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Dogs bred to fight, and dogs taught to attack people, are a serious problem in this country. It’s even attracting the attention of legislators. Earlier this year in a debate in the House of Lords, Lord Redesdale said:
This is an animal welfare problem and a growing social problem. Intimidation by dogs is now seen as an anti-social behaviour issue.
Dog fighting is a serious issue in urban areas – a BBC report described how
Young men openly parade their illegal pit bull terriers saying how police cannot tell the difference – while the police with stretched resources can only play a limited role in tackling the problem.
What the Ranger didn’t realise is how this problem is affecting the urban forest. Remarkably, a growing number of casualties in the dog wars appear to be trees. It seems that a common way to train dogs to be aggressive and increase their strength involves setting the dog against trees. Needless to say the trees often come off the worse from such encounters. Last month the London Tree Officers Association published results of a survey of its members. All respondents cited dog damage to trees as a ‘major concern’. Campaigner Meg Howarth, who organised an event in September to highlight the issue – Bark to Bark – agreed. She said: “There is a myth that it is only urban males on estates, but that’s not true. It’s a much more complex problem.” According to LTOA chairman Oliver Stutter, the problem is enormous in his borough of Southwark. “We’ve lost entire estates of mature trees,” he revealed. “Hopefully the survey will lead to more collaborative working and action.”
Â© Russell Miller
This poor tulip tree was photographed in Hackney by local environmentalist Russell Miller. Russell remarks:
It is one of hundreds of trees damaged by Staffs type dogs. The tree will probably die because the dog has almost ring barked the tree. This means the roots can no longer be fed sugars by the leaves so they will die. If you have a Staffs or similar dog please don’t let it destroy trees.
It’s surprising sometimes how the complex and and sometimes conflicting activities that take place in our urban spaces can interact. Everyone knows that dogs have a traditional way of expressing themselves against trees, but this is one unwelcome side-effect of dog abuse that I don’t think anyone anticipated.
More information and references: see the LTOA information page and downloadable literature