Monday, 3 August 2009

Dangerous dogs raid

A very angry bitch is collared by two of the dog handlers. Note the blood in her mouth - she managed to bite one of the handlers. © Magnus Andersson

A little while back I was on an early morning raid codenamed Operation Navara with the Metropolitan police. Their aim was to remove certain undesirable canines off the streets of London, targeting people using their dog as a weapon.

A large numbers of officers attend the briefing at Kennington Police HQ. © Magnus Andersson

More and more, gang members are substituting the knife and gun for a vicious dog. There are many issues regarding breeds, especially illegal breeds, and so when we set off on an early morning to knock/break down the doors of known gang members, I was a little unsure of what to expect.

A battering ram is used to gain forced entry into one property. © Magnus Andersson

Normally when you go on a police raid you either get a bullet proof vest or a stab vest. On this occasion nothing was offered, we just had to trust the dog handlers which go in before anyone else.

The dog handlers are equipped with kevlar arm protection, metal poles with loops and a fire extinguisher. © Magnus Andersson

Those guys are equipped though: a kevlar re-inforced arm, a metal pole with a loop to collar the dog and most importantly - a fire extinguisher.

A bitch is bungled into a car. © Magnus Andersson

Why on earth would the police need a fire extinguisher, you might ask. Well, a charging dog will apparently be scared and confused by the cloud of foam and also disorientated by the noise, therefore making the dog easy pickings for the dog handlers and their metal pole loops.

One of the confiscated dogs licks his nose through the mesh door. © Magnus Andersson

Operation Navara is nationwide and will go on for a long period of time. I was present at the launch and witnessed four raids. 20 'weapon dogs' were seized in under three hours, which can seem like a lot, but the task is a big one. The sheer amount of dogs handled by gang members is ridiculous, and its gets more complicated when the law implicates the owner, as opposed to the handler of the dog/weapon.

A pup is also confiscated and he actually wet himself on the way out as he was so frightened. © Magnus Andersson

Steps have been put in place to try and combat this, but currently, the 'dangerous dog' is usually 'owned' by an older relative - e.g. Grandma -while it is being full time 'handled' by gang members X, Y and Z, thus making it complicated (and stupid) for the legal system to prosecute Grandma - the legal owner of the dog - for crimes being committed by the handler; the gang member/s.

One address yielded a a haul of six puppies. The trade of illegal dogs can be very lucrative. © Magnus Andersson

The law and the application of laws are two very different things, and gang members are making the most of it.

Police speak through the door to the owner at one of the addresses. © Magnus Andersson

So what happens to the confiscated dogs? The court will decide if the dog is dangerous or not, and occasionally the owner will have their dog returned. If not, it will go to a dogs home to be re-housed and in some rare cases it will be destroyed.

An American pit bull type dog which was confiscated. © Magnus Andersson

The UK law has banned four breeds; Japanese Tosas, Dogo Argentinos, Fila Brasileiros and ‘pit bull terrier’ type breeds. The last option leaves it a bit wide open for the law, but any combination of these is deemed illegal.

The battering ram is left next to the door mat. © Magnus Andersson

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