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UPDATE: The UK and Dangerous Dogs

Remember how I wrote about the UK’s questioning of its Dangerous Dogs Act a couple of days ago? Well, there’s not so much questioning going on in yesterday’s update. To recap: a 5-year old was mauled by a pit bill-like dog owned by her uncle. The uncle pleaded guilty to owning a dog banned by the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991. The uncle is being jailed for 8 weeks for the offense (that’s the update part).

In the original article, we didn’t learn of the chain of events leading to the mauling. Let’s deconstruct what occurred, and what the parties involved had to say:

  • Prior to the incident with the child, the dog bit the uncle’s 19-year old sister (who was treated for puncture wounds), and the uncle "made efforts to give the dog to someone else." I’d like way more information on that one. And is there some kind of law in the UK that prohibits rehabilitation? Do they just kill the dogs and call it a day? I thought it wasn’t legal to give a dangerous dog away? (I know it’s illegal to sell her.)
  • The uncle left instructions for everyone else in the house that the dog must be left outside. Nice. Awesome way to responsibly, kindly deal with the situation.
  • Someone let the dog in and the dog mauled the girl. The uncle felt "morally responsible." That’s great, but he’s also legally responsible in the UK, hence the 8-week jail sentence. If he were feeling particularly morally obligated, he would have found a better way to deal with the original bite. And by better, I mean for his entire family–including the dog.
  • The judge said: "I don’t accept that a police officer or any person giving advice would have said it was enough to keep the dog muzzled and on a lead in public if you properly told them what type of dog it was. This is a dog of a type nobody has been allowed to possess for the last 15 years, and for good reason. They are capable of inflicting serious injuries to any able-bodied person." This ignorant statement is what makes me believe that not everyone’s on board with the questioning of the Dangerous Dogs Act. Again, this is what happens with breed-specific legislation: it demonizes the breed and causes outrageous, irrational generalizations.

The judge’s reaction is an important warning for Americans. We must not run from our culpability. Vicious pit bulls, like vicious children, are (most often) made, not born.

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