Status dogs and how they are inextricably linked with gangs in London-Mark Randell.


Former police detective Mark Randell has dedicated his life to fighting animal abuse across the world. Today he writes in the Havering Daily about the image of a status dog and how they are linked with London gangs.

During the early days that I started to investigate dog fighting around the world, there were two books that I leaned on; Dr Simon Harding’s “Unleashed” and Justin Rollins’ “Status Dogs and Gangs”. Dr Harding helped with my campaign in 2015 against this horrifically cruel ‘sport’ and stated, “People I talked to kept telling me that lack of respect increases the risk of violence and to avoid this violence they need to build street capital which they then must maintain. Having an aggressive dog enhances their status by association and being in control of a status dog indicates you are in control of unleashing potential violence. Dogs can also be used to control public space and to resolve disputes for respect as a form of ‘street-jousting’.”

Justin, who was once a teenage gang leader himself, examined why people want so-called “status” dogs and how they are inextricably linked with gangs in London.

So, what is ‘Status’? Is it about respect, admiration or importance given to a person or organisation? Do people own houses or cars to increase their status and in a similar way, are many dogs owned to add some kind of status to how a person wants to be seen? Why are there more Labradors in the countryside? What is behind the growth of cross-bred dogs such as ‘Chorkies’ or “Chugs”? 

Traditionally though the term ‘status’ has been linked, at least in the UK, to ‘dangerous’ dogs or dogs of breeds that some associate with potentially aggressive traits in their character. Sadly, attaching the label of ‘status’ and ‘dangerous’ to a particular breed makes them more attractive to the wrong owner and the circle is complete, often resulting in a dog being seized and destroyed because of the way it looks and the media image created around it. For those around in the 1970s this was attached to German Shepherds, then to Dobermans, Rottweilers and now muscly cross-bred dogs with square heads. 

For anyone who has studied the relationship between dog breed and dog bites, there are far more reliable predictors than breed type. For example, abused dogs are more likely to bite, and understandably so. But as long as a bad owner thinks a tough dog adds ‘status’ and this stereotype is expanded by the media then there will be victims, dogs abandoned and euthanised, all unnecessarily. 

Working in Ukraine and Greece I see so many dogs with ‘cropped ears’ a practice banned in the UK but sadly still happening and incredibly with home ‘cropping’ kits available through some online outfits. Here, dogs with cropped ears carry high price tags. Also, on social media high profile sports stars and other celebrities pose with pictures of dogs with this disfiguration. I am told that the on trend breed right now are Cane Corsos, Italian Mastiff dogs that can grow to 50 kilos, but many of the dogs mentioned above can be cropped. Some friends of mine are running a campaign (#FlopNotCrop) now to tackle this often-forgottenabuse but the celebrities can play a huge part bynot encouraging it in the first place. 

Perhaps there will be a time when rescue dogs are the new ‘status’ dogs, cool to own a dog that would otherwise have no home or be put to sleep. To me, that’s REAL status. 

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