Barking Blondes: ‘Bad boys’, the Dangerous Dogs Act and the Parkguard

Joanne Good and Anna Webb

barking 300x225 Barking Blondes: Bad boys, the Dangerous Dogs Act and the ParkguardHats off to a London council who have funded a landmark pilot scheme called DOG – the Direction and Opportunities for Gangs, which has managed to reduce offences by former gang members and their dogs by 100 per cent.

Underground dog ownership is a growing concern in most cities with evidence in some parks, such as dogs being trained by hanging them on trees, along with attacks and fights with out of control dogs.

All of this costing the tax payer thousands of pounds in tree damage alone. The social issue of ‘bad boys’ and their dogs has been fuelled by ‘gang culture’ and the rise in crime along with the recession and unemployment

Many famous rappers in the States are synonymous with pit bulls and this breed took on the image of the coolest of street dogs. Unfortunately the pit bull then became stigmatised as the ‘bad boysl of gangland culture with the capacity to become a weapon when needed. This weapon was in theory ‘legal’, i.e. owning a dog – not a gun or a knife.

This image soon spread over here and members of inner city gangs in the United Kingdom adopted the pit bull as their dog of choice. They are often brought into the country from Ireland and Finland using counterfeit passports. The dogs then end up in the wrong hands – like a knife or a gun. Sadly for the pit bull, the breed was abused by owners for owning it for all the wrong reasons and used to fuel dog fighting rings, as well as for daily intimidation.

The Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced as a knee-jerk reaction to this growing social situation in 1991. It made the pit bull an illegal breed overnight but it didn’t take into account that maybe it was targeting the wrong end of the lead. And that in fact with the right lifestyle, care and training a pit bull is just like any other dog.

We’re living a world where gang crime has become integral to urbania – and it seems impossible to believe that all these ‘bad boys’ and their dogs have no relationship and that their dog won’t eventually become their best friend. For many, their dog will be their only friend. It seems a shame that perhaps a lack of dog owning experience hinders them from a good canine relationship. And one that’s marginalised by society. This ongoing social problem is causing dogs to be misunderstood.

We welcomed Lee Hutchings from Parkguard onto our show this week along with a member of Enfield council, who is funding the scheme. The participants undergo military style training and learn a mix of animal welfare, academic law and dog handling. They also spend time with army and police dog units and in animal shelters. After training, they work in the community and in parks, teaching young people about the impact caused by dangerous dogs and ‘irresponsible or unaware’ owners.

By learning how to train and care for dogs, the success of the pilot has proved how bad boys can learn self esteem, discipline and respect by working through an intensive training program with dogs. The power of dogs to help us is endless – from guiding the blind, assisting children to learn to read, or working with the army and police sniffing out explosives and drugs. Dogs have a natural ability to contribute positively by enriching and saving lives on a daily basis. The irony is that in this scheme, bad boys have now been taught by their dogs to be good.

Our picture for this week of our dogs Molly and Matilda in tutus may be seen as equally as offensive as any urban ‘bad’ behaviour. May we quickly point out, they wore them only briefly and actually seemed to enjoy it.

Woof! Woof!

‘Barking at the Moon’ is on every Thursday from 3pm on BBC London 94.9fm

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  • Rob Chave

    Ps, that only applies to pitbulls. If you want to look ‘hard’ you could get an alsatian, rottweiler, staff, even a bloody great 5ft tall deerhound. They’re all awesome with the right owners.

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