Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cave Canem

The Sentencing Council has published its new guideline on dangerous dogs.

In the druggy subculture of our rougher neighbourhoods a pit bull or similar can be used as a weapon, or simply to convey an image of the owner being dead hard. Significantly the creatures are often called something like Tyson or, I suppose, Barton. I discovered, during the trial of a couple who had 23 pit bull puppies in their one-bedroom maisonette, that the street price for a entire male pitbull is about £500.

Apart from the disturbing sight of these creatures on the street, there is a distressingly regular flow of stories of children and lesser dogs being mauled, sometimes to death. Personally, I feel quite unsentimental about any dog that attacks a human, and I have signed a few doggy death warrants in my time. After the shambles of the original Dangerous Dogs Act, that became a byword for rushed and ill-thought-out lawmaking the rules were relaxed so that a pitbull 'type' could be so defined by a trained police officer, and returned to its owner so long as it was chipped and neutered. I would simply destroy any of these dogs - after all, if the requirements of the DDA had been enforced the breed would now have died out in the UK.I still hope that it will do so.

My friend Colin, who dislikes all dogs, wants to see a law that dogs may only be fed on other dogs, but I think that would be going a bit far.


42 comments:

  1. @Colin - come on Colin, stop beating about the bush, and tell us what you really think.

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  2. A problem that has emerged in the US around such laws is that because the "pit bull" is not a particularly well-defined breed, and in any case police officers are not exactly AKC-trained, every dog that growls near a cop is instantly discovered to be a pitbull and shot at once. Owners, naturally, are wholly without recourse to the law in such a situation: reports that an officer "feared for his safety" against what proved to be a dachshund are somehow more convincing to an internal investigation than they would be to the general public.

    It sounds as though the UK is pursuing a more moderate and sensible approach, which is to be commended.

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  3. I suppose being a scroat with a passion for rabid human eating dogs is a human right and therefore the ECHR brigade will be out in force trying to stop any clamp down on the ownership of such things.

    its about time we drew a line and said no more and f*** the ECHR!

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    1. Cool. Can we torture you first?

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    2. No, because that would be an offence under English law. You know, the law of this land, that has been developed over centuries and seemed to work well enough for us?

      Pity it's been duplicated at massive cost and not implemented at all well, disguised as ECHR.

      Still, I fully understand that the mere spoken suggestion that it be scrapped here must be instantly met with threats of death and torture. Personally, I don't ever recall being threatened with torture even prior to the EHCR shenanig

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    3. @Anonymous (no not me, the second one) I think your sarcasm meter is on the blink.

      You do realise the main authors of the ECHR were the U.K., and that nothing in it wasn't already enshrined in English Law?

      I think what offside is really objecting to is the HRA, but that's probably because the concept of getting the ECHR upheld in domestic courts rather than going all the way at great expense to Strasbourg to achieve the same thing is a bit complicated.

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    4. Anonymous #615 May 2012 17:31

      Um...The ECHR wasn't already enshrined in UK law.

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    5. Anon at 15.59 is entirely right. The UK has long been a signatory to the ECHR, and as others have said was indeed instrumental in defining its terms. What the HRA did was enshrine it in domestic law, to save the trouble and expense of every question about any Convention right having to be referred to the European Court. The UK (in pretty shameful company) has however refused to sign up to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, because that might - it is thought - stop companies sacking employees without due process and other apparently essential elements of the Anglo-Saxon liberal economic model (yes, the same one that led to the collapse of the US and UK banking systems, and threatens still to bring the European economy to its knees).

      But back to dogs. I'm with BS on this, and likewise have few qualms about having to make the occasional destruction order, albeit recognising that in most cases the dogs are as much victims as those they are set upon or attack "out of the blue". What I couldn't do is go home knowing we had ducked the question and left a knowingly dangerous dog that has already attacked one and usually more people (because otherwise its owner would probably not be in court) free to maim and maul again.

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    6. I am with Anonymous of 23.59 on the subject of ECHR, and can only wonder at a government that (a) makes belligerant noises against countries deemed not to uphold Western style human rights while (b) simultaneously making appeasing noises towards those in this country who see red at the mere idea of respecting the rights of all human beings, whoever they might be. Especially not if it gets in the way of the free market.

      I also agree that the dogs concerned are in their own way victims. Yes, they must be destroyed if they have attacked a human, but there is no way in which a dog can be "guilty" in any meaningful sense. Only anthropomorphic sentimentality attributes human feelings and values to a canine. The truly guilty party is the owner who has encouraged such behaviour (which might be natural to dogs, but which is readily suppressed and replaced with obedient and friendly behaviour) and while I would not order him or her to be destroyed as well, I still feel he or she has got off lightly! Moreover, at least one negative consequence of the fashion for "weapon dogs" and the resultant hate campaign against them in the popular media has been an increase in the number of children who are visibly afraid of dogs, having been taught to fear them by their parents. It's just another disturbing sign of our increasing distance from the natural world, in which we ought to feel perfectly at home.

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  4. I wonder how many people realise that a dog now seems to be becoming a weapon of choice rather than a knife. Personally I would rather face an assailant who has a knife. I hope even at my ripe old age that I would produce enough adrenalin at least to give me a sporting chance of running away. Against a dog I have no chance.

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  5. "the street price for a entire male pitbull"

    An entire one? What's the alternative - timeshare?

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    1. A chip off the whole dog?

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    2. 'Entire' means still having its balls.

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    3. Indeed - and the potential to breed more of the damn things, which is why they pay so much for them.

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    4. @payasoru
      Nice one.

      @Bystander
      The dog's got more balls than the owner. Take the pit bull away and they'd fill their pants.

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    5. italian lawyer15 May 2012 18:39

      Works the other way round too. Since 15 ys ago I got my first newf, I was surprised to see those youngsters I privately thought of as druggy louts turn into nice mannered children, enchanted to have their nose licked and their pants decorated with spittle by my huge black darling, and thanking me very politely for granting them the privilege. Dogs apparently have an open way to their innermost emotions, which should be turned to account.

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  6. Can't dogs also be fed on cats, especially the one that leaves turds all over my lawn? And black squirrels, and rats and pigeons and Canada geese and... excuse me, I need to lie down.

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    1. Cats poo on soil not lawns - probably a fox :)

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  7. Nice declension, Bystander.

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  8. "often called something like Tyson or, I suppose, Barton."

    Nice one BS. Not bad at all.

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  9. First, a dangerous dog is an abused dog, and breeds have nothing to do with it. (If we are to get rid of dog breeds known for aggressiveness, we can start with all terriers, which are vicious, territorial, and intolerably yappy.) The appropriate treatment for dangerous dogs is adoption and retraining, and only if that is not possible, humane destruction.

    Second, it ought to be presumed that any leashed dog, as well as any dog in the owner's home, is non-dangerous unless the owner's negligent handling is obvious. Shooting down random dogs at sight is not only animal cruelty, it is a denial of the owner's property rights in the animal. Stallions and bulls are far more dangerous than dogs to those not accustomed to them, but nobody talks of exterminating them.

    Third, if dog licenses were anything but a revenue-raising measure, people applying for them ought to be required to show that they are competent dog-handlers.

    Anonymous #2, the law of your land is subject to random alterations by random scrotes (scrote is short for scrotum, Offside) who happen to be allowed to sit in a certain room (provided there are enough empty chairs at the time), with no effective oversight whatsoever. That is not a situation conducive to the maintenance of human rights. Better if human-rights review were in the hands of your Supreme Court rather than a non-common-law court, but better the EHCR than no review at all.

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    1. Well said John Cowan, mainly points 1,2 and 3. I have always agreed with the dog license, it should be brought back.

      Don't have too much of a problem with the scotes round my way, when they see me walking towards them with my 2 Irish wolfhounds they generally pick their dogs up and step to one side. One such dog actually turns tail and runs away, much to the embarrasment of it's owner. My two just don't react, far too much effort for them to get upset!!!!!

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    2. As far as I know, we don't have dog licences any more.

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    3. Stallions and bulls may well be best avoided by those unused to handling them, but I'm not aware of many cases of them being left in houses with young children or accompanying yobs in the street.

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    5. italian lawyer17 May 2012 11:24

      About small aggressive dogs, a neighbour of mine used to have a perfectly nasty , tiny yorky. To make matters worse, the unhappy creature lived 23 hours a day on a couch and was never allowed to socialize with other dogs. As a consequence she was madly aggressive. Once I was walking my newf along one side of a block. I couldn't see that, round the next corner, the little pest was being walked towards the same corner. As ill luck would have it, the two dogs reached the corner at same instant and met nose to nose, sofar as their respective sizes permitted, quite unexpectedly and suddenly. The yorky was instantly off the deep end, growling and yapping and snapping at Minni's soft large nose, hanging just over her head. After a second of bewilderment, Minni responded with the only angry growl that ever was heard from her, and plounged to snap back. I was only just in time to grab her by the scruff of the neck (thank God for the slow reflexes of newfies); one bite would have put the yorky out of her misery directly, and got me, very likely,sued by the pest's mistress. I've always since wondered which way the decision would have gone. Minni had been goaded beyond the endurance of the sweetest animal, which she was, but she was also about 30 times the larger dog. The little pest could hardly have harmed her. Would a judge have ruled that a mild large dog must wear a muzzle in the street, against the chance of being harmlessly but offensively attacked by a much smaller one? Which way would it go in the U.K. ?

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    6. Yes, it's really remarkable how dogs often have no idea how large or small they are. I've seen great big dogs turn tail and run when confronted by little yappers.

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  10. SouthLondonJP16 May 2012 08:46

    Reminds me of an incident relating to my own dog. I had a Maltese puff ball. He could certainly lick you to death but not much else. Someone complained to the Police that he barked at them...probably true. Along comes a nice policeman, takes one look at the 'aggresive creature' gets thoroughly licked, laughs hysterically and apologised for disturbing us...

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  11. There are so many circumstances to take in to account that it is very difficult to set clear boundaries as to what is, or is not, a dangerous dog. Any dog can be aggressive: some people, for whatever reason, don't like dogs and will see even the softest mutt as a threat, but to brand all dogs as dangerous and demand muzzles on all dogs at all times is plainly disproportionate.

    Other dogs have an image problem such as the staffordshire bull terrier, which has an outwardly agressive appearance but in the main are really very gentle animals - most of the ones I know are soft as butter and scared of their own shadows.

    Another element to take into consideration is what events led to the dog biting the 'victim'. If a child is poking a dog with a stick, then it's not unexpected for the dog to defend itself regardless of its breed. The owner of the child has as much responsibility as the dog's owner.

    That's not to say that there are some owners who do keep dogs as weapons, and train them to be agressive. Of course it's these people that the law needs to target and not the majority of dogs that are family pets.

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  12. I have, betimes, in my inglorious past, strode the mean streets of Manhattan working various film crew gigs. In that capacity I have encountered a few "pit bulls", and found the majority to have been approachable and friendly animals. The difficulty they face, so to speak, is their fierce appearance, given that the wide jaw (admittedly bred for clamping down and not letting go) seems to be menacing even when the dog is "smiling".

    Not to say that they may or may not have a genetic predisposition to violent behavior, easily coaxed forth by the (in)correct upbringing. But I think it is the individual dog, not the breed, which should be called to the dock as needed. I daresay that my late 6 stone standard poodle could have been a formidable weapon had it been raised to that purpose.

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  13. Does your friend Colin know that his name means 'young dog'? I suppose if he does, it might add to his aversion. Anyway, surely a dangerous dog should be identified empirically, i.e. on the basis of the individual dog's behaviour? No need for Kennel Club training in breed identification, just observation and common sense.

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    1. Anonymous John17 May 2012 12:32

      If it's got big square shoulders and an aggressive temperament, take its dog away.

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  14. I thought it was a kind of fish you get in France.

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  15. Quitte right.

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  16. It is the owner not the breed of dog - it was dobermans a decade or so ago that were involved in many attacks. While I agree that a dog that has attacked should be put down, I don't condone blaming the whole breed of dog and wiping it out. You only have to see well behaved (trained and owner in charge) pit bulls to realise that.

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  17. Yes, it is the owner not the breed, BUT the breed does have relevence. If someone allows/ancourages their doberman or pit bull to be agressive and to bite, then the characerics of the breed mean that the damge that badly handled, untrained or abused dog can do is much greater than if the dog in question were a Yorkie.

    It's also the case that with a smaller dog, where the owner is simply clueless, as opposed to deliberately using the dog as a weapon, it's easier to control - most people will be physiaclly stronger than a trerrier or spaniel, and able to stop them attacking by dragging them away. Try that with a Pit Bull or Rottie and it isn't going to work.

    I disagree with John Cowan in so far as I think that if a dog has attacked a person, that dog should be put down. Yes, it is possible that with appropriate re-training and re-homing they might become 'safe' but it is a significant risk, not least duringthe time it takes to try to re-train and re-house thge dog.

    I agree that a return to dog-licences and perhaps a requirement to have dogs microchipped would be a more sensible, and more humane way forward, and could self-fund dog-wardens to monitor and work to reduce the number of out-of-control, badly behaved dogs of all shapes and sizes.

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  18. Long ago my youngest, in his school wood work lessons carved, quite nicely, a small oak plaque reading, "cave canem" - in subsequent correspondence with BT, whose agents, servants or what have you had cut most of the nice holly tree off, my address was taken to be "Cave Canem, Mill Lane, etc.," ! (I hasten to add that the dog in whose favour the plaque was made was a charming and tolerant labrador.)

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  19. Why are pet dogs allowed in towns at all?

    I know it's the owner, not the dog: but a lot of owners are, well, we know what they are, and that is why apart from the danger our parks and streets are filthy with dogshit. One of these days we will say NO MORE and five years later we will wonder why we ever allowed it.

    And before anyone asks: No, I don't include guide-dogs which are not pets but working dogs. And Yes, I include dogs kept by old people because the noise of the bark and the offensiveness of the crap is not a function of the age of the owner.

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  20. What was the original common law response to problematic dogs? Does common law provide us with the saying "Each dog gets one bite?"

    Ed Unneland

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    1. Anonymous, that was never the law, but a pragmatic method of handling the issue. Some dogs do need to be destroyed, but a zero-tolerance policy doesn't make much sense to me. (This is from someone who's fairly nervous around dogs, as a consequence of having been bitten by an off-leash dog when I was six. The dog didn't injure me, but I've never quite gotten over the wariness.)

      New York City used to have a major dogshit problem, but after a number of years of sternly enforcing "clean up after your dog" laws, most owners now walk their dogs wearing rubber gloves and/or carrying an inside-out plastic bag.

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  21. thanks for sharing.

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