Hardly a day goes by without a story appearing in the media about how dangerous these dogs are and how reckless their owners can be. Most recently, The Guardian quoted chilling statistics from the RSPCA and the Met Police Status Dogs Unit of the growing problems caused by irresponsible ownership of these breeds of dog.
Our investigation into what motivates young people to own ‘status dogs’ confirms that an increasing number of young people are easily obtaining hard to control dogs and they are often ill-equipped to care for and properly train their dogs and are unaware of the responsibilities that accompany dog ownership. But we have also discovered that the reasons that most young people obtain these dogs are not always malevolent despite the often negative representation we see in the press.
One thing we know for sure is that vulnerable people have relied on ‘dangerous dogs’ for generations to protect themselves and their families. We have spoken to young people in some of the most deprived areas in the UK who genuinely would not walk around their neighbourhood unless they had their dog to protect them. We also know that they get dogs to be part of the crowd – viewed as a status symbol these dogs are certainly displayed as fashion accessories for some groups.
A smaller minority of owners however are undoubtedly using their dogs to terrorise and threaten neighbourhoods and participate in illegal dog-fighting. Local authorities, residents groups, police forces and animal welfare organisations are struggling to find solutions to the myriad of problems that this growing trend has unleashed on local communities.
TCC believes that a meaningful and lasting solution can only be sought by gaining insight into what motivates young people to own status dogs and to do this we need to engage with and hear the voices of young dog owners. Only then can we devise appropriate interventions to encourage responsible ownership and deter bad practice.
We are working with the RSPCA to help better understand the attitudes and behaviours of young adults to potentially inform the development of behaviour change campaigns.
This is a subject that everyone seems to have an opinion on – what’s yours?