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Breed Specific Legislation: A dog's dinner says RSPCA after Hank is spared death

Breed specific dog legislation - the law which saw Belfast dog Hank snatched from his owners and put on death row - is unnecessary and hundreds of pets have been put down needlessly, the RSPCA have warned.

The animal charity has called for a change in the law which regularly sees animals put down because of their breed.

The Dangerous Dogs Act forces police and many animal rescue organisations to put dogs down because of the way they look rather than the danger they pose, the RSPCA says.

The law - which banned the pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo argentino and fila braziliero breeds based on their physical appearance - was introduced 25 years ago last month.

Recently, Hank was taken from his home in east Belfast and held by Belfast City Council while an expert assessed his breed.

While he was found to be a pit bull terrier, his good nature meant he was deemed to 'not pose a risk to the public'.

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In the past two years the RSPCA said it had been "forced" to put 366 dogs down under section one of the Act, which covers breed-specific offences.

Launching its report Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog's Dinner, the charity called on the Government to probe the effectiveness of section one, urging it to be repealed completely.

RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: "The police, the RSPCA and other animal rescue organisations have to deal with the consequences of this flawed law by euthanising hundreds of dogs because legislation is forcing us to due to the way they look, despite being suitable for rehoming.

"Not only is this a huge ethical and welfare issue, it also places significant emotional strain on staff."

The RSPCA said there was not enough evidence to show that such legislation reduced dog bites and called into question the evidence required to classify a dog as being of a prohibited type.

Dr Gaines added: "The RSPCA believes it is paramount for the Government to launch an inquiry into the effectiveness of BSL (breed-specific legislation), assess other options to improve human safety and dog welfare, and ultimately repeal the breed specific part of the legislation."

Dog behaviour expert Victoria Stilwell threw her weight behind the campaign, condemning the legislation.

She said: "BSL tears apart families while punishing innocent dogs and their guardians solely because of a dog's appearance. Any dog can bite under the right circumstances, so legislation should focus on protecting the public through responsible pet guardianship rather than targeting a particular breed."

Last month Battersea Dogs and Cats Home released a report calling on the Government to review the Dangerous Dogs Act, saying current legislation is "flawed" and instead should target irresponsible owners.

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