In 1991, the UK passed the Dangerous Dogs Act -- which put bans on four breeds of dogs: American Pit Bull Terriers, Fila Brasilero, Dogo Argentino and Japanese Tosas.
But in the wake of yet another fatal dog attack in the country, the pressure to repeal the ban is mounting.
In fairness, it is not just over the fatal dog attack. Attacks in the UK have gone up tremendously over the past 15 years. The Bristol area the UK has seen dog bites quintuple over the past 4 years (although the starting number was fairly small). Attacks requiring hospitalization in the whole country have gone up 66% over the past 15 years.
The whole mess has led to calls for the UK to repeal the Dangerous Dogs Act. The nation has noted that in many ways, the ban has actually increased the demand for the banned breeds and that the problems continue to go up. As one MP said:
"We think it is necessary to move away from breed-specific legislation to anti-social pets, so dog protection notices can be applied to the owner as well as the dog. It's about trying to nip this in the bud before there are any injuries or fatalities."
The Animal Welfare Minister Jim Pace agrees:
"The issue of dangerous dogs is not a problem of dangerous breeds, but also one of bad owners. They need to be held to account and stopped from ruining people's lives."
The media is also calling for changes. One columnist from the London Telegraph, the nation's largest newspaper, is calling for the law to be changed.
"When 'dangerous breeds' are banned, the response of those who desire to have large muscular dogs that look intimidating is predictable: they seek out a similar type dog that is not on the list of dangerous breeds.....the latest 'dog attack' episode clearly shows the uselessness of breed specific legislation."
A recent report Department for Enviornment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA, released their findings, and now 88% of the responses from over fifty organizations (including the British Veterinary Medical Association, Metropolitan Police Service and National Dog Warden Association) say they don't believe the current legislation is effective at protecting the public, and 71% believe BSL should be repealed.
The UK is starting to feel the pressure and the public is realizing the failure of the legislation. Hopefully they will see that the law is failing, and put into place a solid, breed-neutral law that will target aggressive dogs, based on behavior, that will work on removing dangerous dogs regardless of what breed of dog it is. Many other countries in Europe have repealed their breed-specific laws and replaced them with breed neutral laws - - including Scotland (to the best of their abilities, they are still technically under the Dangerous Dogs Act), Italy, and The Netherlands.
Smart governments are willing to learn from their mistakes, recognize ineffective policy, and change their laws. We'll see if "smart" applies to the UK governing body. The pressure from the public is on.