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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 January 2007, 17:20 GMT
First UK pit bull amnesty begins
Nigel Devine with a picture of one of the surrendered animals
Nigel Devine with a picture of one of the surrendered animals
The United Kingdom's first amnesty for pit bull terriers has begun in County Antrim.

Owners of the illegal breed of dogs who live in the Ballymena area have been given the month of January to hand in animals without fear of prosecution.

On Monday, a five-year-old girl was mauled to death by a pit bull terrier type dog, on Merseyside.

Ballymena council dog warden Nigel Devine said 14 dogs had been checked and most turned out to be legal breeds.

"There was one gentleman whose girlfriend or wife was about to have a baby. They contacted us asking us to come and check the dogs," Mr Devine said.

"Out of their four dogs, two were confirmed pit bull and two weren't. Those two dogs are being brought in.

"The vast majority that we have checked are from a family background. They have children. It is reassuring for them that they don't have a dog that at any time could turn on them."

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

Deirdre Doherty
Deirdre Doherty said the family was very lucky

Sean and Deirdre Doherty, their son Ben and a family friend escaped with only minor injuries after an horrific attack by a pitbull-type dog in Randalstown Forest Park.

Recalling the incident, Mrs Doherty said someone would have been killed if the family's pet labrador, Troy, had not fought the dog off.

Troy died following the attack.

"(The dog) turned me on my back and was quite literally going to rip my face off when my husband got it from behind and pulled it off me," Mrs Doherty said.

"The dog then broke free from my husband and went after the kids, it was just about to pull them down from behind when Ben's dog (Troy) dived into the side of the dog and pulled it away from Ben and down into the gully."

However, an east Belfast teenager who has a pet pit bull said the dog is like her "baby".

The 18-year-old, who did not want to give her name, said: ''She's just over an year, she's happy enough running about the house and gets on well with everyone who calls in. She's like our child."

Puppy love

She said she was able to control the dog, but had some concerns.

"It's just sort of with kids, you know the way kids can be rough and I'd be scared of a kid hurting her, not meaning to and then she'd maybe snap, but she wouldn't just go for a kid.

"Obviously if someone was annoying her she'd go for them, but not just out of the blue.

"There have been times when we've been out that people would say: 'That's a pit bull.' But she wouldn't do anything.

"But there's people who look at her thinking 'that dog's evil', and I know she's not like that.

"She's not vicious towards anyone, unless someone was annoying her, but not with people just stroking her.

"It would be a disgrace if people's pit bulls were just taken off them and destroyed. You love your dog, it's like your child".

One couple relive the moment a pit bull killed their pet

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