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Friday, August 22, 2008

A quick lesson, because I only plan on saying this once.

Staffordshire Bull Terriers are often grouped together with other dog breeds under the 'Pit Bull' moniker.
In the media, the term is vague and may include - alongside the English and American Pit Bull Terrier - other breeds with similar physical characteristics, such as the Perro de Presa Canario, Cane Corso, Dogo Argentino, Alano Espanol, Japanese Tosa, Dogue de Bordeaux, Cordoba Fighting Dog, Bull Terrier, Antebellum Bulldog, Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog, American Bulldog, Boxer, Valley Bulldog, Olde English Bulldogge, Renascence Bulldogge, and Banter Bulldogge.

These breeds are rarely listed by name in breed-specific legislation, but they are sometimes included when the term is defined broadly and based on physical appearance.

In shelters worldwide, Pit Bulls or dogs that appear to be Pit Bulls comprise a large portion of the shelter's population and may be destroyed due to the stigma associated with the breed (or because of overcrowding). In the UK alone, it is estimated that over 100,000 Staffordshire Bull Terriers are killed every year.

Where a dog is genuinely dangerous and aggressive in its behaviour, it is almost always the fault of the dog's owners - staffies, along with other bull terrier types, are unfortunately very popular among people who do not behave as responsible dog owners, and who are specifically looking for dogs with aggressive characteristics to enhance their own 'image'.

It is those owners' lack of proper socialization and training of their dogs that is most likely to result in a dog with aggressive tendencies. Under the care of an overly-permissive or uneducated owner, with a lack of proper exercise and a poor diet, 'Pit Bulls' can become dangerous dogs - as can ANY BREED of dog when mistreated. Indeed, only this week it was reported in the newspaper that a rottweiler was killed after attacking a child. It was reported that the dog's actions were a result of it being 'a dangerous dog that never should have been sold'. Only later in the report are we told that the dog had received NO EXERCISE at all for 5 MONTHS. Who's at fault there: an intrinsically 'dangerous' animal, or a completely irresponsible and cruel owner? The owner of the dog that was put down was not, in that instance or indeed in many others like it, punished or even held to be responsible.

As a result of ignorance, a lack of preventative action and widespread misinformation around these facts, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a target of breed bans. This mistaken belief that staffies are dangerous dogs is, as stated earlier, due to many people branding Staffordshires under the same name as pit bull type dogs. The German government tried to ban the breed in September 2000 across the EU, but were stopped by representatives from the British Kennel Club.

Since the 12th of August 1991, Pit Bulls - 'Specific breeds and similar cross-breeds' - have been the subject of a ban under the Dangerous Dogs Act:

'The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 is a piece of UK legislation that was introduced in response to various incidents of serious injury or death resulting from attacks by aggressive and uncontrolled dogs, particularly on children. These incidents received heavy tabloid attention, causing widespread public concern over the keeping of dangerous dogs and a resulting legislative response.

Under the 1991 Act (and as amended in 1997) it is illegal to own any Specially Controlled Dogs without specific exemption from a court. The dogs have to be muzzled and kept on a leash in public, they must be registered and insured, neutered, tattooed and receive microchip implants. The Act also bans the breeding, sale and exchange of these dogs, even if they are on the Index of Exempted Dogs.[1]

Four types in particular were identified by the Act:

Pit Bull Terrier (a description which has led to some confusion, as the "Pit bull" is not a breed in and of itself but encompasses a range of breeds)
Japanese Tosa
Dogo Argentino
Fila Brasileiro
The Act also cover cross breeds of the above four types of dog. Dangerous dogs are classified by 'type', not by breed label. This means that whether a dog is prohibited under the Act will depend on a judgement about its physical characteristics, and whether they match the description of a prohibited 'type'. This assessment of the physical characteristics is made by a court.'

Staffordshire Bull Terriers are, in fact, extremely good natured, non-aggressive and social animals by their nature, with a natural intelligence and great affinity with humans. It is known to have a character of indomitable courage, high intelligence, and tenacity. This, coupled with its affection for its friends, and children in particular, its off-duty quietness and trustworthy stability, makes it a foremost all-purpose dog. It is one of only two breeds named as 'Good with Children' in their breed standard by the UK Kennel Club, from over 190 breeds. It is THE ONLY BREED OF DOG that has been classified as 'Totally Reliable' in it's breed standard.

Here endeth the lesson.

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