Councillor Alan Tobin of County Meath, Ireland has recently caused uproar among dog lovers in the area and on the internet at large by having official signs erected in local parks in his county, warning the public about the dangers of ten specific breeds of dog. Many of these breeds are very popular and widely owned both in the local area where the signs were erected, and across the UK and Ireland at large.
Councillor Tobin’s “public safety notices” list ten breeds of dog, stating that the ten dogs shown on his signs are “restricted or listed breeds,” and that additional restrictions are in place for these breeds when using public land, such as the parks in which the signs are displayed.
A huge buzz has been generated on social media websites such as Facebook as a result of these signs, virtually all of it negative-so we’ve taken a look at what the signs say, and got to the bottom of the truth and fiction behind them. Read on to learn more.
The signs are titled as a “Public Safety Notice,” and below this, displays a list of what the sign calls “restricted or listed dogs.” Smaller text speaks of:
“Additional legal requirements to protect children and adults. When in a public place, these breeds and their cross breeds must at all times:”
The signs also show a list of ten dogs, including images of them for easier identification, which are subject to these regulations. The breeds mentioned are:
These breeds are all in fact restricted or listed dog breeds in Ireland, and have the above regulations placed upon their owners-however, this fact, in combination with the singling out of such breeds on large, public signs, has led to a lot of debate.
Of the ten breeds on the list, two of them are banned breeds in the UK- but in the UK, ownership of such breeds (and dogs that contain ancestry of those breeds) is banned outright, other than by people who have specific licences for their individual dogs, which are further restricted and not permitted to be used for breeding.
That accounts for the American Pit Bull Terrier and the Japanese Tosa, dogs that theoretically do not exist in any number in the UK, but that can be kept, with the above restrictions, in Ireland.
The other dogs on the list, however, are widely owned as pets in both the UK and Ireland, and precisely why the precedent has been set in Ireland to restrict ownership of these breeds but not others is uncertain, given the statistics for dog attacks perpetrated by dogs of these types in both the UK or Ireland.
The Bull Mastiff is a large, muscular dog that makes for a loyal guard dog, and they certainly have a lot of strength behind them if they do decide to become aggressive. However, there is no reason nor precedent for why a responsibly owned and handled Bull Mastiff might pose a danger to anyone.
The Staffy is one of the most popular and widely-owned breeds of dog in both the UK and Ireland, and in the vast majority of cases, dogs of the breed are owned by responsible owners, and often, as part of families with children. While the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a strong, tenacious breed of dog, they are also very loving and gentle too!
The German Shepherd is once again one of the most popular breeds of dog in both Ireland and the UK, and they are also widely used in working roles by both the police and Gardai. They are highly intelligent, very loyal, and make for good guard dogs.
This large, spitz-type dog is very powerful and can be speculative with strangers, as well as having strong guarding instincts-however, there is no evidence to suggest that the Japanese Akita is any more dangerous by nature than any other breed of dog.
The Ridgeback is again a large, powerful dog with strong protective instincts, which requires a confident, experienced handler. Once more though, they are statistically no more likely to pose a danger to others than any other specific breed of dog.
The Doberman is a medium sized, lean and lively breed of dog that is very intelligent and very loyal. They form strong bonds with their families and are sometimes wary of strangers, but there is no evidence that they are aggressive or more likely than any other dog to bite!
Rottweilers are certainly large, muscular business-like dogs, but they are also generally slow, gentle and very loving, and very popular with families.
The English Bull Terrier or “Bully” is yet another dog that has a potentially scary appearance to the uninitiated, but again, they are loving, soft and friendly dogs that are no more likely than any other dog to attack!
While the sign mentioned above itself has caused uproar and anger from the dog-loving community in Ireland, the sign actually does no more than raise awareness of the laws and restrictions that are genuinely in place for these breeds of dog, although they are not always enforced in full in reality.
The presence of the signs themselves has gone a long way towards raising awareness of the laws in place, and caused people to question their appropriateness and relevance-but what is the truth behind the restrictions, and has public safety in relation to dogs improved since the restrictions came into force in 1998?
The short answer to this would appear to be no-statistics published in 2015 indicate that the number of dog bites to people that required hospitalisation had actually risen by 20% since 1998, when the regulations were brought in.
Additionally, it has been found that collies and terriers are the two types of dogs most likely to be involved in an attack, although this is much more likely to be due to the simple popularity and number of such dogs rather than inherent dangers across all dogs of those types.
Attacks and bites by toy dogs too are on the rise in Ireland-which neatly demonstrates one point very well: The temperament of the dog and how it is handled is what affects its behaviour, and size and appearance have nothing to do with it!