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One Year On...

Discussion in 'Dog Chat' started by sallyanne, Jan 21, 2008.

  1. sallyanne

    sallyanne Guest

    For deed not breed......

    It is one year on. One year since the tragedy of Ellie Lawrensens death after being attacked by her uncles dog later identified by the Police as a ‘Pit Bull type’. A shocking loss of life that was a damning indictment of the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) legislation. Everyone who knew anything about dogs had always realised that the DDA was flawed because it attempted to make the public feel safe by banning certain dogs based on their phenotype. The tragic death of Ellie showed that the ban didn't work - and the more recent death of another child showed that banning breeds would always miss the mark.

    It is also one year on from the formation of Deed Not Breed. Deed not Breed was set up as a direct response to the Chief Constable of Merseysides' plan to have an amnesty for ‘Pit Bulls’ in Liverpool, Merseyside. We were appalled at the shocking death of a child and appalled at the knee jerk reaction of the Police, within just a few days of the incident, to declare an ‘amnesty’. The Chief Constable thought he could rid the streets of illegal dogs by asking the criminals to hand them in!

    Instead what followed was the death of hundreds of dogs - many of whom were harmless, family pets. This amnesty has resulted in well over 100 dogs being destroyed during the amnesty and at least that many since. 57 owners of dogs that we've dealt with directly have been taken through the courts and the dogs added to the register, all deemed to be pit bull types, and all deemed to be safe to live in family homes. In all these cases the determining factor ended up being the suitability of the owners to have these dogs.

    However, 90 dogs remain imprisoned, all for over 3 months, a large majority for coming up to 12 months. Some of these dogs are suffering from extreme kennel stress, at least two have chewed their own tails off, some have developed extreme personality disorders, and some have died in tragic circumstances.

    Kiel Simpson received a prison sentence of just 8 weeks for owning the dog that killed Ellie Lawrensen (he served less than 4 weeks in Prison) yet other people and their innocent dogs are still paying the price months down the line.

    So what have we been doing during our first year?

    Deed Not Breed held two rallies in Liverpool centre to raise awareness of what the amnesty would really mean for the dogs. Each rally had over 750 people attending and each received coverage in the local newspapers and radio. These rallies raised the profile of the wider implications of the amnesty and helped to start to change the public debate away from “Devil Dogs” and more on to the real issues centred around responsible dog ownership.

    They were also the start of our long and tempestuous relationship with Merseyside Police. We began the year as hostile forces on opposite sides of the argument. The Chief Constables faith in an amnesty was and is infuriating. However, once we had engaged with officers in the force that had to implement the policies we found many who were sympathetic to the arguments we made, and others who have worked with us to take some of the worst excesses out of the situation.

    Deed not Breed has 3 help lines two of which are run by the Bull Breed Advisory Service who have been dealing with DDA cases for 16 years. The lines were opened in January and ran 24/7 for the first few weeks of the year. We still receive calls every single day. These phone lines have given many hours of advice to terrified owners and increasingly to professionals in the field such as animal ambulance staff, some dog wardens and even solicitors faced with dogs and situations they do not know how to handle.

    The DNB web site was set up within days of the campaign launch and to date has received over 100,000 hits. The site is used to spread the message via press releases, articles and real life accounts. In addition there is the Refuge forum and a supporter’s page, a shop and links to supporting sites. One success of the site can be seen by the large numbers of visits by the Merseyside Police force in the first few weeks of going live!!

    Deed Not Breed has raised in excess of £3500 to date, a tremendous amount, which has been used to supply legal support to responsible dog owners caught in the legal system trying to save their dogs from the draconian DDA. We have worked closely with many legal professionals including Trevor Cooper, Pam Rose and Lara Smith.

    We have been able to arrange for animal behaviourists such as Dr Roger Mugford and Guy Richardson to visit and assess some of the dogs before the court hearings and have an excellent relationship with Julie Pett from SAVED who provides life time support and help for the dogs after they have been allowed to live. We also help pay registration and insurance fees for owners unable to finance this themselves. In addition Deed Not Breed have raised over £3000 for general campaigning which is being used to produce leaflets, buy branded merchandise to sell in our online shop, pay for stalls at dog shows, insurance for public events and more.

    During this first year the focus has been on helping dogs and owners immediately in danger, firefighting from one crisis to another. We have also spent time surveying every vet in the country [90% of those who responded do not believe that some breeds are more dangerous than others] writing to trainers and breed clubs asking for support and constant questioning on Merseyside police web chats resulting in crashing their site but pressurising them to spend time answering questions that they did not want to answer.

    So what have we actually achieved in this year?

    We have managed to develop some excellent relationships with many important and influential bodies, including trainers and behaviourists; rescues; Dog Wardens; Police forces and the Kennel Club. Kennel Club support has been invaluable giving us access to their extensive press contacts and stalls at Crufts and Discover Dogs. We have built up very good relations with the Dog Press resulting in many court reports being brought to the public’s attention all year. In July we registered as a not for profit company and throughout the year our supporters have been organising sponsored events to help with fundraising.

    One supporter and staff member climbed Ben Nevis with her dog, others have shaved their heads and others yet have sold or bought items with the profits going to Deed Not Breed. We have held stalls at various dog shows including Discover Dogs 2007 and raised over £500 through the sale of t-shirts, car stickers, badges and donations.

    We, along with the Bull Breed Advisory Service have attended many court hearings, giving advice and support to dog owners and assisting legal representatives.
  2. sallyanne

    sallyanne Guest


    We have given a key note speech at the National Dog Wardens Association annual conference in October 2007 were we laid out our thoughts on breed specific legislation and the injustices and failures of the current system. We were able to detail our thoughts and ideas on exactly how public safety could be improved with the emphasis on responsible dog ownership and owner responsibility and accountability. The conference was attended by 200 members of the NDWA and other speakers included Cuthbert Jackson of the NDWA, Trevor Cooper, canine law specialist, Inspector Neil Davies of the Merseyside Police Dog Section and PC Peter Tallack of the Metropolitan Police. The conference gave us a massive boost onto the national stage and we were able to present our ideas to those in the front line; it was lifting to have our suggestions both welcomed and discussed.

    This increased profile came to the fore in the last few weeks as we were asked to give comments and interviews to the national press and to Sky News following the terrible death of Archie-lee Hurst. Ourselves and others including Dr Roger Mugford, Ryan O Mera of K9 Magazine, a spokesperson for the Dogs Trust and trainers including Victoria Stilwell all gave interviews and enabled a sensible debate focussing not on banning more breeds, but on responsible ownership.

    We have also been part of a documentary film to be broadcast later this year and created good working relationships and links with officers in several police forces including Merseyside, South Wales, Bolton and The Met. This has taken us to the situation where now the Merseyside, Bolton and South Wales police give out Deed Not Breed helpline numbers to owners of seized dogs, enabling us to put responsible dog owners in touch with an experienced team who are able to help them through their ordeal, an ordeal which many endure for months.

    So what has changed after this year?

    Sadly, in many ways nothing much has changed. Last week another small child died after an attack by his grandparents dog. A dog that is not banned under Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act.

    People are still being injured by dogs, irresponsible owners and breeders still breed and raise dogs to use in inappropriate ways, and the police are still prosecuting naive but loving owners of dogs that happen to fit the vague description of a banned breed, regardless of the dogs actual behaviour.

    The media are still talking about ‘Devil dogs’ and the Liberal Democrats ended 2007 wanting to add Rotties to the banned list, apparently oblivious to the fact that this would do nothing to protect children.

    But it is not all bad.

    At the start of the year Deed Not Breed were viewed by many as an animal liberation group, not to be taken seriously.

    By the middle of the year we were being asked for our input into a new Dangerous Dog policy by Merseyside police and have provided them with detailed information sheets for all owners of dogs going home. They are now in the initial stages of implementing this new policy that puts the welfare of the dogs much more at the forefront of their actions. This is not to say that this situation is ideal - we would far rather no dogs were seized, and no owners were prosecuted, but if it is going to happen, this policy of engagement rather than constant opposition places us in a better position to push for better conditions now and ultimately a change in the law.

    So what's next for Deed not Breed?

    This year we will hope to see a change in the law about dangerous dogs. If we do nothing we could see more breeds being added and maybe more restrictions on certain breeds.

    However, if we act decisively we can shift the focus away from targeting specific breeds and move towards targeting bad owners and breeders.

    The Government has promised to review the law, and the Liberal Democrat Home affairs spokesperson, Chris Hulme (who, don't forget, was 500 votes away from being their leader) has asked if we shouldn't add Rotties to the banned list.

    There is the possibility of an election in 2008 and we need to make dog ownership a key issue. Politicians will listen to us at times of heightened public awareness such as now. They will also listen when they want votes.

    Deed Not Breed need to concentrate on campaigning through 2008, and do to this we will need a lot of help.
    We need people prepared to write to their MP's, local press and radio phone-in.

    As always we’ll need to raise funds but more than anything we need to have a plan of action and a clear campaign plan.

    We need to push for the Index of Exempted Dogs to be reopened for owner led registration. This would enable anyone with a dog classed as type could register their dog without the need for long term kennelling and the issues that causes.

    We need the continued support of animal lovers – their smiles when we are down, the praise when something goes right and their voices when we need to be heard.

    On the first anniversary of DNB we would to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has shown their support. Whether you have raised funds, signed petitions, written letters or purchased an item from our shop. Whatever you’ve done to show us your support we really have appreciated it, we could not continue without you!
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