted. It’s pointless, they’re are missing the point in enforcing BSL in the UK. What about pit bulls that are used as BAIT DOGS? Incapable of fighting, because they don’t have it in their personalities, but used in dog fighting because they’re tough dogs, muscular, more resistant to pain and will be used multiple times before they get killed, because they can survive the injuries? What about them? So there are dogs with dominant personalities, not only pitts, and once pitts are gone, people will abuse this trait in another breed to keep doing what they’re doing. You’re basically advocating for wiping out dogs from the face off this earth and I despise you for that.

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