Studded Crown of Thorns

On September 18, 2011, in bsl, lost dogs home, by Mike Bailey

Creating a Folk Devil

The media and politicians, dog catchers and pound contractors all have a vested interest in making us fear a kind of evil super dog they call the ‘Pit Bull’. They tell us they’re not like other dogs – that they are far stronger, more aggressive, more unpredictable – than regular dogs. Selective reporting and misreporting of dog attacks claimed to involve Pit Bulls reinforce the myths.

The Australian newspaper depicts the 'Pit Bull' using the most terrifying stock image they could find.

The Side We’re Seldom Shown

A search for ‘pit bull’ on YouTube brings up plenty of videos of family pets playing happily with their owners, families and other dogs. These images would weaken the folk devil that’s been created and great efforts are made to make these dogs look mean.

Meet George

The following photos are being given to Victorian Council staff as part of the govt’s ‘Approved Standard‘ to help them identify whether your dog has some “Pit Bull” in it. We don’t know anything about this dog so we’ll call him George.

George was chosen by the Victorian Govt to feature in their 'approved standard' for identifying American Pit Bull Terriers.

It’s most likely George was killed after the taking of this photo. Given he was chosen as an example of an ‘American Pit Bull Terrier” it’s quite likely that his only offence was his appearance.

Dressing Up Dogs on Death Row

If you look carefully you’l see a big black studded collar was placed over his head after his slip lead was put on. It looks like a purely cosmetic addition to make him look mean. Who would do such a thing? (Our only clues are bricks and maple leaves.)

Photo from Victorian Govt's "Breed Standard" for "Pit Bulls"

Graeme Smith Can’t Stop Talking About Pit Bulls

The Lost Dogs Home’s CEO campaigns tirelessly against what he calls ‘Pit Bull Terrier Types’. They impound seized ‘Pit Bulls’. Could they be responsible for the pictures above? (bricks?)

Graeme Smith calls for dog owners to surrender.

Want Extra Collars With That?

In this piece we’re shown several ‘Pit Bulls’ in pens at The Lost Dogs Home with one collar on and then a dog being paraded with no less than three collars, including a studded one. Why do they dress them up like Mr T?

Lost Dogs Home parade 'Pit Bull' with 3 collars on

“They Dressed Me Up Like This”

Once an industry of dog seizers and killers have been assembled, so in Nils Christie’s terms, an industry is formed which has a vested in creating the preconditions for its own employment.

Then they came for the dogs” Professor Simon Hallsworth, Director of the Centre for Social and Evaluation Research at London Metropolitan University

This dog looks more like a Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Councils Misled on Restricted Breed Dog Rules

On September 18, 2011, in bsl, lost dogs home, Victoria, by Mike Bailey

Victorian Councils Preparing for Search and Destroy Mission

With just under two weeks till the opening of  ‘dog season’ in Victoria, Councils are preparing to start knocking on doors and seizing family pets.

The State Government is encouraging the public to dob in their neighbours pets via a dedicated ‘Dob in a Dangerous Dog’ hotline.

Q. My neighbour has a pit bull terrier that does not appear to be
registered or kept according to the law. What can I do?

A. Call the Local Council or the Government hotline (1300 101 080). An
Authorised Officer will inspect the premises and review the breed of the dog.
If it is of a restricted breed then an official declaration process and
restriction of the dog will be initiated.

Restricted Breed Dogs FAQ - Bureau of Animal Welfare - Department of Primary Industries, Victoria

DPI Advice to Councils is Incorrect

Council staff are not qualified to identify the breed components of dogs from unknown parentage. The identification “standard” issued by the State Government comes without explanation of how it is to be used. It will lead to mistakes and declarations of dogs who do not have any Pit Bull in them because there is no scientific basis behind it. New laws grant Councils power to kill dogs based on their appearance under certain (but not all) circumstances.

The DPI’s own website states:

Current owners may keep their restricted breed dogs as long as the dogs were:

  1. in Victoria prior to 1 September 2010, AND
  2. registered (as any breed) with the local council prior to 30 September 2011.

The DPI have provided advice to Councils on the process for declaring a Restricted Breed Dog. It wrongly gives the impression that unless the owner makes an application to VCAT to appeal the declaration their dog will be killed. As we saw above, that is not always the case. Owners who meet the conditions can accept the declaration and may be allowed to keep their dog subject to restrictions.

Restricted Breed Process Flow Chart distributed to Councils by Victorian DPI

We’re talking about the seizure and destruction of family pets. Dog owners will have their lives turned upside down by what’s about to occur. It’s crucial that Council staff and dog owners are given clear and accurate information.


Checklist for Dog Snatchers

On September 3, 2011, in bsl, Victoria, by Mike Bailey
"There is no scientific methodology or process for determining the
genetic history of a dog from its physical appearance."
Linda Watson, Researcher
"If it looks like a Pit Bull, it's a Pit Bull"
Graeme Smith, CEO at Lost Dogs Home

Owners Fear Their Dogs Will Be Wrongly Identified

An increasing number of Victorians are currently terrified that their family pets will be seized and killed by Council Officers. The Victorian Government wants to rid the state of ‘Pit Bulls’ and has enacted new laws to enable a cull. These laws enable Council officers to seize and kill dogs they believe look like American Pit Bull Terriers.

Breed Standards Not Valid For Identifying Breed

Key to this process is the release by the Minister of the ‘Standard For Restricted Breed Dogs in Victoria’. As we will see below, this is basically a rearrangement and rewording of the official breed standards for the breeds in question. The problem is, breed standards are intended for dog show judges to use when comparing dogs of a known pedigree.

Use of a breed standard as a basis for determining the breed of a dog, where that
breed is not known as a matter of fact and  is a question in dispute, is an entirely
misconceived use for the document, and is not a process which is capable of
producing any objectively valid determination as to whether a dog is of one particular
breed or not.

That Won’t Stop This Government

The Minister has released an identification standard (download here) created by three individuals who we believe wish to remain anonymous. The work they have produced has not been scientifically validated. No evidence has been provided to allay fears that it will produce false positives. Given its intention is to decide the fates of family pets this is unacceptable.

Thinly Veiled Copy of UKC Breed Standard

Did you ever do a school project by copying text from a single book and simply rearranging sentences and making cosmetic changes to avoid accusations of plagiarism?  The authors of our ‘approved standard’ appear to have done just this. The section on American Pit Bull Terriers reads like a thinly veiled reworking of the United Kennel Club’s breed standard for APBT’s.


Slightly shorter in length to the skull (i.e. 2:3 ratio for muzzle:skull). It is broad, deep and powerful with a slight taper to the nose and falls away slightly under the eyes (refer figure 4).

UKC: The muzzle is broad and deep with a very slight taper from the stop to the nose, and a slight falling away under the eyes. The length of muzzle is shorter than the length of skull, with a ratio of approximately 2:3.


Large, fairly flat, broad and deep, slightly tapering towards the stop. There is a deep median furrow reducing in depth from stop to occiput. Cheek muscles are prominent but free of wrinkles. When the dog is alerted wrinkles will form on the forehead.
UKC: The skull is large, flat or slightly rounded, deep, and broad between the ears. Viewed from the top, the skull tapers just slightly toward the stop. There is a deep median furrow that diminishes in depth from the stop to the occiput. Cheek muscles are prominent but free of wrinkles. When the dog is concentrating, wrinkles form on the forehead, which give the APBT his unique expression.


Large with wide open nostrils and may be of any colour.

UKC: The nose is large with wide, open nostrils. The nose may be any color.


Medium in size, round in shape and set low in the head – not prominent. Eyes can be all colours except blue. The eye rims are the same colour as the skin colour.

UKC: Eyes are medium size, round to almond-shaped, and set well apart and low on the skull. All colors are equally acceptable except blue, which is a serious fault. Haw should not be visible.


Moderate length and with great strength, tapering from the head into the shoulders. A slight arch over the crest. The neck must be free from loose skin or dewlap (loose, pendulous skin under the throat).

The neck is of moderate length and muscular. There is a slight arch at the crest. The neck widens gradually from where it joins the skull to where it blends into well laid-back shoulders. The skin on the neck is tight and without dewlap.

Mocking A Dog Before Killing It?

The breed standard contains photographs of a number of dogs. We’re seeking more information about these dogs but think there’s a reasonable chance they were taken at a Victorian pound and that these dogs were subsequently killed.

Second ‘Tough Dog’ collar appears to have been dropped over slip lead. Why?

Both collars look super loose and the second “tough dog” collar was obviously dropped over the top of the slip lead. To make him look vicious? Was this his crown of thorns?

Are These Verified American Pit Bull Terriers?

Are they certified American Pit Bull Terriers or are they simply dogs someone thought looked like Pit Bulls? How was the breed of these dogs established? This document will be given to people with no training or qualification in breed identification. Surely it does not include images of dogs from unknown parentage?

This dog looks more like a Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Who Actually Wrote The Standard?

People do some things under the clover of anonymity that they would never dream of if they had to sign their work. It’s our understanding that the authors were assured their involvement would remain a secret.

Hon. P. R. HALL (Minister for Higher Education
and Skills) — In respect of consultation with other
groups, I can advise Mr Barber that the persons
involved in the consultation on the development of the
standard — I do not know the actual names of the
people — included an all-breeds judge, a veterinarian
and an authorised officer of council. They represented
their groups on the development of the standard.

We Believe The Writing Group Consisted Of These People

We would welcome a response from the writers and would be happy to publish anything they send through.

Patricia Stewart, AVA Victorian Branch

Glenda Cook, All Breeds Judge and Corgi Breeder

An Authorised Officer


How MCC Can Reduce Their Kill Rate

On September 3, 2011, in adoption, lost dogs home, by Mike Bailey

The Community Expects Better For Our Pets

Update: Melbourne City Council has dumped the Lost Dogs Home in favour of RSPCA Burwood. Community concerns over LDH’s high kill rate does make a difference.

Melbourne City Council is asking for public feedback on it’s Domestic Animal Management Plan. Part of the requirement under the Act is for them to address how they will reduce high rates of euthanasia for pets.

Submissions can be sent to

here’s our submission… feel free to borrow from it!

5.2 Impounding of dogs and cats

Melbourne City Council has a live release rate of 50% for impounded animals. For every animal that goes home, either to their family or to a loving new one, one dies by lethal injection.

Industry best practice is a greater than 90% live release rate for animals entering a pound facility. The reason it’s not 100% is that animals with life threatening illness or injury that cannot be treated should be euthanased. Unfortunately there will also be some dogs who are too aggressive to be rehomed.

The three areas of improvement to reduce Melbourne City Council’s high rates of pound killing are pet retentionreuniting pets with their family and rehoming unclaimed pets.

Pet Retention

Council should be focusing on keeping animals out of the pound in the first place.
Council should discourage people from trapping and impounding cats that do not belong to them. Cat’s are not generally confined by fences and like to explore. Unless a cat is seriously sick or injured it should not be removed from it’s environment. There are very few lost cats.
When owners register their pets they should be provided with a free pet id tag with their phone number on it. Then if a neighbour finds their pet they can phone them and return it directly rather than call the Council to impound the animal.
When a Ranger picks up a pet they should have a microchip scanner in their vehicle. If the animal has a microchip they can either phone the registry to get the owners details or else use a smart phone with web browser to do so. They should aim to deliver the pet safely home to it’s family, avoiding stress for the animal and cost for the Council.

Reuniting Pets with their Family

If an animal is impounded, everything possible should be done to help the owners find their pet. A photo of each impounded animal should be uploaded to the Council website within 24 hours of impounding. For the distressed owners, this makes the process of searching for their pet daily so much easier as the web is open 24×7. It also avoids problems where people phone The Lost Dogs Home and are told their dog is not there because of misrecording of breed.

Rehoming Unclaimed Pets

In 2010, Melbourne City Council
  • killed 27 of the 40 impounded dogs not reclaimed by owners (67% killed)
  • killed 161 of the 180 impounded cats not reclaimed owners (89% killed)
The Lost Dogs’ Home has some of the highest kill rates in Melbourne. In 2010 their North Melbourne pound killed 13,594 cats and dogs and reported a $2.7 mil profit. Unfortunately The Lost Dogs’ Home vigorously defends its high kill rate.
Some options available to Council include:
  • making unclaimed cats and dogs available to other shelters willing to take them (e.g. Lort Smith)
  • requiring random spot checks to review medical and temperament assessments of animals selected to be killed

Victoria Mandates Family Pet Cull

On August 31, 2011, in bsl, lost dogs home, Victoria, by Mike Bailey

The primary means of breed identification for non-pedigreed dogs and mixed-breed dogs is a visual glance and a guess. The dog may be compared with the breed standard for a breed; again, this is based on visual assessment. It is entirely subjective.

Domestic Animals Amendment (Restricted Breeds) Bill 2011 Passed

I’ve just returned home from Victorian Parliament where a new Bill has been rushed through both Houses without being included in the Notice papers.

The Domestic Animals Amendment (Restricted Breeds) Bill empowers the Minister to approve “standards” by which an Authorised Officer can declare your dog a Restricted Breed Dog.

One year ago tomorrow the Domestic Animals Act was updated to enable “a standard prescribed by regulations” to be used. What’s changed now is that the definition of what constitutes a ‘Pit Bull Terrier’ is at the whim of the Executive with no ability for the Parliament to reject changes.

As Greens Minister Greg Barber put it, the Minister could draw a stick figure of a dog, approve it and therefore enable rangers to seize and kill and dog that fits that description that was not in Victoria prior to 1 Sep 2010.

The opposition, while not opposing the Bill, pointed out that the Governor in Council could have provided an exemption from the requirement to produce a regulatory impact statement. This could have epedited the process without removing Parliamentary oversight.

“an approved standard”

The Minister was asked how we could trust that such a ‘standard’ would not result in innocent dogs being wrongly identified as ‘pit bull crosses’. If the standard is too broad it would end up including dogs with no ‘pit bull’ in them that share similar physical characteristics. This would have serious consequences given Councils would be required to kill many of these dogs.

Parliament was told that the approved standard would be reliable because it was created by a working group that consisted of:

* one ‘all breeds’ judge
* one Authorised Officer
* one Australian Veterinary Association Official

The Minister went on to say that,

“Following the 2010 legislative amendment the working party consisted of a veterinarian who previously participated in the then minister’s restricted dog breed panel and was on the executive of the Australian Veterinary Association.”

spoken by Hon. P. R. HALL - Hansard

He seemed very proud to be able to claim that not only was there a dog catcher and someone out of ‘best in show’, they had someone with relevant qualifications.

What’s Motivating This Vet?

The Australian Veterinary Association (along with RSPCA Vic) opposes Breed Discrimination. Why would an AVA Official assist in creating this ‘standard’? Is it the same AVA Official who presided over the Restricted Breed Review Panel that led to Ouzie being killed by Manningham Council? How can the AVA allow this?

Patricia Stewart presided over the Review Panel that led to Ouzie being killed.