ANOTHER VIEW; Victim of a dogmatic law

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Dempsey the pitbull has made it. Somewhere in a pitiless law a tiny loophole has appeared, and two learned men set free a dog that had gone out one morning for a walk and ended up in police kennels for almost four years. Her only crime was that she was a pitbull terrier, divested of her muzzle for a few moments in order that she might be sick.

Somewhere in the Government there sits a group of men from privileged backgrounds, who leapt straight from Eton and Oxbridge into positions of power that gave them the right to make rules and regulations for the ordinary man who worries seriously about what they might call the trivia of life. In their view, dogs come into this category. But to take away a family's dog and incarcerate it in a secret place with no communication - no sightings of the animal which shared the dramas and joys of the household - and to cast the cloud of "destruction" over it, is a calculated sin against human rights.

Most grief-sticken owners are unable to cope with the rigours of court proceedings. They drift through the intellectual jargon, unable to comprehend what has become of them. Then they walk from the court, harmed and for ever bitter.

Of course we must not have dogs attacking children - who would want that? But this law is not about that. It is a determined vendetta to rid our country of all pitbull terriers and lookalikes, so far more than 1,000 dead; 4,000 on "death row", millions of pounds spent on a barbaric law and, in the meantime, responsible dog owners walk in fear while the fighting dog fraternity has gone underground and, in the light of the Government's naive complacency, is having a ball.

We British are no longer passive about the way our animals are treated. Somewhere in the Britannic heart there beats a difference. Perhaps it is because the live export trade, having been abandoned by the big ferry companies, came out on to the streets and the public's sudden acquaintance with the lorries drove them to look deeper; and the deeper they searched, the more cruel it all became. Now their knowledge is complete and their passions are on standby.

Yesterday in the court, dignified crowds sat and listened as the learned men went over the facts in Dempsey's case. Right up to the last sentence it seemed that the mandatory destruction order was inevitable but then, somewhere, a voice said: "A draconian act of this kind could be the first step on the path of dictatorship." We must make our uncaring government listen.

Those of us who fight relentlessly for the peace and dignity of animals will long remember the final words: "May I ask your honour when we might collect Dempsey?" The judge looked at the owner, Dianne Fanneran, and said: "Well - she's your dog."

The writer is a television scriptwriter and campaigner for animal welfare.

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