by   David Hancock


The above heading may sound over-dramatic, especially as this admirable English breed is neither threatened by a lack of numbers nor by appreciable inheritable disorders. The threat to this breed is mainly a 'social' one, anti-social some might say! They attract the wrong type of owner. The breed is a victim of its own fanciers, with even a show breeder being convicted of dog-fighting offences. Those who misuse them seem to hide behind the good qualities in the breed, perhaps envying their dogs their courage and perseverance in adversity, whilst encouraging combativeness and savageness, often to exhibit their own desire for manliness. It is shameful to pose as being heavily masculine, willing to fight any taker and able to sustain pain unflinchingly, but only through your dog. The current craze for ‘status dogs’, in which young thugs parade their muscular dogs as trophies, at the same time, very transparently exhibiting their own insecurity, lack of self-belief and inability to fend for themselves, is now receiving a police response.

 But the canine victims, the dogs themselves, will often lose their lives; little lasting harm will come to their exploiters.Dog abuse can take so many forms but few breeds have suffered as much from their own owners as the Bull Terrier from Staffordshire. When I visit my local Blue Cross kennels, just like Battersea Dogs Home, it is woefully oversubscribed by discarded Staffies or Staffie-types. It is surely irresponsible of society to expect such casual cruelty to somehow solve itself or indeed for it to become considered as 'acceptable'. Too many Staffies are being bred and, sadly, by far too many irresponsible people - who are getting away with it and gaining financially. Drastic thinking is needed here. It is time for Staffie-breeding to be controlled. Staffordshire Bull Terriers registered with the KC are already under some form of control; now the rest must be. To breed an unregistered Staffie in future should be only by way of a breeders' licence, supervised by an organisation like the Dogs Trust. But how to decide on what constitutes a Staffie?

 The Staffie-type is unmistakeable; this is an entirely different judgement from the ludicrous situation under the misguided Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, under which dogs can be assessed as being 'dangerous' wholly on the basis of their appearance. My proposal is designed to protect the breed from humans, not the other way around. We are not talking about sending dogs for destruction here, just preventing a breed-type suffering from over-breeding. Why should anyone be allowed to breed a litter of a type of dog already vastly over-bred and swamping the rescue organisations? Our first duty is to the dogs not the self-proclaimed 'rights' of any individual.          

 The Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a very special breed, yet one still being punished by ill-informed legislators due to its fighting dog origins. Its famed courage, tenacity and stoicism, once prized in the fight-rings and specifically bred for, now counts against it. I do not believe that this breed, or the Bull Terrier, should be listed in the KC's lists as Sporting Terriers; their sport was fighting or baiting, neither considered an acceptable sport for at least a century. They are now Companion Breeds and top-class ones.

The State of the Breed

 It is worrying to see the 2011 Crufts judge's report on the dogs of the breed reading: "As I usually find, there was an abundance of short and straight upper arms and sometimes forward-placed shoulders. The front assembly should be so constructed as to allow the legs to stride out far enough to cope with the forward thrust from the rear legs without having to make  compensations to prevent the front feet from hitting the ground too soon."  The bitches' judge found it necessary to write: "Ours is a powerful but agile breed, complemented by the balance between the strength of the bull and the agility of the terrier, it is a fine line; extremes or lack of this balance lead to heavy, cloddy bodies, short muzzles restricting movement, breathing problems; too much accent on the second result in narrow, weak fronts, lack of power in rear-quarters, which could lead to whelping problems, also losing type." Judges at this supreme show should not have to find such problems in, or make such elementary points on, the entry - all have whom have qualified for the show under KC-appointed judges.

 But, the very next year, at Crufts, the Staffies judge recorded: "I was very disappointed to find so many mouth faults - misplaced lower canine teeth are a particular issue, but I also found small teeth, crooked teeth, as well as undershot and overshot mouths. This is not a good situation for the breed to be in and was not the case twenty years ago...Top-lines and movement were poor in a number of exhibits, mostly due to them being sickle-hocked. For some breeders the term 'shelly' has long since been forgotten." Perhaps the KC should stop boasting about how many dogs are entered for this top show and concentrate on restricting entry to dogs without such lamentable and fundamental flaws. This is a precious English breed and one whose future needs safeguarding.