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Ruling 'fails to clarify pit bull law'

CONFUSION surrounding the operation of the Dangerous Dogs Act intensified yesterday after a High Court ruling designed to clarify the meaning of the Act left it 'more obscure than ever', solicitors said.

Arguments over whether dogs had the 'characteristics' of a pit bull terrier would continue, they said. Parliament should intervene to amend the 'poorly worded' legislation.

The Act, passed in 1991, leaves it to the courts to define 'the type of dog known as a pit bull'. Pit bulls are not a recognised breed in Britain. Lord Justice Glidewell dismissed arguments that 'type' meant 'breed', under a widely used US definition. A 'broad and practical' approach had to be adopted taking into account the dog's physical appearance and its behaviour. He said he hoped the ruling would 'clarify' the law.

But Bridget Irving, solicitor for three men charged with having an unregistered dog of 'the pit bull type', said: 'This ruling means that any sort of dog - even a poodle - which showed some pit bull-like characteristics could be covered by the Act.'