Page last updated at 16:05 GMT, Thursday, 18 March 2010

Illegal dogs sold cheaply on the streets of London

By Nigel Morris
BBC London

A BBC London investigation has revealed how easy it is to buy illegal pit bull puppies on the streets of London.

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Illegal dog trade exposed by BBC

In a few short days, an undercover reporter visited a number of addresses in south London where pit bull crossbreeds were being offered for a few hundred pounds.

On several occasions we were allowed to see dogs which the owners admitted were pit-bulls and had sired the advertised puppies.

We met one teenage owner selling pit bull-cross puppies openly in the street.

Another, also selling puppies in the street, claimed that he possessed false paperwork from a private vet stating that his pit bull was in fact a "Staff-cross-mastiff" so that the police would not seize his animal.

Under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, it is illegal to breed, or breed from a banned dog such as a pit bull terrier. It is also illegal to sell, exchange or advertise for sale such dogs.

A banned breed could, however, be assessed by the courts and given an exemption certificate. The dog is then listed on an official register.

'Red Nose pups'

During the investigation, BBC London found numerous adverts for so-called "Red Nose pups", one of the terms the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) said "should arouse suspicion, or suggest a dog fighting and/or illegal possession".

In south London we found one dog owner, Luke, advertising "Red Nose pups" for sale at £350 each on the internet.

We met him and his friend James, who was in control of a 14-month-old, large unmuzzled, pit bull-type dog in a busy street opposite a supermarket in Hither Green.

James quickly established the dog's credentials.

He said: "If you want to check it out [the dog], you just type in 'pit bull born in Birmingham bloodline' and it will show you exactly what he's all about.

"He is classed as full Royal...his mum was a champion Red Nose fighter, the same as his dad."

'Cross-mastiff'

Luke then brought out a cardboard box with four puppies inside for the undercover reporter to view.

The reporter quizzed Luke about the legality of the 14-month-old dog and asked whether he had an exemption certificate for it.

He said: "If I get stopped by a dog section I show them the paperwork and they go alright no worries…He's classed as a cross-mastiff this is how I get away with this."

Peter Tallack, a former Metropolitan Police dog handler and an expert on such breeds, examined the undercover footage and said he believed the dog was a pit-bull type.

When we contacted Luke again he denied any involvement in the breeding and sale of illegal dogs. He claimed he told our reporter that the puppies were pit bulls because he thought that's what he wanted to hear.

James claimed his dog mated by accident and insisted it was a legal Staff-cross-mastiff. He said he was lying when he said it was a pit-bull "in order to make a sale".

He also said he possessed paperwork that proved the dog was legal. We asked him to provide those documents but we had received no such paperwork prior to publication.

Reporter: Katharine Carpenter; investigations producer: Nigel Morris; camera: Dave Perella, Ian Paice



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