Last night on ITV the latest episode of “The Kyle Files” was broadcast, on the subject of dangerous dogs. I had an interest in this as I am an expert witness, assessing dogs in bite cases for court. I also had numerous calls from the production team for 2 months trying to find something they wanted to film. They assured me this would not be just another show about pit bulls. Sadly I think it was.
I told the production team from the beginning that I was not interested in another show showing pit bulls, gang members and ignoring reality for most people. They said they weren’t doing that and would be showing all breeds, all owners and how it’s usually pet dogs of all breeds that get into trouble. None of that happened.
There have been several “Dangerous Dog Documentaries”, I have blogged before on one showing a badly trained dog warden using a pole to remove a dog and almost causing the dog to lose consciousness. They are always the same, Pit Bulls, gang members, drug dealers and viewers are left with the impression it’s only them you should fear. It really isn’t like that.
The show, as usual showed a drug dealer and his dog. The owner said he had “trained his dog to bite”. There was no training, it was just a dog being wound up to bite. He admits that he has done this deliberately so the dog protects him. Scary stuff, but not what most of us meet or see.
A case of a badly injured woman was discussed and the victim gave a harrowing account of an attack by a Japanese Akita. At the time, there were 2 Akitas, the bitch had a litter of pups. This could be the reason the dog was so aggressive, but we will never know as the dogs are dead before anyone can assess them.
See our efforts to change this here and Minister George Eustice’s response to the need for live assessment. https://safepetsuk.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/rescue-rules-good-practice/
The mother of 4 year old John-Paul Massey. killed by a Pit Bull type dog owned by his Uncle in 2009 gave an interview. She says she thinks all dogs should be muzzled around children and in the street and kept on a lead.
The owner of a dog who had it seized as potentially a Pit Bull and got it back via the court was rather bullied by Kyle. The dog lives with children and has to have passed a temperament test to be exempted and allowed home as a legal pit bull. Kyle spoke as if he was sure it was going to bite her children.
Inspector O’Hara of the Met Police Status Dog Unit gave some interesting statistics. 2 years ago they seized 853 dogs, last year it was 1100. Their bite statistics show Pit Bull types account for 1 in 5 bites, all other breeds and types of dogs account for the rest.
Kyle is then seen at a training club in Essex where a bite trained Malinois is released to take an arm bite of Kyle, who is in a protective bite suit. What exactly this was meant to prove I’m not sure. The trainer kept saying it showed how good the “recall” was and the public shouldn’t do this type of training. This dog is trained to a high standard and does this many times as a demonstration. How does this equate to real life and dogs who bite?
My cases for court so far this year have been: 4 Rottweilers (3 cases), 3 Staffies, 2 Pit Bull types, 1 GSD, 1 Spaniel, 1 Akita, 1 Staffie crossbreed and 1 Boxer. Last years included a Corgi, 2 Jack Russel terriers, 3 Spaniels, 3 Labradors amongst a few Staffies and 3 Pit Bulls and several other types and crosses. I offered many of these dogs, their assessments and owners to the show, they didn’t want them. I asked them to show how the pet owners of this country get into trouble with “ordinary dogs” and what they can do about it. They said that’s what they would film, but didn’t.
I am concerned that this constant showing of type dogs owned by people who deliberately create an aggressive dog leads people to think their own dog won’t bite. Or leads the public into thinking that these are the only dogs to worry about. In reality it’s mainly pets with an owner who makes an error of judgement that gets into court under the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA).
What responsibility does TV have to educate the public? Should they be forced to be more unbiased in documentaries? Where dogs are concerned, most people face a potential threat from untrained, nervous or misunderstood dogs of all types in their local parks and streets or owned by friends and family. Too many owners let dogs off lead because they pull and then allow them to race up to other dogs and people, often causing fear. Most social media complaints are about loose dogs and the problems they cause, not about drug dealers and their pit bulls. Most court cases are not about Pit Bull type dogs, they are all breeds and crosses of pet dogs.
Many people on social media want a show about dangerous dogs that reflects reality. Public places, dogs off lead, all breeds, pet owners who make mistakes. I was told last year by a TV channel that this would never be made as it wasn’t interesting enough. I showed them two cases of children bitten in the face, one by a collie cross, one by a Labrador. A spaniel case where a visitor to the home spent two days in hospital from bites. Still not good enough as no drug dealers or gangs.
How can we influence what shows are made? How can we get across that a show about the real lives of dogs who bite, why they do it and how they can be defended and retrained is both interesting and educational? It could help people to read warning signs, understand the law, get training and maybe reduce bites.
Does TV have any responsibilities or are they simply there to make dramatic programmes no matter how far from reality they are? Does it mater that every Dangerous Dogs show is the same?
(Debbie Connolly is a dog behaviourist of 30+ years experience and is an expert witness and dog temperament assessor for court cases under the Dangerous Dogs Act. Debbie is the founder of SafePets UK. She is the training & behaviour adviser to Pet Education Trust and gives many media interviews on dog subjects. See previous interviews here http://safepets.wixsite.com/mydoghasbitten/media )
You can watch the episode of Kyle Files here http://www.itv.com/hub/kyle-files/2a3238a0016