Nature or nurture? Harold Hill woman calls for changes to dangerous dog laws
PUBLISHED: 11:25 29 December 2014 | UPDATED: 12:50 02 January 2015
A teacher whose “dangerous” dog Bambi was seized by police has won her court battle for his return and called for the introduction of behaviour-based laws.
Carrie Sullivan, 40, was at work teaching special needs children when her neighbour came to pick her up in September – because nine riot police were outside her home in Dudley Gardens, Harold Hill.
They were there to seize Bambi, a mastiff cross ridgeback, after spotting him with Carrie at a police show in June and doing tests to determine his breed.
Carrie had cooperated fully, not expecting her pet to be deemed an illegal pitbull-type dog, but three months later they returned to take him away.
“He’ll walk off a lead and he’s trained,” said the mother-of-one. “He will run away from my terrapin!”
A two-month court battle costing £1,300 ensued before Bambi was deemed a pitbull, but not dangerous, and returned home.
“He was kept at a private kennel, you’re not allowed to know where,” she explained. “I don’t think breed specific legislation needs to stand. A dog is what you make it.”
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act, the assessment of a dangerous dog is weighted towards characteristics and measurements rather than treatment and behaviour, much to Carrie’s disgust.
She said: “He is a much loved family pet but is a banned breed. He can’t go to trainers anymore and he has to wear a muzzle.”
Dangerous dog expert Ian McParland, who assessed Bambi for the court case, believes “the vast majority of dogs are really nice” but said scrapping the section of the act that states all pitbull type dogs are illegal would be a political issue.
He explained: “A lot of organisations are working towards it. But say you are secretary of state and you repeal Section 1 and three months later a kid gets killed by a dog. Your poltiical career would be over.”
He also said the new Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act means police or councils can give community protection notices as a preventative measure for dangerous dogs.
Owners whose dogs are causing problems in a community can be told to muzzle them or have them trained.