*MCT photo
*MCT photo

Nearly 100 pit bulls have been put down in the last six months as authorities battle to control a growing black market in the banned breed.

In the past seven days animal wardens, backed up by police, have executed seven warrants under the Dogs Act and a further 12 will be acted on shortly.

The Department of Environmental Protection confirmed yesterday that there had been an increase in the number of seizures of unlawfully bred dogs — the majority of which are pit bull type. But a spokesperson added: “During the past six months, there have been 96 pit bull type dogs seized, results of surrender, straying or warrant; all were humanely destroyed.

“The Animal Control section has been constantly enforcing the Dogs Act; there is no ‘increased activity’ on our part. 

However, there is increased publicity brought on by persons who have been caught with illegal dogs.”

The comments follow several high-profile cases in which illegal pit bulls have been seized by the wardens. Just under two weeks ago a pit bull was put down by its owner after it savaged a family pet in St David’s.

Dog wardens told the Bermuda Sun that 90 per cent of the complaints they receive involve pit bull breeds. And they routinely face ‘volatile’ confrontations when acting on information they have received about illegal dogs.

The spokesperson said: “Pit bulls constitute a minority of Bermuda’s dogs and only 10 per cent of registered dogs; yet in 2013, pit bull type dogs have been attributed to 61 per cent (61 of 101 reports) of the public safety complaints reported to the Animal Control Section. 

“These complaints include biting/injury to a person, biting/injury to an animal, chasing/threating behaviour, improper care and assisting the Police.

“The high, disproportionate statistic has been consistent over the last decade or so. The Animal Control Section receives multiple complaints daily — 90 percent of the reports the Animal Control Section respond to arise from pit bull type dogs. 

“The Wardens are faced with irate, upset owners who have obtained illegal dogs on a black market.

“The animals are sometimes part of a family, and enforcement sometimes leads to volatile situations, which raises the issue of safety for all persons present. Police frequently accompany wardens in execution of warrants.”

The Animal Control Section urged owners of illegal breeds to surrender their pets or face court proceedings.

The spokesperson said: “Persons frequently argue that the offences involving pit bull dogs are caused by the owner not the dog.

“We very frequently come across such dogs that have bonded well to humans and are well kept, yet have a propensity to kill other animals when the opportunity arises. We saw such a situation in St. David’s last week.”