Page last updated at 19:47 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Dangerous dogs 'weapon of choice'

A dog in police custody
The force can seize dogs it suspects of being a banned breed or type

Dangerous dogs are increasingly being used as youths' "weapon of choice" over knives or firearms, police said.

Four types of dogs banned under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act are being used to protect drug turf, intimidate or harm people, West Midlands Police said.

Owning dangerous dogs carries a maximum six-month prison sentence, a £5,000 fine plus a lifetime dog ownership ban.

Firearms or knife possession is easier to prosecute and can attract up to several years in prison, police said.

West Midlands Police said the number of dogs in custody had risen from 130 last year to 147 to date in 2009.

The rise is partly due to more policing resources being given to tackle dangerous dogs, the force said.

Revenge attack

Dogs can be seized with a warrant if police suspect they are one of three banned fighting breeds, of Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentina or Fila Brasilero, as stated under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, or if they are a type of pitbull.

Dogs can also be seized if they have injured someone or caused intimidation in a public place.

Keith Evans, a dog legislating officer for West Midlands Police said: "Being found in possession of a dangerous dog carries a much lesser punishment than carrying another type of offensive weapon.

"Quite often they are being bred on the local housing estate by people they know, through a network of friends in each other's houses or flats."

Of the 57 dogs currently in police custody, 18 were seized for biting someone or causing intimidation in a public place and 39 were seized on suspicion of being an illegal pit bull.

Insp Paul Minor, head of West Midlands Police dog unit, said police had dealt with a case recently where a dangerous dog had been used by an ex-boyfriend to attack his girlfriend as pay back for dumping him.

More commonly though dogs are seized as part of other police operations, for example during drugs raids.

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Insp Paul Minor says using dangerous dogs as weapons could be increasing because of a police crackdown on carrying knives and firearms



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