Thousands of American Pit Bull Terriers are being sold by a network of illegal breeders in the UK for as little as £50 ($83 USD), a Sun probe found. The paper is now urging a ban on Internet sales of all pets.
The Sun reports that thousands of American Pit Bull Terriers and other "lethal" dogs are being sold online by a network of illegal breeders for as little as £50 ($83 USD). Its investigation found secret code words were used to attract buyers and many of the dogs ended up in criminal hands.
The banned fighting dogs are often advertised as Staffordshire bull terriers which are legal but look very similar. But breeders use code words like “chunky” or “long-legged” to evade cops and tell would-be customers they are really peddling Pit Bulls.
The Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, explicitly prohibits the breeding of dogs for fighting or profit and particularly bans the ownership of four types – the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro–without specific court exemption. It was passed in response to a spate of injuries and deaths caused by dogs, but there have, nevertheless, been 16 fatalities due to dog attacks since 2005 and the law is currently being updated.
Reported dog attacks have gone up 94 per cent in the past decade, with more than 6,000 injuries by the end of 2011. More than 200,000 people a year are estimated to be bitten by dogs in England, with the annual cost to the NHS of treating injuries about £3 million.
At present, if a dog injures someone the owner can be sent to prison for up to two years and face a fine. But owners of dogs that kill people could face life imprisonment, if an online consultation run by the government demonstrates public support for more severe penalties, according to the Guardian.
Chloe Combi pointed out in a November 2013 article, “A Terrifying Encounter with the Brutal World of Dog Fighting,” that young men in the UK are increasingly using dangerous breeds as weapons to settle disputes, earn money – and protect themselves.
Dog-fighting is illegal and hidden, so there are no reliable statistics as to its prevalence – but it is a problem largely identified with built-up, urban areas, particularly housing estates.
An RSPCA spokesman points out that, “There is a pretty big divide between kids using dogs in an irresponsible manner for personal grievances and the organized fights occurring in the UK."
However, he went on to say that the incidence of dogs being utilized for violence was growing alarmingly year on year. Indeed, it seems no coincidence that 50 per cent of the 6,125 dogs taken into Battersea Dogs Home in 2011 were bull breeds – legal and illegal – and the charity reports that many show signs of having been involved in dog-fighting.
Although tougher new sentences for the owners of dangerous dogs are overdue and welcomed, the Sun’s probe into the illegal sales of animals intended to be used for dog fighting or trained to harm or kill humans is alarming and highlights the demand for further action, including a ban on all sales of pets over the internet.