The Age, Hannah Vickers; December 7, 2011
A BALLARAT couple will bring the first challenge in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to changes to restricted breed dog legislation as they try to save their pit bull’s life.
With at least 600 calls to the Department of Primary Industries regarding possible restricted breed dogs, and 10 appeals lodged in VCAT already, Victoria’s revised restricted breed legislation faces many tests. But questions remain about what a ”pit bull” is. Many of Victoria’s 835,000 dogs would fit the bill.
The Victorian government dedicates more than 800 words and uses 41 images to define the breed standard for the restricted American pit bull terrier.
The problem? There is no such breed. Experts say that ”pit bull” is actually a generic term for a type of dog, much like ”hound” or ”terrier”. ”I don’t know that anyone can categorically say what a pit bull is because there is no genetic profile,” said Dr Susan Maastricht, Victorian president of the Australian Veterinary Association.
”What we have now in our legislation is a standard, but in fact it’s a standard for a type of dog.” The American Kennel Club, the leading pure-bred dog authority in the US, said the term ”pit bull” comes from the early 19th century, when bulldog-terrier crosses were used for bull baiting and dog fighting. The three breeds that emerged are the bull terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier and the American Staffordshire terrier. All three are considered pit bull-type dogs.
In Victoria, a dog that fits the description of an ”American pit bull terrier” can escape the label provided the owner has American Staffie papers. ”An American Staffie has three generations of pedigree, so it’s that history of the dog that has to go back,” said Sue Glasgow, chief executive for DOGS Victoria, a division of the Australian National Kennel Council.
Ms Glasgow said the council did not recognise the American pit bull terrier as a breed.
Owners without pedigree papers can turn to veterinarians for certification, but that puts vets in a difficult position. While there are dog DNA tests available, vets ultimately have to rely on appearance, and the standard for the American Staffie is virtually identical to the Victorian government description of an American pit bull.
”There is a lot of similarity, which means, from a veterinary point of view, it is difficult to differentiate from the two in a meaningful way,” Dr Maastricht said. Allie Jalbert, manager of animal shelters at RSPCA Victoria, has similar problems. ”It’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine what breed a dog is simply by appearance,” she said.
Not even all branches of government can agree on that point. Last year a Queensland court ruled that for the purposes of restricted breed legislation, the Staffie and the American pit bull are the same breed.
Meanwhile, a court case for a man charged over a dog attack that killed a Melbourne girl has been adjourned until next year.
Ayen Chol, 4, was mauled to death by a neighbour’s pit bull mastiff in her St Albans home, on August 17. Lazor Josevski, 57, was due to face the Sunshine Magistrates Court yesterday charged with eight offences under the Domestic Animals Act, but his case was adjourned.
Original story here….