Belfast Telegraph

Dogs trained to fight in city parks

By Jonathan McCambridge
11 February 2005

Parents were today given a sinister warning that fighting dogs are being trained in children's playgrounds in east Belfast.

A Belfast City Council sub-committee has confirmed that it is taking seriously the threat to children and that dogs had destroyed equipment at least three separate parks in the area.

There are known to be a number of dog-fighting rings in Northern Ireland where animals, such as pit bull terriers, are taught to attack each other.

A number of concerned parents complained to the council after they saw dogs being forced to attack park swing seats - believed to be a training method for fighting dogs.

A vandalism report given to the council's parks and amenities sub-committee showed there had been six such incidents discovered.

Council officials carried out £1,300 of repairs in Clara Park, Avoniel Playground and the Ravenhill Road playground in Ormeau Park recently.

Alliance councillor Naomi Long said she was concerned that children could be attacked by the dogs.

She said: "Park facilities are often vandalised, but I have received a number of reports that people with vicious looking dogs are encouraging their animals to attack the seats on swings.

"Witnesses suspect there is a sinister motive in that the dogs are being trained to be more aggressive by fighting with the seats.

"What happens if a dog escapes and there is a child on the swings? If the dogs have taught to attack the swinging seats, there is a chance that a child could be in real danger.

"I raised this issue at the council's park and amenities sub-committee meeting, and would like the public, park rangers, dog wardens and police to be aware of the situation.

"If reinforced seats can be eaten through, what chance would a child's leg have?"

Margaret Walsh, chairman of the parks and amenities sub-committee said the council took seriously claims that children might be endangered.

She said: "People found abusing park property like this will be prosecuted. We are concerned for the safety of children and have asked our parks rangers and dog wardens to be on the lookout for such incidents."

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