http://www.guardian.co.uk/Northern_Irel ... 54,00.html
Owen Bowcott, Ireland correspondent
Wednesday November 22, 2006
Combat knives and unwanted firearms are the common currency of police amnesties. Ballymena council, however, is preparing to recover a different sort of illegal weapon: pit bull terriers.
Starting in January, the Northern Ireland authority will hold what is believed to be the UK's first "pit bull amnesty". In return for handing in the dangerous dogs, owners will escape prosecution.
The proposal, backed by Ballymena's environmental services committee this week, follows a spate of pit bull attacks across the province. Police officers have had to shoot enraged dogs dead four times this year. In west Belfast, the police had to put eight bullets into an animal to stop it. On another occasion a bus was abandoned after an unaccompanied pit bull terrorised passengers. In the most recent attack, a family walking near Randalstown, County Antrim, were attacked by a pit bull; the children were saved by their pet labrador, which was savaged to death.
This summer the city of Kansas experimented with a similar amnesty, sparking opposition from some US dog owners. Northern Ireland's dangerous dogs order is slightly different from the law in England: the regulations are enforced by council dog wardens rather than the police and magistrates do not have any discretion to stop a pit bull being put down.
"These are illegal dogs," said Nigel Devine, Ballymena's dog warden. "A lot of people don't know they have them. They think they have a Staffordshire bull terrier.
"The amnesty will allow people to bring them in and we can examine them. If I get just one dog handed in, that's one off the street." Several pit bull breeders are thought to operate near the Irish border. The dogs are not illegal in the republic