"Concern about the proliferation of illegal breeds in deprived areas, where legal species such as the Staffordshire bull terrier are also seen by young gang members as status symbols, has led the Conservative Party to call for a new Dog Control Act to force owners to take responsibility for their pets."
I've two dogs of my own. A very old Yorkshire terrier (pictured) and a young puppy. Last weekend, even on the beach at St Mildred's Bay, I felt intimidated and considered it wise to turn the dogs around, because one young man had two boisterous 'pit bulls' running off the lead and were dominating the entire beach. A second and much older individual exercises his two dogs on the tennis courts and increasingly, I find that I have to keep a good look-out when I'm walking, to avoid being 'bounced' by dogs of all types roaming off the lead away from their owners.
On those occasions when I felt compelled to pass polite comment, "Would you please control your dog sir", the normal response from the owners of the more aggressive breeds is predictably unhelpful, hostile and even threatening. Women owners invariably insist: "He's only playing" as an excitable 'Rover' paws at my trousers trying to reach the trembling puppy I'm protecting in my arms.
Playing or not, the sight of two Staffordshire Bull Terriers (one local owner has three), charging across the beach in your direction and focused on the two small dogs in your care is likely to give cause for alarm.
The explosion in popularity of these so-called "weapon dogs", which are brutalised and trained by their owners to make them more vicious, has led animal welfare groups and politicans to call for urgent measures, including new laws, to tackle a phenomenon that threatens to overwhelm animal refuges.
A walk through the streets of Margate on any day leaves me to wonder whether the Dangerous Dogs Act was something that happened in another country. Out of work young men in 'hoodies' hanging around with the obligatory Staffordshire cross-breed, sitting on the benches outside the library or the wall outside the Jobcentre.
In today's Independent, the paper reports that the situation in some London boroughs is already "out of hand." The Deputy Mayor of London, Kit Malthouse, said consideration should also be given to banning all bull breeds which were inherently more aggressive than other dogs and were "canine weapons that terrorise the streets of Peckham, Toxteth and Moss Side" and Claire Robinson, a spokesman for the RSPCA, said: "The breed-specific issue is a red herring. What we need is a fundamental overhaul of legislation to tackle the problem of irresponsible ownership. "We need to be looking at measures such as tenancy agreements which can be used to ensure council properties are not used for indiscriminate breeding."
I wonder how many other people across Thanet have noticed the almost remarkable expansion of more aggressive breeds in the company of younger owners. What we can do about it other than express worry, I don't know but it's time that Government; any Government took decisive action to reverse the unhappy social consequences of removing the dog license in the first place.