TALLACK Interview : Nando Brown Radio Show, Short Version

The Nando Brown Radio Show, broadcast 14 July 2012 [ link ]

[ 0:25:10 ]

Nando:

Good morning Peter, how are you doing?

Peter Tallack:

Good morning Nando, very well thank you and I hope the weather is better where you are than what it is here.

 Nando:

I can almost guarantee you it’s better than it is where you are. It’s beautiful sunshine outside. Thank you very much for taking the time to join us on the show this morning. I’ve got to say you are a very brave man because a lot of people are not happy with the whole Lennox case in general.

Now before we start I have said that you know you guys are getting a seriously rough ride. You’ve had death threats, you had everything from death threats to offers of sex, just to get Lennox off of the case is that true?

Peter Tallack:

Yeah absolutely, and can I just say thank you for giving me the opportunity. This is the very first time that I have spoken publicly about the case.

And as you know, you are aware of everything that’s gone on on the Internet, but on this side, on the, certainly the Council have really had their hands tied.

And I would never give, I knew the appeal was going to go on and on and on and therefore, it was bad enough as it is with the Internet bits and pieces, but actually had I said anything, would have just created another monster and it would have given more grounds for appeal and everything else.

So we waited and we sat and luckily I answered the phone to you as I said to you the other day the first time after we know the case is completely completed, and I hope people will give me a fair chance to to put one or two truths back into this rather unsavoury mess, and I gotta say that to those that are listening, please do not believe everything you have seen or read on the Internet.

Donna:

Hi Peter, it’s Donna from the Dog House here, how are you?

Peter Tallack:

Hello, I’m well thank you.

Donna:

Good good, and you are absolutely right, we are here today to try and get the truth. This isn’t you know a slanging contest or anything else, so guys listening, you know that’s not what it’s about please. So my first question for you Peter is why, in the first place, why did BCC choose you, you know to do an assessment?

Peter Tallack:

That’s a very good question and this is critical. I have I mean I have done work for Befast City Council prior but I happened to be in Northern Ireland, I was in Newry, defending a dog believe it or not to which we were successful and a dog was acquitted, so I happened to be in Northern Ireland when I got the phone call asking for my availability to come and examine Lennox… (-incoherent speech-)

Donna:

So right place, right time, ok, because many people are asking about your qualifications Peter versus somebody such as Sarah Fisher. It appears to the public that there aren’t any specific behavioural qualifications there.

Peter Tallack:

Let’s… thank you again for giving me the opportunity. When Lennox was seized and kept in custody the criminal, and this goes for it’s all sort of the UK Law, it does vary now between Scotland and Northern Ireland, but the basic principle of breaking the law is having ownership or possession of a pit bull type. Now I didn’t write the law but the stated case is how you determine type, and don’t forget the law’s now in the UK for twenty one years and by the stated case it’s decided if a dog is a pit bull type whether it looks like a pit bull and that’s a substantial number of the characteristics, and we use a guide again which is written in law under the stated case that we use an American Dog breeders’ Association original guide of seventy seven, and that’s ninety per cent looks and ten per cent behaviour, and and can I just say …

Donna:

So would it be fair to say then… go on Peter…

Peter Tallack:

No just, I was just going to say that just a little bit of history. When the law… I remember when Nando opened the programme today he said about BSL and dogs have to be destroyed, that’s not necessarily the case. Between 1991 and 1997 there was no discretion; if anybody had a pit bull in their possession convicted the dog had to be destroyed and all of us that worked in there had to work it, we were on handcuffs we didn’t agree with it…

Nando:

Peter stop, I’m really sorry, we are going to have to interrupt you there. We are going to have to go to a break. I know exactly where you are going with that and we are going to come straight back with that with that talk in just a moment.

[ 0:30:03 ]

Nando:

Now Peter just before the break we were talking about Lennox and we were talking about the law. In 1991 the Dangerous Dogs Act was passed is that right?

Peter Tallack:

Yes that’s correct…(-incoherent speech-)

Nando:

And that meant that any dog that measured up to that standard had to be destroyed, but in 1997 there was a change in the law where if the dog was suitable and the owner was suitable then the dog could possibly be rehomed, does that sound…

Peter Tallack:

The technical words, if the dog didn’t pose, the dog with the owner didn’t pose a danger to the public it could be registered and that was a huge shift in the law, made a huge difference . It actually made it not only workable but helpful, very helpful. It meant both the police and enforcement agencies had discretion, didn’t have to prosecute, could (-?-) have it registered and even on conviction a magistrate had the power to allow a dog to go home on a Register. Vitally important that that’s stressed and the…

Nando:

Ok thats…

Peter Tallack:

because in the Lennox case…

Nando:

During our chat the other week… sorry go on Peter… during our chat the other week what we said was that Lennox was seized before the law had been changed in Belfast, so actually, are we looking at (-Tallack interrupts-)… sorry go on…

Peter Tallack:

No I was just going to say that there was an anomily in Northern Ireland that they didn’t get that amendment act, they should have got it 2000, 2001 and it was a bureaucratic cock-up. At the time of seizure of Lennox it wasn’t in at the time of completion of the trial and it was retrospective. The court had the power to register if it wanted to.

Donna:

Peter, I’ve just had a question come in – now there’s a lady saying you’re not addressing the issue of your lack of behaviour credentials. Now as I understand it… (-Tallack-incoherent speech-)… as I understand it Peter your job at the time was basically to ensure the measurements of Lennox, and to decide if he was pit bull type. Now I’ve looked at your CV and, as I understand it again, when you became a dog legislation officer you had to study in-depth the pit bull and the relevant breeds, is that right?

Peter Tallack:

Right, yeah, yeah – let’s just change some of the wording on this yes. My my expertise in… just take measurements out of this is to identify whether a dog looks like a pit bull type and falls within the category, which are sometimes used, were introduced by the defence many years ago, so let’s take measurements out of this. Is this dog a pit bull type. Ten per cent of the category (-?-) and therefore I can and have previously given evidence in court on pit bull behaviour because of my experience and I know everybody has dismissed it on the Internet, but this is 25 hands-on years with pit bulls and a number of dog attacks and fatalities, and everyone seems to have forgotten that, that I’ve investigated (-?-) and on top of that I’ve been a dog handler and a dog lover and I’m in the middle (-?-). But at the end of the day somebody has to make decisions, I like dogs. These people are, sorry…

Donna:

But Peter, with regards to your qualifications, we have to ask you know? You have studied the pit bull, I understand what you’re saying, but have you actually studied behaviour?

Peter Tallack:

Yes what I’m saying is… this is where it gets really muddy. Lennox, when it went to court and the Barnes family were brought before the court their defence is whether this dog is a pit bull type ok. Now my examination is on type, but of course I comment on how the dog is at the time of the examination. It was not a behaviour test which I was (-?-) for and was in the public domain. Of course I’m entitled to comment.

Now bear in mind also that 95, 96 percent of all examinations that I do of pit bull types, they are happy, friendly dogs with this terrible reputation, terrible myth that they are man killers. They are not. They are generally very very human-friendly dogs. But on my examination of Lennox, and let’s also just categorically say now, there’s been so many myths, there has never been any challenge at all from any defence expert or the Barnes family that Lennox is not a pit bull. If this case was to be defended it should have been defended on the grounds that Lennox was a bull breed cross, and the only time that’s ever been said is on the Internet, not in court. The Barnes family had…

Nando:

Why do you think that is Peter?

Peter Tallack:

Because they know it’s a pit bull, they knew it from day one it was a pit bull. And I also, can I just rectify something that Sarah Fisher said? The defence had three experts examine the dog, three. The first expert was a qualified veterinary surgeon and a barrister, never been mentioned anywhere, and we know that that examination was not favourable to the defence but they are entitled… If the prosecution examined we have to disclose everything, if the defence they don’t have to, so the first expert, no mention whatsoeverAbsolutely in and out ten minutes gone, conceded it was a pitbull, couldn’t even get in the compound to him.

The second expert David Ryan, he is a qualified behaviourist and he gave extensive evidence at the magistrate’s hearing at the actual conviction. But again the defence didn’t like his evidence, so by the time it got to an appeal they brought in another expert, being Sarah. So again don’t get me wrong, none of this is wrong but it’s interesting that it seems to be forgotten. Now the contribution… sorry…

Donna:

And Peter, based on…

Peter Tallack:

Sorry just let me finish, the actual defence is of type. Does it look like a pit bull? Well that was conceded at a very early stage, so in regards to evidence to temperament, both the dog warden and myself commented on our experience and what we saw, but we don’t have to prove that the dog is dangerous, it is for the defence to prove that its not. Does that make sense, do you understand where we where I…

Donna:

Yes we understand and I’m sure that’s going to come across. Now based on the fact that how the law stood when Lennox was seized and that wasn’t going to change anything, why did the court allow the behaviour assessments to be submitted if they wouldn’t help?

Peter Tallack:

Because at the very first hearing the judge, the magistrate there it it was at the, because they allowed in evidence, well I won’t name the magistrate but he was very well known, a professional magistrate. I must admit from the Belfast City Council side we wondered but then also there had been previous cases in Northern Ireland where magistrates had made orders or delayed it so they could make alternative arrangements.

There was the case of Bruce which was a completely different kettle of fish – Bruce was a pit bull (fell) foul of the law, I was not involved in it at all but temperament was very different and Bruce in fact eventually went off to live in southern Ireland. This is a different kettle of fish and the defence can of course bring in whatever evidence they like if they wish, and that was the route they chose to go, and you know I was on the prosecution side and not the defence that wasn’t the choice. But also I have to say at the time of the prosecution it was well known that the law was being changed and in fact I am quoted, I mean I wrote a paper for DARD saying about the registration and how you have to have that in if you (-?-) the prohibition to make it work.

Nando:

Listen Peter, we got to go to the news, but we were talking obviously about the case and you wanted to bring up the subjects about Sarah Fisher assessment didn’t you. Now at the time, now please do correct me if I’m wrong, but at the time of Sarah Fisher’s assessment the dog was on a drug called Amitriptyline, did I even say that right ?

Peter Tallack:

That’s the one yes yes.

Nando:

Fantastic, least I got that right, Now tell me about Amitriptyline what does it do and why was the dog on it?

Peter Tallack:

Well again I’m just reading it off Google, and it’s basically an anti-depressant, a dog, poor old Lennox suffered from depression and various other things while he was kennelled, he was prescribed that by the veterinary surgeon, it sedates him and it also reduces aggressive and violent behaviour. I’m sorry but you can’t hold a proper behaviour test knowing that the dogs on that medication and you can’t take him off the medication because that wouldn’t be right for the temperament test because that wouldn’t be right, and again it’s a problem but that should be aired and talked about, not just forgotten about.

Nando:

Ok so I’ve got a few questions that have come in – the first is from Leonard Cecil of the Pet Professional Guild, he says ‘Was there ever a DNA test carried out to obtain what breeds were actually involved in this dog?”

Peter Tallack:

No it’s not… because it is not possible to do a DNA test. We have gone through this recently with the last company that are advertising (?), you can’t, there is no DNA test that could tell you exactly the type of dog and everybody talks about that but it doesn’t exist, and it’s a real shame, Could you imagine if that was the case, easy black and white, yes no, sorted. But it is not possible, there isn’t a DNA baseband also the law in pit bull type is not a specific breed of dog so even had a DNA been done it would have been no use and it’s accepted in the courts in the UK that DNA cannot determine type.

Nando:

Ok now we also got Mandy Berry on Facebook, she’s asked a question and she’s saying is it taken into consideration the number of years that the Barnes family had Lennox without incident, and were they looking at whether the dog was a danger to the public?

Peter Tallack:

Yes it is and it’s interesting that Caroline Barnes at the first court case, and much to all of our surprise, conceded that Lennox had been unpredictable – something had happened in his youth, and they have always walked him on a lead, walked him on a muzzle and he didn’t live in the house, he lived in the yard on a chainHe wasn’t a family pet inside and she conceded this in court and she didn’t… we were amazed and she conceded that he didn’t like strangers, she had to be careful with him, and this is evidence that was (introduced) by the defence.

Donna:

And Peter, this isn’t evidence that’s out there in the public is it, because the public perception that you know from the campaign that’s is coming across is that Lennox was a family dog and they have even portrayed him as an unofficial assistance dog for their daughter.

Peter Tallack:

I totally, I absolutely agree and I’m not going to sit here now (-?-). What I would say to people is, look at the campaign, look at Facebook. See how many photographs of the dog there are inside the house on the settee with the family inside. The only photographs I’ve seen have been photoshopped. All of us have got pictures of our loved pets in the house and part of the family. I’m sorry but to sit and watch this for two years knowing what was really happening there and you know I ask people I ask people to look and research that, don’t just believe what I say.

May I say one other thing again, talking to people generally or ask Sarah. Sarah did the the examination she talked about parts of it going on to YouTube, the case is now finished, I ask Sarah, put all of her examination on to YouTube and let people make their own judgement of what went on and how Lennox was, and remind of course that he was under this very powerful drug. The case is finished, this can now go into the public domain now. None of the sort of sneaky bits and one side or the other, let’s, you know let people make their own minds up.

Nando:

Ok, they are very good points, now there is one last thing that I want to ask you. Does this Breed Specific Legislation work?

Peter Tallack:

Well right I will try and answer as quick as I can. In 1991 problems in the UK hadn’t been enforced because we had quarantine in Northern Ireland it might have worked. Now obviously history tells us it doesn’t work and it won’t work now we’ve got no borders in the UK so what with the EU pet passports, no it doesn’t work and and I’d like to say I mean I’m one of the people who say that. I don’t think you can just get rid of it overnight, it would be a very brave Home Secretary that abandoned it, there has to be something in it’s place.

One of the problems with all the outrage that’s gone on with Breed Specific it’s caught the interest of other large party groups. My personal view is that you can’t just get rid of it, you need to replace it. If you brought back dog licensing and dog registration and then categorised it, so that if you wanted a pit bull you wanted a guard dog or whatever , then I think that would be the way forward, but there has to be… (-?-) there was a programme recently just (-?-). Everything in the UK’s regulated except pets. You have to have a… if you buy a TV they chase you up for a licence and here we are with all these dogs and there’s no money in the public services for dog warden and education. Registration, let’s finance the regulation ourselves, let the good people who live there. I’ve seen dogs getting attacked by bull breeds, let’s try and stop that, and it is the people, absolutely the people that will start the interest in these big powerful dogs really.

Nando:

Ok Peter thank you so much for coming on and putting your point across it’s really, I’ve got to say you are a very brave man to come and join us, well done thank you very much and hopefully you know we will talk again in the future and maybe not on such a touchy subject.

Donna:

Yes thanks Peter, you’ve been great.

Peter Tallack:

I think I may get one opportunity your listeners email you with any questions and if it’s in the public domain I will answer them I’m happy to do that. All the people involved in this on our side have nothing to hide I promise.

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