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News - 19 February 2010

Dangerous dog the 'weapon of choice' among poor urban young

The number of dangerous dogs being seized by the police has soared as young people increasingly use them as 'weapons', rather than carrying knives.

The number of dogs seized by London police under the Dangerous Dogs Act has soared from 263 in 2006-07 to 719 in 2008-09. So far this year, 1,000 dogs have been confiscated – a fourfold increase in three years.

The Dangerous Dog Act allows dogs to be seized because they are illegal, dangerously out of control, or if they are used to threaten or intimidate someone. So legal breeds, such as Staffordshires, can be seized under the act. Pit bull-type terriers, Japanese tosas, and the dogo Argentino and fila Brasileiro mastiffs are all illegal breeds, but many owners get around the rules by mixing illegal breeds with Staffordshires and calling them crosses.

The increase in seizures in London has been driven by a crackdown and the opening of a Metropolitan police Status Dogs Unit (SDU) last March, but national data suggests there has also been an increase in violent dogs on the street. According to the Ministry of Justice, the number of dog owners prosecuted for causing injury rose by 50% between 2003 and 2007. The RSPCA says that calls about dog fighting have increased massively over the last few years, with two-thirds of complaints now directly connected to young people using dogs as "weapons" in streets and parks.

Read the rest of this item from The Guardian here


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