Destruction order adds to confusion on pit bulls

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

CONFUSION surrounding the enforcement of the Dangerous Dogs Act grew yesterday as another dog claimed by its owner to be a mongrel was ordered on appeal to be destroyed as a banned pit bull.

Different magistrates and judges on appeal have used different standards proposed by expert witnesses. Last month, a dog described as a pedigree Staffordshire terrier by two Crufts judges was ordered to be destroyed.

The Act orders the compulsory destruction of all of the 'type of dog known as the pit bull' unless registered before the end of last year, but it stipulates that every case should be decided on its merits. At least one case is awaiting judicial review, but until that is heard, there is no case law on how to interpret the Act.

Yesterday, Judge Kenneth Zucker told Wood Green Crown Court in north London that he accepted the American Dog Breeders' Association standard, used by the prosecution to show that the dog Buster was a pit bull.

The judge rejected the evidence of Dr Roger Mugford, an animal expert, because he gave evidence mostly concerning behaviour and not the dog's physical characteristics, although an expert witness for the prosecution had emphasised the aggressive characteristics which mark a pit bull.

The Crown witness, Jan Euchus, chief RSPCA inpector, had said: 'The dog shows with a few minor exceptions all the characteristics of a pure-bred American pit bull terrier.

'I can't say if this is a badly bred pit bull or not a pit bull at all which somehow mysteriously ended up with the characteristics of a pit bull.'

Buster, a two-year-old brindle and white dog, has been kept in police kennels for almost a year.