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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 December 2006, 13:15 GMT
Pit bulls handed over to council
Nigel Devine with a picture of one of the surrendered animals
Nigel Devine with a picture of one of the surrendered animals
Pit bull terriers have already been handed in and destroyed ahead of Northern Ireland's first amnesty.

Owners of the outlawed breed in Ballymena, County Antrim, have been given the whole of January to hand in the dogs without fear of prosecution.

The town council's dog warden, Nigel Devine, said two pit bulls had been left with the council.

Both of the animals were put down, although Mr Devine stressed neither appeared vicious.

Nine owners have asked him in advance to check their pets in case they had unwittingly been sold pit bulls - none of those examined turned out to be the illegal breed.

"Two pit bulls have been presented to us already," he said.

"One was left at our landfill site early in December and the other was just handed in to us at the council."

Mr Devine expressed his concern at the difference in the legislation around the Dangerous Dogs Act which bans the ownership of pit bull terriers.

"In England, if the dog is not a danger to the public, a magistrate can allow the owner to keep it, but that doesn't apply in Northern Ireland," he said.

"I'm asking why are we being treated differently?"

The idea for an amnesty followed an horrific pit bull attack on a family in County Antrim in November.

Pit bull-type terrier
Ballymena council has proposed an amnesty for pit bull-type dogs

Sean and Deirdre Doherty and their two children escaped serious injury in Randalstown Forest park.

But one of their pet Labradors, which protected them from being savaged, later died from his injuries.

Mr Devine claimed that some pit bulls were being bred for use in organised dog fighting.

"It's about criminality - obviously there's dog fighting going on, especially around border towns," he added.

"If you ban anything, there becomes a lucrative market for it.

"It's all macho image - the only reason these people have these dogs is because they are banned.

"You see these people out walking their dogs, saying `Look at me and my pit bull', but half of them are mongrels."

The warden told how anxious owners had been in touch after pups they believed were legal breeds such as Staffordshire bull terriers grew bigger and bigger.

He was able to confirm, along with USPCA experts, that none were pit bulls.

Mr Devine urged anyone with a pit bull to seize the opportunity rather than face fines of up to 2,000 or even a two-year jail sentence if they go to trial and get convicted.

He said: "If somebody has one, they know what it is and they surrender it to the council, no action will be taken against them."

Councillors back pitbull amnesty
21 Nov 06 |  Northern Ireland
Hero dog dies in pitbull horror
08 Nov 06 |  Northern Ireland
'Dangerous dogs' taken from farm
06 Jan 06 |  Northern Ireland
Fighting dog operation uncovered
09 Jan 06 |  Northern Ireland
Dog-fighting concern after theft
23 May 02 |  Northern Ireland

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