A Hackney scheme to teach young people about responsible dog ownership is now being introduced to other London boroughs.
City Dogs was set up by Dogs Trust in June last year and following its success, it now operates in eight other boroughs, including Lewisham, Newham, and Barking and Dagenham.
The scheme targets young people aged 14 and over who have status dogs, which are defined by the RSPCA as “perceived to be rough or tough looking”, and teaches them how to train their pets.
Dogs Trust set up the scheme after speaking to young people in Hackney who said they wanted this service in the area. Jacky Donaghy, Campaigns Manager for London, says she has noticed a change in the attitudes of the people they help since launching the project.
As well as offering advice, the programme provides free microchipping, flea and worming treatments, dog collars, muzzles and harnesses. They also make vet appointments for owners whose dogs need treatment and they run a free neutering service.
Donaghy told EastLondonLines: “We’ve got hotspots around London. We look at areas around heavy social housing – where there are a lot of young people and a lot of dogs.
“At first [the young people] wanted to breed their dogs. They didn’t realise the issues involved, such as dealing with heat. They’ve come back asking for muzzles because they can see the potential problems and they would prefer their dog to look aggressive than have it attack another dog or person.”
Donaghy also noted that these young people do not want their dog to be involved with fighting, explaining: “Kids have had offers from grown men to fight their dogs.”
EastLondonLines spoke to Remel Corbet, 20, who uses the service, during a training and agility day put on by City Dogs on Butterfield Green. He owns Chino, a one-year-old Staffie Cross.
“It’s good for everyone. Some people can’t get to the vet or get their dog checked, so they walk past and see them, and they give them a little check,” he said.
“It keeps the parks calm. Normally when they’re not here, there are hundreds of dogs running around and sometimes dangerous dogs, but with them here, it’s alright.
“They’ve told me what not to do and how to handle him, it’s my first dog. It’s really good.”
City Dogs volunteer Padam Singh added: “We get a lot of kids coming over who need help with issues and problems and we give them the right advice and help.”
Elvira Meucci-Lyons, Head of Campaigns and Community at Dogs Trust, explained that one of the aims of City Dogs is to help prevent young people from getting involved with dog fighting.
She said: “[City Dogs] was set up in response to media about bad ownership, status dogs and dangerous dogs and everything associating a certain breed of dog with a certain kind of owner.
“There is a middle-of-the-road group of youths that is not yet involved with dog fighting and gangs, but who are certainly going that way, and we thought there was an opportunity to engage with them.”
At present, Dogs Trust and a number of other leading charities are campaigning to get the Dangerous Dogs Act changed.
Under current legislation, certain breeds are banned, including the Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Toso, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro. If they are abandoned they are usually put down as they cannot be rehomed. Owners of these breeds must register them and they be muzzled when out in public.
The charities are looking for the law to be changed to put more emphasis on responsible dog ownership. A petition was launched last month calling for the government to find better solutions to irresponsible dog ownership.
If more than 100,000 people sign the petition, a debate will be held in the House of Commons over this issue. The petition can be signed here.