They say the hasty law is bad law. This may not always be true but in the case of the Dangerous Dogs Act, 1991, the British government moved too fast, in the face of pressure from the media, especially the tabloid press, to control what were considered dangerous dogs, after the latest in a series of dog attacks on people, including several children. The press were up in arms, demanding that the government Do Something About It! So the law was hastily drawn up and passed, complete with enough loopholes to keep lawyers and expert witnesses gainfully arguing for years. The main fault of the law was that while it named three dangerous breeds, it failed to set down an exact definition for each breed. A full breed, no problem, but half and quarter breeds were left in a sort of legal limbo and there were endless arguments as to whether mongrels and crossbreeds came under the general headings set down in the Act.
What the Act did do, though, was to proscribe several breeds and above all, Pitbull Terriers. These breeds were designated dangerous and were to be strictly controlled. No dangerous dog was to be allowed out of doors without a muzzle. All dangerous dogs had to be registered and could not be bred, imported or given away. Unregistered dogs were to be seized and destroyed. The long term plan was to make these dogs virtually extinct in the UK. And that could only be a good thing because they are, Pitbulls especially, unstable, dangerous creatures. Yes, they are dogs, but they are also wild animals. There is something about their genetic make-up that makes them not only very strong but also very aggressive and very unstable. Pitbulls were bred, after all, as fighting dogs, not lapdogs. The sort of inadequate person who owns one of these dogs – who decides that he wants a Pitbull out of all the dozens of breeds available – claims that his dog is different, that he wouldn’t hurt a fly, that he is wonderful with children. Yeah, yeah, yeah – we’ve heard it all before. It may even be true…. until the red mist comes down. That is the problem. The red mist does come down, and when that happens a Pitbull becomes little more than a pair of jaws on legs. No matter how much sentimental drivel is talked by their owners, these are wild animals that are simply giving the appearance of being tame until further notice.
When I was in the Metropolitan Police, I attended more than one lecture by members of the dog handling department about the Dangerous Dogs Act and the animals it covers. I can vividly remember one set of photos from a dog attack – a Pitbull suddenly turned on its owner when his wife switched on the vacuum cleaner one day – and I wondered why anyone would decorate their kitchen with bright red wallpaper like that until I realised that it wasn’t wallpaper, it was blood. That was just one incident among many concerning these awful creatures.
Now that I am on this side of the pond, I am often, even after five years, taken aback by the cavalier attitude with which people allow these dogs into their homes and lives. I see them all the time on TV court shows. As in Britain, the sort of people who choose to own Pitbulls when they have so many other breeds to choose from, to say nothing of mongrels, are for the most part ill-educated misfits who seem completely taken by surprise that their cute doggie has suddenly tried to rip somebody’s throat out.
Now, ownership of these dogs is not one of your basic human rights. The progress of human civilisation will not be retarded if ownership of these creatures is regulated and then prohibited. Set the law out carefully, avoiding the ambiguities of the British Dangerous Dogs Act and then, on a federal or state by state basis set the groundwork for the disappearance of these killers in waiting – an extinction devoutly to be wished.