When Breed Specific dog laws were introduced in Australia last September, the Australian Veterinarian's Association (AVA) was clearly opposed the legislation. Dr. Susan Maastricht of the AVA said. "Not only will it fail to prevent dog bites, innocent dogs can clearly end up being scapegoats because of the way they look."
Sadly, two dogs did end up being scapecoats this week. After a lengthy legal battle with a local council in Victoria, Nathan Laffan and Samantha Graham lost their fight to save their two dogs. Despite the fact that neither of the dogs had done anything wrong, the two were put down because of the way they looked. The AVA slammed the ruling, stating the laws have led to two innocent dogs being killed.
When they learned about the introduction of the law, Laffan contacted Moira Shire Council to ensure his dogs, Bear and Kooda, would be safe. A council officer who went out to the couple's home identified the dogs as pit bulls and had them seized and taken to a local pound.
According the the new law, councils are allowed to seize and destroy unregistered pit bull terriers and their crosses based on visual identification alone. The legislation provides guidelines for councils on how to identify pit bulls based on key markers including muscular build, head profile and size-to-weight ratio.
However, visual identification of pit bulls is especially subjective, as pit bulls are cross-bred in origin. Pups of one litter of pups can look completely different from one another and DNA tests can be inconclusive. "To some degree there is the potential for subjectivity," said Dr. Maastricht.
Graham and Laffan challenged the council, saying their dogs were mistakenly identified as pit bulls. A local breeder stated the dogs came from a bull mastiff cross American bulldog and a staffie cross ridgeback. However, the council was not swayed.
The couple were given an hour's notice and a just few minutes to say goodbye to Bear and Kooda.
They argued their dogs "wouldn't hurt anyone". "They were just the kindest and best dogs. They were always playful, we loved them so much," Laffran said. "We would have trusted them around children more than most babysitters."
Laffan is now calling for behavior tests to be used to assess a dog's temperament, rather than simply appearance and breed targeting. "The laws are all messed up, they should never have brought them in," Laffan said. "We were just trying to do the right thing and they [the council] just stabbed us in the back."
Unfortunately for Laffan, Graham, Bear and Kooda, they became victims of Breed Specific Legislation that was introduced as a solution to reduce dog bites. The strict laws came into effect after the fatal mauling of Melbourne toddler Ayen Chol.
In similar circumstances, an innocent dog named Lennox has also been victimized by BSL in Northern Ireland. Read more about Lennox's story and what you can do about BSL in your community here: Will the Lennox Tragedy impact breed specific legislation in your community?
Nathan Laffan and Samantha Graham saying their last "goodbye" to Kooda and Bear. Image via 9News.
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