Merseyside Police vow to rid Liverpool of dangerous dogs after John Paul Massey's death POLICE today vowed to take robust action against the growing menace of owners and their “status” dogs across Merseyside.
The warning comes four days after the tragic pitbull mauling of John Paul Massey, four, at his gran’s home in Wavertree.
And new figures have revealed that over 500 people owning banned dogs were caught on Merseyside over the past three years.
It comes as Christian Foulkes, 21, John Paul’s uncle – owner of Uno which killed the youngster – was arrested by police yesterday on suspicion of his nephew’s manslaughter. He was later released on police bail.
Today, police insisted the problem of owners using dogs to intimidate or attack people or animals was not “endemic” across the county.
But senior officers admitted there was an underground culture of dog fighting and illegal breeding still present on Merseyside.
Statistics as to how many of the four banned breeds are still at large could not be estimated, they added.
But now, the ECHO can disclose how:
There have been 52 reported cases of dog fighting on Merseyside since 2006, 12 of them organised bouts.
There are 177 dogs currently on the “exempt” list, banned breeds that comply with strict conditions to keep them legal.
500 banned dogs were destroyed as a result of police prosecutions since 2007.
600 owners contacted the force following the death of Ellie Lawrenson, five, during the police’s amnesty, which led to 300 pets being handed in.
Merseyside remains the fourth worst hotspot for dog fighting after London, West Midlands and West Yorkshire.
Since the death of Ellie Lawrenson, killed in 2007 in Ecclestone, St Helens, Merseyside Police took large strides trying to tackle the increasing scourge of danger dogs.
Eight dog legislation officers are now employed within the force who are the first called upon to identify suspected illegal breeds – Pitbull Terriers, Japanese Tosas, Dogo Argentinos, Fila Brasileiros and crossbreeds.
After the Metropolitan Police, Merseyside are considered the force next best equipped to enforce the changing legislation.
A dog “hand-in” following Ellie’s death resulted in 300 dogs being taken to police, but officers today said there were no immediate plans to launch a similar operation.
Indiscriminate breeding is also a big worry with cash-hungry people charging anything up to £500 for a “Staffie” or Rottweiler puppy.
The scourge of status dogs has reared its heads in gang-hit areas like Croxteth and Norris Green where ownership of banned or violently- trained dogs as a fashionable possession, along with weapons like knives and guns, is common.
Video clips on internet site YouTube show masked youths parading dogs on leads as they patrol some of Liverpool’s more deprived housing estates.
And cruel owners often coax out, or teach, their pet to be aggressive by yanking large sticks in their mouths to build up their jaws, assaulting them or even starving them.
Chief Superintendent John Martin, head of force operations, told the ECHO: “The word ‘status’ dog is bandied around which has emanated from Greater London.
“It is linked to criminal gangs and predominantly involves young men with very big powerful dogs which can be intimidating, though not necessarily illegal under Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act.
“Nevertheless, it presents an intimidating image to the public. We don’t underestimate the impact they have on a community and we have a role to educate them (owners).
“There is evidence on Merseyside some individuals are breeding exempt types of dog for gain which is illegal.
“The hand-in (in 2007) was an appropriate response to a problem which existed at that time. Over 300 dogs were handed in and we took a lot of proactive action to respond to reports made.
“We encourage responsible ownership. If people are keeping these prohibited dogs, or using them in a criminal or anti-social manner, we would look to apply the law robustly.
“As a result of things we’ve put in place post the 2007 death of Ellie Lawrenson, dog fighting seems to have been displaced out of this area, although we’re not naive to suggest it’s not happening. If people provide us with information about dog fighting, we will investigate.
“The legislation and Dangerous Dogs Act is what it is – we work within it. Legislation is not the whole answer – it’s about the owners.
“Ultimately, it’s getting across the point that taking on a dog is a huge responsibility. If you don’t do it properly, you are liable to be prosecuted.”
A person caught causing unnecessary suffering or mutilation to an animal, including the offence of animal fighting, could be jailed for six months or fined £20,000.
Nationally, the number of seized dangerous dogs has risen from 481 to 719 in the past year. THE ECHO