22 April 2005


Illegal dog fighting 'increasing'

A Staffordshire bull terrier had to be put down after the fight

Organised dog fighting is on the increase in Northern Ireland, according to an animal charity.

The Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals (USPCA) said family pets were being stolen to take part in such illegal activity.

A Staffordshire bull terrier had to be destroyed in Londonderry this week after being savaged by two other dogs.

The USPCA's Stephen Philpott said the charity takes about 7,000 calls a month about alleged animal cruelty.

"The USPCA is busier now than ever investigating reports of cruelty," he said.

"However, as time goes by the levels of cruelty inflicted on animals has become more severe."

Mr Philpott said a child appeared to have been used as a distraction to get the Staffordshire bull terrier out of its back yard in Derry on Sunday, before being set upon by other dogs.

There are incidents where people's family pets are being used and stolen to blood dogs to make them better fighters in the ring
Stephen Philpott

The animal suffered injuries to its head, legs and stomach and had to be put down.

Mr Philpott said he did not believe this incident was related to organised dog fighting, but the animals were blooded just for fun.

"There are incidents where people's family pets are being used and stolen to blood dogs to make them better fighters in the ring," he said.

"I don't believe this incident had anything to do with organised dog fighting. I think it's more to do with some sort of entertainment value that the individuals were looking for.

"They obviously knew the dog. They knew what breed the dog was and they obviously worked out that if they got the dog out of the yard, the dog would be able to put up a good fight for itself because of the particular breed that it was."

'Unclear legislation'

He said the USPCA would pursue the incident in a bid to get evidence to bring people to court.

He has also called for the law on pitbull terriers, which are proscribed in Northern Ireland under the Dangerous Dogs Act, to be properly enforced.

However, Nigel Cardwell, a dog warden in Belfast,said the current legislation was unclear.

"There is legally a grey area. What most people refer to as pitbull terriers are in fact not pitbull terriers at all. Most of what you see about are Staffordshire bull terriers which are a legal breed," he told the BBC's Stephen Nolan show.

"They gave this catch-all area. What they said was: "Dogs having characteristics, the type known as a the pitt bull terrier.

"Pitbull terriers are a construct of various different breeds. It is a type of a dog. It is a generic thing. They are virtually impossible to identify."

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