The government has accused pet owners of “dog racism” over a law that requires animals to be put in cages or even euthanized depending on how dangerous they look.
In 2019, Anita Medhi had her pet Lola – an 18-month-old cross of an American Bulldog and a Staffordshire Bull Terrier – confiscated from her home in Middlesbrough by police without warning.
This was because he looked like one of four types of dogs banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 – Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosas, Fila Brasileiros, or Dogo Argentinos.
A court ruled that Lola posed no threat to the public and could therefore be included in an exemption index and returned to its owner.
However, the fact that the bitch shared some of the same characteristics as a Pit Bull Terrier meant she still had to wear a leash and muzzle outdoors.
Anita Mehdi and her dog Lola. (Anita Mehdi / PA)
After Lola returned home, she developed an infection that caused the dog to urinate in the house, which was attributed to the stress of her ordeal.
Ms. Medhi told the PA News Agency that the seizure and hearing that followed had also negatively impacted her own mental health and caused her “post-traumatic stress”.
Things could have been worse for Lola though – many dogs have to wait months or even years in kennels while waiting for exemptions.
In addition, stray dogs that have been “typed” in the same way by law must be killed by veterinarians as charities are not legally allowed to house them.
Activists like Ms. Medhi are now calling for a reform of the Dangerous Dogs Act, with their latest petition now signed by 50,000, calling on ministers to change the law.
“This is dog racism, how can you tell a dog is dangerous by its appearance?” She asked.
“A dog should be judged by its behavior and nothing else; if a dog is well balanced and properly trained, there should be no problem.
“Lola has shown herself in court to be a balanced, lovable bitch who poses no risk to the public, there is no reason to be restricted.”
“I can’t tell you how important it is to get rid of this act. I never knew there was a law about dangerous dogs, it has been a pain in my life every time since Lola was arrested.”
Dog Lola has to wear a muzzle. (Anita Mehdi / PA)
She added, “The longer this law exists, the more dogs will be at risk – the government is not listening to changes and now is the time to listen.”
The national pet organization Blue Cross has urged the government to immediately remove the relevant section of the law before the 30th anniversary of the Dangerous Dogs Act on August 12th.
Becky Thwaites, the organization’s public affairs officer, said the law was “ineffective” and had not had an impact on the number of dog attacks in the past 30 years.
“We see a number of dog attacks every year, which means healthy pets are euthanized because of their appearance,” she said.
“This is a law that does not protect the public and has a negative impact on dog welfare.
“It is time for the government to review the legislation and come up with something that works and is based on an act that does not breed.”
The Ministry of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “Dog attacks can have dire consequences and it is a criminal offense to let a dog get dangerously out of control.
“Every dog has the potential to get dangerously out of control, so it is important that the police and courts can take a variety of measures to limit the risks to public safety.
“We will officially answer this petition in due course.”