New studies and research suggests dogs that have been deemed ‘dangerous’ and banned in certain areas by the government are wrongly stigmatized as they are actually the product of bad owners.
“Dangerous dogs which are outlawed in Britain and in other countries may be no more unsafe than other breeds – they simply attract bad owners, researchers have suggested.
Currently under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, it is illegal to own certain types of dog including the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Filo Brasileiro.
But the University of Lincoln has argued that the act stigmatizes breeds which are not inherently more aggressive while making owners too trusting of dogs which are not banned.
Criminals or gangs are often drawn to banned pets as ‘weapon of status dogs’ which has ‘created a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy about their behavior through environmental rather than genetic effects,’ researchers argue.
The claim the ‘type of person attracted towards certain breeds and encouraging certain behaviors may be a much better predictor’ of aggression.
Professor Daniel Mills said: “This work provides good scientific evidence to explain why the pursuit by governments of breed specific legislation to reduce the risk of harm to citizens is not only doomed to failure, but also giving people a false sense of security, which may actually be making the situation worse.”
In November four-year-old Lexi Branson was killed in Leicestershire after being attacked by the family bulldog which was not a banned breed.
Jade Lomas-Anderson was also mauled to death by a pack of dogs near her home in Atherton, Greater Manchester.
Again the breeds were not banned so police could not bring charges against owner Beverley Concannon. Concannon was eventually fined £165 and given a suspended jail term after admitting causing unnecessary suffering to her pets.
The Kennel Club has been campaigning for the overhaul of Dangerous Dogs legislation claiming that existing breed specific law fail to protect the public and should be changed to place greater responsibility on owners.
It claims banning dogs has led to thousands being kept in kennels for many years or put down simply because of their breed or type.
Researchers at the University of Lincoln found the dog’s appearance also sparked negative attitudes toward breeds resulting in over-generalization of how they behaved.
Not only bull-breeds but also those with much more superficial characteristics such as being well-muscled, or even short-haired, were stigmatized more often as dangerous by those with less experience or knowledge of dogs.
Those attracted to ‘dangerous dogs’ were less likely to treat them well, leading them to be more aggressive.
More than half (54%) of respondents who identified themselves as “experienced or knowledgeable” of dogs disagreed that some breeds are more aggressive than others.
Similarly, more than half of the “experienced” respondents felt there was no valid reason for breed specific legislation, whereas less than 1 in 10 of the inexperienced respondents felt the same.
A Defra spokesperson said: “We agree that all dogs have the potential to be dangerous in the wrong hands. That’s why we’re toughening up laws so that dog owners can be brought to justice wherever an attack takes place.
“We’re also giving local authorities and the police new powers to take preventative action before an attack occurs.”
The study was published in the Human Animal Interaction Bulletin of the American Psychological Association.”