Exclusive: Newham’s dangerous dogs used as weapons
13:05 12 March 2014
Pit bulls used in gang fights are among dogs being seized in Newham – and numbers of dangerous animals are on the up.
Pets taken to the pound have shown signs of being involved in fights, including a pair of pit bulls where the bitch had been sewn up so it could not mate, to make its partner angry and ready to fight, while some of the dogs have “trigger words” which rile them up.
The most popular names of seized animals are Killer and Bullet, which Tina Delaney, animal welfare manager, says reflects the kind of dogs they encounter.
“In gang culture the dogs are used for fighting,” she said. “Whereas before you would fight person to person, now if you have a problem your dogs fight and if your dog loses, it is no good anymore and you will exchange it for another which is bigger and better.”
An employee at the pound needed surgery after being bitten by a seized pit bull three years ago, although they later returned to work.
A decade ago, no dangerous dogs passed through the doors of the top-secret location – but 64 pit bulls, which are illegal in the UK, have been placed in the pound since April.
The borough has the second-largest kennels in London after Battersea but in order to meet the rise in demand for places, eight specialist dangerous dog kennels were recently created and the existing 30 kennels were reconfigured to create additional exercise space at a cost of £57,488.
Almost a quarter of a million pounds was spent in the past year to house dangerous and unwanted pets, including 221 strays.
Tina, who has three dogs of her own, says pet owners are often unaware of the importance of allowing their dogs to socialise.
“A lot of dogs in our society are not a pleasure because people do not know how to train them properly and they don’t teach them behavioural skills early on in life,” she said.
“People think it is funny when they are bitten by their dogs when they are six months old but it is no longer a joke when they try to attack people.”
The Newham kennels was set up in April 1992 and provides a 24-hour service in emergency situations.
The location is kept secret as pet owners have tried breaking into the pound in the past to try to save their pets.
Dogs are exercised twice daily and staff give them as much space and exercise as possible to help improve behaviour.
They are also given rubber toys which have been frozen and stuffed with dog food to stimulate them.
Dogs which respond badly to other animals are housed in isolation units.
Sometimes more than one officer is needed to handle a dog due to behavioural difficulties, while some of the dogs are so scared when they arrive at the kennels that they pant, shake and spin around in circles.
Animals undergo a behavioural assessment after seven days and if they are deemed aggressive to humans or animals they are put down at a local vets.
Sixty-eight dogs have been put down since last April, but Tina says it is irresponsible dog owners who are to blame.
“Staff bull terriers are known for being aggressive but if you socialise them they can be the nicest dogs in the world,” she added.
Newham Council takes a tough stance on illegal dogs, with 21 prosecutions since April last year, the joint highest since records began.
“We get to know the areas where there are dogs,” Tina said.
“Sometimes we get people walking pets late at night to avoid us but we work with police to catch people at different times.”