Warning after rise in dog attacks

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Warning after rise in dog attacks

nlnews@archant.co.uk
04 June 2009
GANG culture has popularised the pitbull, it is claimed
GANG culture has popularised the pitbull, it is claimed

DANGER dogs used as “status symbols” by gangs of youths and criminals have led to a shocking increase in attacks and dog fights in Islington, vets and animal charities are warning.

Animal campaigners claim the rise of gang culture has resulted in the banned dogs being bred underground to be used as weapons at their owners’ command – and that the police are too afraid to tackle the problem.

TV VET Marc Abrahams says dog fighting is rife on the Islington-Dalston border
TV VET Marc Abrahams says dog fighting is rife on the Islington-Dalston border

The RSPCA’s Harmsworth Animal Hospital, in Sonderburg Road, Finsbury Park, has reported an increase in dog attacks while some owners say the number of dangerous and even illegal dogs being walked on Islington’s streets – often without a lead or a muzzle – is on the rise.

TV vet Marc Abrahams, who claims dog fighting is rife on the Islington-Dalston border, said: “We’ve got fighting dogs as status symbols. Last season’s Paris Hilton wanabees with tiara-wearing Chihuahuas have been brutally replaced by gang culture and its four-legged fashion accessory with fangs.

“Owners training their dogs to fight make them taste the blood of bait-dogs or rabbits, helping to turn them into controlled killing machines. Once it was just dogs against dogs, now it seems these canines must be suitable to kill humans as well.

“It’s such a shame for these poor dogs. The problem really needs to be sorted but with organised crime on a massive and usually international scale, the RSPCA and police seem to be too afraid to touch it.”

One 43-year-old dog owner from the N1 area, who was too afraid to be named, said: “Pitbulls are being bred solely for fighting or intimidation by people who the police are afraid to target, people who carry guns and knives. Gang culture and rap music has popularised them.

“If you see a big metal chain lead you have got to worry because you don’t walk dogs with a chain lead, it’s completely impractical. I see them walking along Essex Road let off their lead, let alone castrated or with a muzzle.

“The pitbull’s not large enough to bring down a really big man so they’re mixed with bull mastiffs or American bulldogs.

“On their hind legs they’re six feet tall. It’s getting worse. I know the police are under-resourced but it’s not fair on responsible dog owners.”

Less than two weeks ago 72-year-old pensioner Len Rodriguez watched in horror as his Yorkshire terrier Charlie was mauled to death outside his home in Cluse Court, in St Peter’s Street, Islington.

Mr Rodriguez said: “This Staffordshire Bull cross owned by my neighbour and her 18-year-old son went for my little dog’s neck. She tried to pull him away but couldn’t because he was too strong. She had a muzzle but she said the dog didn’t like it put on.”

He added: “She volunteered to have it put down but the police still haven’t done anything about it. You get young girls of 12 roaming around with these dogs on the Packington Estate and they can’t control them.”

A spokeswoman for Islington police said: “Islington police are concerned about dog fighting and dogs being used in anti-social behaviour. In the last year we have investigated 54 crimes involving dangerous dogs in Islington. We are not aware of a rise in dangerous dogs in Essex Road specifically, however any dangerous dog or crime involving a dog is thoroughly investigated and dealt with appropriately.

“In March this year the Met Police formed the Status Dogs Unit to deal with the growing number of dogs used in crime. The team works closely with officers from Islington and animal welfare agencies running operations to crack down on dog fighting, illegal dog breeding and dogs being used in crime and anti social behaviour. In the last year, the unit has seized nine dogs in Islington.

“In support of this, Islington police are setting up a borough partnership forum called the BARK project to tackle irresponsible ownership of dogs.

“Owners have a responsibility to keep their dogs under control: the maximum penalty for allowing a dog you are in charge of to be dangerously out of control is two year’s imprisonment, a fine, or both.

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