A NATIONAL amnesty should be held to get dangerous dogs off the streets, a former police chief has urged after a recent attack left an 11-year-old girl with serious injuries.

Lord Hogan-Howe made the call at Westminster following the weekend incident in Birmingham, which also saw two men hurt.

As Merseyside chief constable back in 2007, he had introduced an amnesty for dog owners following the death of five-year-old Ellie Lawrenson.

St Helens Star: Ellie Lawrenson was killed by a pitbull in St Helens in 2007Ellie Lawrenson was killed by a pitbull in St Helens in 2007

The youngster was fatally mauled by a banned pit bull-type dog at her grandmother’s home in St Helens, Merseyside, on New Year’s Day.

St Helens was hit by a similar tragedy in March, 2022, when 17-month-old baby girl Bella-Rae Birch was killed by the family dog at her home on Bidston Avenue, Blackbrook.

St Helens Star: Bella-Rae BirchBella-Rae Birch

The dog which killed her was an American bully XL, which is a legal breed

There have been other serious attacks involving the breed reported by the Star too amid rising concerns nationally about the breed.

A recent attack in the West Midlands has prompted Home Secretary Suella Braverman to seek “urgent advice” on whether American bully XL dogs should be added to the list of outlawed breeds, arguing they are a “clear and lethal danger”.

But there is concern that the move may not be practical due to the American bully XL not being recognised as a breed by the Kennel Club, which could mean any ban may inadvertently outlaw other kinds of dogs.

Calls for overhaul of the Dangerous Dogs Act

It has led to demands for an overhaul of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, so it focuses “not on the breed but the deed”, or even for the legislation to be “sent to the knacker’s yard”.

Responding to a question in Parliament, environment minister Lord Benyon said: “The Government have commissioned urgent advice on what steps they can take on dangerous dogs. As a critical first step, we are immediately convening police experts and other stakeholders to define the breed for the purposes of the Dangerous Dogs Act.”

But highlighting the difficulties faced, he said: “There is no evidence of how you define some of these ‘fighting dogs’ or ‘status dogs’, as some people call them.

“I am not making some bureaucratic excuse for not taking action because we are taking action but, in order to make the law effective, if we are going to ban a breed, we have to really ban it and not allow people to get round it by having some nuance of that breed.”

Should there be an amnesty?

Lord Hogan-Howe, who also headed the Metropolitan Police, said: “I was chief constable in Merseyside when a five-year-old child in St Helens was murdered by one of these awful breeds.

“One of the things I instigated at the time, with the agreement of the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service), was an amnesty for owners of illegal breeds because the main thing is to get these dogs off the streets and not leave them in position.

St Helens Star: Lord Hogan-Howe in his time as a police leaderLord Hogan-Howe in his time as a police leader

“Of course, it is hard for the owners to hand them over voluntarily because they are declaring that they are an illegal animal. It is hard for neighbours to declare it, too.

“At a time when the Government are considering what to do next, might they consider a national amnesty for the present illegal breeds to get the dogs off the street rather than worrying about, as has been explained, the consequences?”

Lord Benyon said: “We want to see these dogs removed. There are ways of doing that and very serious penalties, including up to 14 years in prison, for people who break those rules.

“We are talking to the National Association of Police Chiefs and making sure that we are doing everything in the realm of the possible but our priority is to get dangerous dogs off the streets.”

Calls to be more radical

Tory former MP Baroness Fookes said: “I suggest that he should be more radical when looking at the Dangerous Dogs Act. It is time that that was sent to the knacker’s yard and a new system instituted altogether. I say this with some regret because I was the one who introduced it in the other place (the Commons) in the first place.”

Lord Benyon said: “I know that the Act is sometimes held up as a poster boy for the malign effect of knee-jerk legislative reaction to a terrible incident.

“However, the pit bull terrier, the Japanese tosa, the dogo Argentino and the fila Brasileiro – the four species banned under the Act – are not breeds that have been involved in these awful attacks.

“One could therefore argue that there may have been more attacks if they had not been banned, but we are looking to make this effective and we want urgent action.”

He told peers: “Since 2022, there have been 16 fatalities, nine of which involved some form of cross-breed bully dog. The clue is in the name.”