Owning pit bull terriers in the U.K. was made illegal by the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act and is punishable by up to six months in jail. Officers rounded up eight pit bulls last night during raids in St. Helens, the town where Ellie died, and nearby Widnes, Merseyside police said. The dog that killed Ellie at her grandmother’s house was a one-year-old called Reuben and was shot dead by a police marksman shortly after the attack.
Unofficial figures published in the daily newspaper the Mirror suggest that up to 1,067 dogs of banned breed status are still kept due to loopholes in the law. The Dangerous Dogs Act was introduced after a series of vicious attacks on children. It bans four breeds: pit bull terriers, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro. Owners can have their dogs exempted if they follow strict rules about neutering and microchipping.
Members of Parliament have complained the law is too hard to enforce. In 2004, just five prosecutions were launched against people owning a banned dog. Only two were found guilty. Earlier this week Lord Baker – who introduced the act – said it needed to be strengthened. Senior Home Office sources yesterday admitted they had no idea how many illegally held pit bulls there are in the UK.