The story of Mercedes and her nine puppies illustrates the arbitrary nature of Breed Specific Legislation (BSL), as we continue to call for an end to these outdated laws.
Mercedes and her puppies were seized
One December afternoon, Lynn Bernard had a visit from the police. They had a warrant, and asked to see her dogs.
Lynn’s dog Mercedes had recently given birth to a litter of nine puppies. Mercedes is an American bulldog cross bullmastiff, and the father of the puppies was also an American bulldog – so Lynn had no concerns that they could be considered as a prohibited type under the Dangerous Dog Act.
Mercedes came to see what was going on, and the officer asked me where the pit bull terrier was. I explained that I didn’t own one.
The officer then asked if he could take measurements of Mercedes, which I agreed to. Next, he told me that she would be seized along with her puppies. I was hysterical.”
The dogs were held in kennels
Mercedes and her puppies were seized under BSL. In the UK, BSL bans the ownership of pit bull terriers, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero – despite there being no research to demonstrate that these breeds or types are any more aggressive than other dogs.
Mercedes was held in kennels for three months, before being assessed and identified as a prohibited type. Lynn then had to go to court to ask for Mercedes to be exempted under the Dangerous Dog Act, so that she could take her home.
Luckily, Mercedes met the conditions for exemption, and Lynn was able to take her back. But Mercedes will have to be kept under restrictive conditions – such as always wearing a muzzle in public places – for the rest of her life.
Seven of the puppies were ‘typed’
The puppies were held in kennels for a further four months before they could be assessed. At this point they were seven months old.
All nine of the puppies were identified as being of a prohibited type. After an appeal, two of them were assessed as not being of type, and their lives were saved. The other seven were put to sleep.
These were nine puppies from the same parents. Seven of them lost their lives, and just two were saved thanks to a difference of a few inches in their measurements.
The surviving puppies were impacted for life
One of the puppies who had been saved went home to Lynn. The other puppy, Kacey, was adopted by Nay Beard – a volunteer for the group ‘Draconian Dogs Act’.
Nay describes Kacey when she first met her:
On arrival I was greeted by a terrified and completely shut-down puppy. She was frozen with fear and it became obvious very quickly that she wasn’t used to any human contact.”
Kacey needed a lot of time and gentle care from Nay to begin building her trust and confidence. Although she had been given the chance to live, her experience of incarceration at such a young age still impacts on her daily.
Nay tells us:
She was frightened of grass, a breeze, water bowls, even toys. Absolutely anything and everything frightened her, she would back away while shaking uncontrollably.
Then one day we had a breakthrough, she rolled in fox poo. She’s never, ever done that before. In fact, she’d shown very few natural dog behaviours. That was the turning point and I gave a little cheer – despite the fact I knew she’d be smelly when we got home!
Little by little, she got there. But even now, almost five years later, she’s still very nervous and anxious.”
The devastating consequences of BSL
Lynn will never forget the time that the police knocked on her door, or what happened to her dogs. She tells us:
There is never a day that goes by when I don’t think about my puppies, it’s so soul-destroying. I’ve had all their names tattooed on my back along with the date they were born and the date they were euthanised – I’ll always remember them.”
Help bring an end to BSL
Everything that happened to Mercedes and her nine puppies was based on the way that they looked, not on the way that they behaved. Help us call for an end to BSL, please sign our petition.
For more information on our proposed solutions and recommendations, read our detailed report; ‘Breed Specific Legislation, A Dog’s Dinner’.
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