OWNERS of Staffordshire Bull Terriers have leaped to the breed’s defence after an animal charity recommended to the government that the breed should be added to the Dangerous Dogs Act.

The act bans the ownership of some breeds - including the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasiliero.

This means that the dogs can be seized by the police and assessed for how dangerous it is. Dogs can either be put down or given an exemption, which means there are then strict rules on their ownership.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) recently wrote to the Government, supporting the ban on breeding certain breeds of dog, including Staffordshire bull terriers.

Once known as “nanny dogs” for their watchful and caring demeanour, Staffordshire bull terriers have become synonymous with fighting dogs or guard dogs, known for their aggression and power.

However, many Staffie owners, who care for their dogs as much-loved members of the family, have opposed the proposals to ban the breed, arguing that they still deserve their loving reputation.

Victoria Young, 32, of Burnaby Road, Southend, owned her Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Roxanne, for seven years.

She said: “When we first thought about getting a staffie I read a lot of negative things and was quite worried, but as soon as we met her she completely changed my mind.

“I have never, ever met a dog that was more affectionate and loving. She loved being doted upon and grew up alongside our children.

“We used to put her on a lead just to make other people more comfortable because she could be quite intimidating, but we never once had any incidents.

“They are a beautiful breed - I am a firm believer that there are no bad dogs, just bad owners who get a dog for the wrong reason and don’t train them properly.”

There have been a number of high-profile incidents in which Staffordshire bull terriers have seriously injured or even killed other dogs, children, or even adults, but many lovers of the breed have attributed this to the actions of the dogs’ owners as opposed to the temperament of the dogs themselves.

Dionne Ling, 44, of Castleton Road, Southend, appeared in yesterday’s Echo after she and her whippet, Rudi, were attacked by three Staffordshire bull terriers in Chalkwell on Saturday.

Despite the horrific experience, which left her with a puncture wound to the hand and her dog needing more than 20 stitches, she has said that she believes it is the owner who has responsibility for the actions of their dog rather than the dog itself.

She said: “I grew up with a Staffie, and know that they are not inherently a dangerous breed, however owning one does come with certain responsibilities.

“They are very powerful animals, and it’s important that an owner respects the fact that they have to be properly trained and raised in a way that doesn’t make them aggressive.

“What happens to me is because of the way those dogs were raised and the level of training they had had - it isn’t down to the dogs themselves.

“Instead of breeding laws, I would argue that we need more restrictive laws on who can own a dog in the first place, to stop them from being abused as well as becoming dangerous.”

PETA has said that it is are not seeking to remove family pets from their homes.

In an online statement, the charity said: “Far from being breed-specific “discrimination”, we see the legislation as breed-specific protection. When properly enforced, it prevents pit bull–type dogs from being born to suffer.

“We’re not advocating for any dogs to be removed from loving homes, and any amendments to the legislation should include a grandfather clause allowing dogs who have been spayed or neutered and are well cared for to remain in their homes for the rest of their lives.”

Since receiving the petition, the government’s department for environment, food, and rural affairs have stated that they have no intention of prohibiting the keeping of Staffordshire Bull Terriers, but it is reviewing the law on banned breeds and will publish a report in due course.

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