Failed legislation (UPDATED 20/07/09)

Given the recent attention paid to the poor application and use of UK legislation, it seems appropriate to mention issues related to another archaic act.

Perhaps once or twice every year, the broadcast or print media cover a story en masse relating to a dangerous dog or a breed which has been banned. In the UK, four breeds of dog were banned by the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA), one of which was the Pit Bull Terrier.

Superficially, introducing legislation allegedly intended for the protection of animals and humans would seem a rational and sensibly cautious measure, however this blunt and inconsistently applied legislation has caused the suffering of considerable numbers of animals and numerous humans, all at cost the public purse.

One of the most recent examples of the inconsistency with the DDA is the case of Bruce , who, without further intervention, is now due to die on Monday 6th July (three days from today) as a direct result of living in a part of Ireland where the Pit Bull breed is also banned.

– Bruce has been professionally identified as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier (a breed not banned by the DDA), not a Pit Bull terrier
– Bruce is completely innocent. Bruce has demonstrated no aggressive tendencies and has not harmed anyone.
– Bruce was taken from his family and impounded nearly two years ago, having sustained injuries and an amputated tail whilst in confinement
– Importantly, Bruce has received an offer of sanctuary from the East Galway Animal Rescue centre (EGAR), a specialist in bull breeds, where he could live comfortably for the rest of his natural life in an area where even Pit Bulls have not been banned.

Concerningly, while the court ignored the medical evidence demonstrating that Bruce was not a banned breed, the Kennel Club create ‘experts’ to identify banned Pit Bull breeds through a course lasting only three and a half hours.

The issues above are only the start of the inconsistencies with the DDA: its concept and enforcement are fundamentally flawed.

I’m planning to research and write an article on the misapplication of legislation but would be interested in cases you feel exemplify this. Please do leave comments below or email me at digest [at]

In the mean time, please do spare a thought for Bruce. His campaign could benefit greatly from further support. The following page provides a little more information and a link to a petition, campaigning to permit his safe passage to the East Galway sanctuary.

EDIT 20/07/2009: It appears there is now confusion about whether the law regarding the DDA in Northern Ireland is in fact identical to the law in place in the UK. The situation for Bruce arose as a result of the alleged differences but it appears UK and Irish legislation may have been identical for the last eight years, yet no-one with responsibility realised. To follow this story and its developments, look at K9 magazine and subscribe to their free email newsletter here (top right).

7 thoughts on “Failed legislation (UPDATED 20/07/09)

  • Friday, 3 July, 2009 at 14:09

    Hi – I am the editor of K9 Magazine. The DDA and specifically breed specific legislation is something we’ve been reporting on for several years now. If you are keen to hear stories of BSL nightmares (and alternative ideas as to how the issue of dangerous dogs could be better legislated), feel free to get in touch. I can be contacted at ryan at
    (and thank you for highlighting Bruce’s case – this dog should not be allowed to die)

  • Friday, 3 July, 2009 at 15:07


    There is a way to try to help Bruce. A rescue organisation in Galway, over the border in the Republic of Ireland has offered to take him – BUT we urgently need to campaign in order for the authorities to allow this to happen.

    It would help greatly if you could please go to these pages, copying the form letter (adding your own name at the end) and sending it to the people at the bottom of each page – contact addresses are provided. It doesn’t take that long and may just save this poor dog’s life. Thank you so much.

    Template Letters for Bruce:

    Please go to each one seperately as the contact details will differ – Thank You!

    (Thank you very much indeed for helping to publicise Bruce’s plight in your blog.)

  • Saturday, 4 July, 2009 at 22:01

    PLEASE CONTACT CNN – address below

    Please contact CNN – it’s time to break this story mainstream!!!


    Please, thousands of people around the world are deeply touched and moved by the following story that must now hit mainstream, to expose the shelter, the Mayor, and the laws that may kill this innocent dog – once healthy and loved – now skinny with mange and infections after being taken from his family home.

    Bruce the pit bull dog did not bite anyone – it is the laws of Northern Ireland that may lead to his death.
    He has been held captive for over 2 years in a shelter now they want to euthanize him, his family is desperate just to get him out of the country to live – PLEASE HELP them and Bruce.

  • Monday, 13 July, 2009 at 21:30


    Please join us in New York City on July 23rd to support the “Bring Bruce Home” campaign, a peaceful demonstration of protest and enlightenment. We will also be fighting the BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) ordinance that the New York Housing Authority enacted last month, which banned many different breeds from it’s public housing. We want New York City to realize that we will not allow BSL to take the lives of our animals, and we will be armed with educational tools to spread awareness about these ignorant and vicious laws.

    Thousands around the world have heard of “Bruce”, a young Staffordshire Bull Terrier rescued from a cardboard box off the streets of Northern Ireland. He once lived in peace with the only family he ever knew – but now lives caged in isolation – abused and neglected for the past 2 years at the hands of Northern Ireland’s government. Bruce’s tragedy is one of many sad tales of an innocent victim falling prey to the horrors of the Dangerous Dog Act and Breed Specific Legislation.

    According to the Dangerous Dogs Act in Northern Ireland, if a dog is found by the courts to be of a banned breed then it shall be destroyed.

    These dogs are sentenced to die based solely on their physical characteristics, not their deeds. Bruce was not judged on his gentle-loving manner, or for being a family pet and possessing a kind nature and beautiful soul.
    Bruce was scheduled to die on July 6th 2009, but was granted a last minute stay of execution. His life still hangs in the balance. After this news went public, there was a massive outpouring of compassionate citizens from all over the world dedicated and united in saving Bruce’s life. His fight has touched thousands and now we are reaching out to touch even more.

    Bruce’s family is alone, in terror, in pain, and in devastating silence. Please invite your family, friends and loved ones so that we can be a voice for the voiceless, and speak up for all of the lives lost due to Breed

    Specific Legislation and the Dangerous Dog Laws. We will demonstrate against what this law actually is – BREED GENOCIDE LAW.

    Be one among hundreds, if not thousands, who are ready and willing to stand up, to be seen, to be heard, and to make a change. We must be united in solidarity to repeal this law of inhumanity.

    After the demonstration, we will end the evening by lighting a candle and joining the rest of the world as we pause (paws) shoulder to shoulder, and heart to heart in recognition for all of us fighting to “Bring Bruce Home”. We are uniting to make a change for Bruce and for all dogs – so that no other dog falls victim to senseless animal cruelty, and so that all dogs already victimized by this law did not die in vain.

    Meet us on Thursday July 23, 2009 at 6:00pm at the North entrance to Washington Square Park. We will be assembling in front of the arch, at 5th avenue and Waverly Pl. Directions: Take the A, B, C, D, E, F, or Q to the W. 4th St / Washington Square stop. Or take the R, W to the 8th St. stop. Or take the 6 train to the Astor Pl. stop.

    Please email Caroline at or Amy at or Julie at if you have any questions.

    Visit the NYC Pit Bull Group website for additional information –… Thank you! See you on the 23rd!!

  • Monday, 13 July, 2009 at 22:34

    Oooh…that poor nice doggie! We should pass a law that gives them the right to vote, and act as members of parliament!
    If more nice doggies could vote, they would say that they are far less dangerous than the kids are wayyyy more dangerous than they are( most of the kids they bite and maim are ghetto kids raised by single mothers anyways, so who cares?)

  • Wednesday, 15 July, 2009 at 9:20

    Thank you for this article…

    As a rescuer of animals for 20 years I have met many dogs of all shapes & sizes, & in that time have seen far too many who have suffered at the hands of humans, those dogs have gone on to become trusted friends with time love & understanding.

    When they brought out the dangerous dogs act in 1991 there were less pit bull types than there are now & that is not because of the 1997 amendment they added giving a judge the right to add a confiscated dog to the dangerous dog register allowing an owner to keep their dog under strict guidelines…. I’m talking about in general especially in certain area’s where these poor dogs are seen as a status symbol, some are used for intimidation, & some for fighting.

    Section 1 of the dangerous dogs act, Breed Specific Legislation does nothing to stop unsuitable people owning a dog & training them to become aggressive or mistreating them which can create a nervous dog who feels he has to protect that very person who hurts him.

    Pit bulls when in a loving knowledgeable family are great companion dogs & have been used as search & rescue dogs in certain states or america earning hero status, just like over her with German Shepherds, fantastic dogs but in the hands of an unsuitable handler can become a fierce guarder should anyone approach that person at the end of the lead… that is presuming they have their dog on a lead!

    Section 1 of D.D.A. is persecuting many loving wonderful dogs & families who are devastated when their friend is taken from them.

    My opinion as an animal rescuer is to license all breeding of dogs whatever breed & anyone not licensed must have their dog neutered. Every dog should be microchipped & registered to an owner, & that owner be held accountable for their dog.

    There are thousands of dogs being killed in council dog pounds as there is no where left for them to go, irresponsible people who got a dog on a whim & either chucked it out or refused to pay the fine to get their dog back & not forgetting the stolen dogs who are taken to different areas & then lost or dumped but are not chipped so cannot be returned to a devastated owner who never quite thought through the importance of chipping.

    I rescue pound dogs as often as I can but I am a drop in the ocean, something has got to be done to slow down this wanton breeding that is causing suffering to dogs & leading to dog bites through uneducated ownership & the lowest of our society being able to own a dog.

    We need our government to change this law & introduce one that works for the good of the human & dog community…

    Bruce & his family are being made scapegoats for a massive problem that had nothing to do with them…

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