Police play “judge, jury and executioner” in pre-dawn raids targeting pit bull-type dogs

Attorneys representing several families in Merseyside, a metropolitan county in northwest England, say police played “judge, jury and executioner” after seizing 22 pet dogs in dawn raids.

On March 27, more than 60 officers from the Matrix Unit of the Merseyside Police descended on Liverpool in a series of dawn raids targeting pit bull-type dogs.  The police said the dogs had lost their status as “exempt” from destruction because their owners had not insured them.

Under the Dangerous Dogs Act, animals which contain characteristics of the pit bull breed, but have not caused harm, can go through a process to be spared destruction. A condition of exemption is that owners have third-party insurance for their pets.

The raids were ordered after a meeting held by the Association of Chief Police Officers identified Liverpool as an area with a large number of uninsured “exempt” dogs.

The dogs, some as old as 14, were dragged from their homes and destroyed “within hours.” Many were, in fact, insured, and they were on the death list because of a clerical error.

Witnesses say one dog was pulled so forcefully by nooses around its neck that blood poured from its mouth. Another was seized from a 66-year old woman, as she and her grandson pleaded with officers that the much-loved family pet was not illegal.

Moreover, each of the dogs destroyed on March 27 had undergone behavior therapy, neutering, tattooing and micro-chipping and was deemed “legal and not dangerous” by the courts.

Lavinia Ali, 66, described how police removed her six-year-old pet, Chloe, despite the fact that the dog was insured. Seven vans of police arrived at her home, banging on her door, demanding to be let in. After Ms. Ali told police she had insurance for Chloe, they aggressively demanded she “hurry up” and find the proof of insurance. Ms. Ali was, of course, intimidated and frightened, she didn’t know what was going. She felt as thought she was being treated like a criminal in her own home. When her grandson protested at the way officers were shouting at her, he was handcuffed and taken to a police van.

In an interview with The Express, Ms Ali said her beloved pet, Chloe, never caused any trouble and was a kind and loving member of her family, and police took her away and killed her, without any reason, and without going to court.

Lawyers acting for six families claimed that had the police followed their legal obligation and sought destruction orders, the dogs, which had not been acting dangerously, would have been spared. Lawyers contend police had no lawful authority for having the animals put down and was simply “taking the law into its own hands.”

Lawyers also confirmed they would be calling for a judicial review of the illegal destructions.

The incident has prompted a backlash from animal campaigners including the Dogs Trust, which said the police action was “disturbing, drastic and unnecessary”.

It is absolutely unfathomable that police would take such lawless, unjustified and incredibly cruel action against residents who were in compliance with the law.
The Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, which targets four “types” of dogs, has been well documented as a complete failure.  Dog attacks and resulting hospitalizations have risen more than 50% over the last ten years in the UK. Rather than keeping the community safe from the truly dangerous dogs, officials have instead steadfastly attempted to justify and enforce a failed and fatally flawed law despite calls from members of parliament and animal welfare organizations to repeal the breed specific language of the law and focus on dangerous behavior by dogs and the owners who encourage or allow that behavior.

Lets hope the Merseyside police are held fully accountable for their actions of March 27, and these devastating raids and resulting executions will serve as a warning to deter any further illegal actions and spark an intensified call to kill the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991.

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