What is the point of the Dangerous Dogs Act when there is a man marauding with an illegal pit bull in south London and the police are not arresting him? My friend rang me in hysterics recently after the beast all but savaged his little Patterdale terrier in Kennington Park.
The pit bull picked him up in his mouth and started shaking him. When my friend slapped the pit bull with his umbrella, it let go of his dog, ran over to an old man, grabbed his Shitzu and shook that like a rag doll until it was pouring with blood. The old man fell over as he tried to save his dog and the pit bull owner screamed at him as he lay in the mud. My friend called the police, the guy grabbed his dangerous dog and ran off.
When my friend next spotted them in the park he called the police again. They came out and questioned him, but he told them his dog was a Staffie cross Labrador and they let him go. My friend demanded the police investigate further to establish the breed.
They have his address but, so far as my friend has been able to ascertain from them, have not been round to his house to conduct any checks. Of course they haven’t. They would much rather go round to some nice middle-class person’s house and slap a destruction order on their Jack Russell.
The builder boyfriend’s poor old dad had his little dog put down a few years ago because the kids next door taunted it so much it jumped up on one of them. It didn’t bite, scratch or injure them in any way. But the family reported it as an ‘attack’ and the dog was duly declared dangerous and taken to the vets to be euthanised.
But of course, the builder boyfriend’s dad didn’t live on a no-go sink estate or belong to a terrifying gang. Therein lay his error, you see. He was a sitting, law-abiding duck.
A gangsta with a pit bull can strut about perfectly at ease, perhaps because he feels that so long as he looks as tough and as dangerous as his dog, he will never be confronted by the short and delicate arm of the law.
Imagine my consternation, therefore, when I saw the pair on Tooting Common when I was walking the spaniel.
It was 6 p.m. and dusk was falling as the man and his pure white pit bull made repeated circuits of the Common. The man kept talking to the dog, commanding him to do things, like jump up in the air, or lie low on the ground.
I told another dog walker: ‘That’s an illegal breed. Do you think we should call it in?’
‘Ooo, you’d never know it, would you dear?’ said the woman, who was walking two West Highland terriers. ‘He’s such an obedient dog. Look at him leaping to attention when the man raises his hand.’
I decided to call 101. ‘Hello, this is Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe,’ said the cheery recorded message that greets you when you call the police nowadays. ‘If your call is important please hang up…’ That’s unusually honest, I thought. ‘…and dial 999.’ Oh, I see.
Eventually, a lady answered and I told her: ‘There’s an illegal pit bull on Tooting Common.’ And thus began the process of trying to explain to the Metropolitan Police where Tooting Common is.
‘Is it in Tooting?’ she said. ‘No, not Tooting itself. Tooting Common.’
‘What’s the postcode?’
‘Well, I don’t know the postcode. You see, it’s not a building. It’s the Common.’
‘What street is it in?’ ‘He’s not in a street. He’s on the Common.’ Silence.
‘It’s a large expanse of green space between Balham and Tooting, bordering Streatham on one side.’ ‘Hang on,’ she said, ‘I have it on my screen now. Yes, I see. So, which part?’
I looked around. The man was starting another circuit. At this rate, he was going to walk past me and hear me on the phone to the cops reporting him and then he would beat me to a pulp as the police operator droned: ‘When you say “Aaaaaaargh he’s murdering me”, who exactly are you referring to? What’s his postcode?’
‘Look,’ I said, ‘can you see a play area on the map?’
‘Ye-es.’ ‘Well, that expanse of green to the left is where he is.’ ‘So he’s inside the play area?’ she said, sounding concerned for the first time.
‘No! He’s on the area of common land to the left of it, or right, depending on which way you are looking at the map.’ Upside down, probably. ‘Can I go now, please?’
It would have been less painful to let the pit bull savage me.
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