HARROW'S dedicated specialist on dangerous dogs led a series of raids today to crackdown on ownership of potentially harmful animals.
PC Simon Underwood has been commandeered by Harrow Police for the next two years to lead efforts to solve the problem of dangerous dogs, and is the only specialist – a Dog Legislation Officer – attached to a London borough's police force.
He was brought to the borough after a man, trying to save his pet dog from a pitbull attack in South Harrow station on New Year's Day, was savagely bitten on the mouth, jaw and cheek.
Chief Superintendent Dal Babu reacted to the attack by getting PC Underwood seconded to Harrow, and tasked him, under the supervision of Sergeant Graham Couling from Belmont Safer Neighbourhood Team, to target residents who keep and breed illegal dogs.
The Harrow Times, which has been campaigning for better awareness of the problem of dangerous dogs, followed police as they raided homes across the borough this afternoon.
PC Underwood, who moved from the Met's Status Dog Unit and before that pioneered Brent Action for Responsible K9s (BARK), said: “It saves time and money for the Met if I can be here and can get straight down to a job, to save someone else having to put the dog into kennels and wait for an expert to assess it.
“The Status Dogs Unit is under enormous pressure to service all the boroughs in London, and Harrow is at an advantage with me being here. I think it's a good idea.”
Following the raids, PC Underwood was able to instantly assess whether a dog is potentially a banned breed, and the process of seizing and examining a dog is vastly sped up.
He said he has been busy since moving to the borough in May, and as well as dealing with all dangerous dog cases, he has been taking action to help badly treated pet – including two dogs who were rescued earlier this month in a condition described by an RSPCA officer as the “worst ever seen in Harrow”.
London has seen a dramatic rise in ownership – and attacks by – dangerous dogs in the last few years, with more than 1,500 already seized this year.
At one of today's raids, in Weald Lane, the female owner of a suspected pitbull was in floods of tears as her pet was taken away by police, and neighbours questioned why the police were taking the action.
Despite the protests that the dog, a 11-month-old called Gazza, was not a dangerous animal, Sgt Couling explained: “We are very mindful that people are sensitive and some can get very upset.
“But if you do have what turns out to be a pitbull terrier, you have to be aware of that fact, the potential risks, and how to contain them.”
He added that dogs are not necessarily destroyed when seized by police, and a lot are registered, neutered, and chipped so they can continue to safely live with their owners.