It’s been almost three full years since Bruce, an American Staffordshire terrier, was seized under the United Kingdom’s 1991 draconian Dangerous Dog Act (DDA.) Before being removed from his home, Bruce was a happy pup who shared his life with a woman named Shannon and a yellow lab.
Much criticism has been rumbling about the infamous DDA Act which gives authority to kill any dog that resembles a pit bull, regardless of whether the dog has committed an act of aggression toward people, animals or even a chew toy for that matter.
Bruce lived in Northern Ireland where the DDA is the law of the land. Early on, a Southern Ireland rescue group specializing in bully breeds — East Galway Animal Rescue (EGAR) — had offered Bruce sanctuary. Not surprisingly, the judicial system moves as slowly in Ireland as it does in the United States. Despite a worldwide outpouring of attention and call to action last year, it wasn’t until now that Bruce was granted his freedom.
On Thursday, July 29, EGAR‘s Sarah Gunther and Daithí O’Hanlon drove to Bangor County Mayo, Northern Ireland. (Roundtrip, the trek was nearly 500 miles!) It is there where Bruce has been held for the past 1,044 days while his appeals dragged slowly through the courts. Gunther reported that when she arrived, Bruce appeared to have been drugged: “Bruce looks so dopey because they filled him up with ACP – he was so doped he could barely walk,” Gunther said.
The Global Effort to Save Bruce
The two, with Bruce in tow, drove back to EGAR in a state of utter euphoria. Here’s why: after almost two years of stall and delay with Bangor courts, a few committed people made a concerted effort to bring Bruce’s plight to the attention of the public — and his story went global.
Caroline Rothwell of Seattle, Wash., who has relatives in Ireland, was determined to save Bruce. She started a campaign to send emails, letters and make phone calls to Bangor authorities calling for them to spare Bruce’s life. Twitter, Facebook, Bebo and other social networking sites were utilized to spread the word. A Care2 petition was started in October, 2007 and has garnered nearly 17,000 signatures.
British songwriter Maria Daines even penned a song for Bruce called “I’m Coming Home”.
A worldwide candlelight vigil was held for Bruce, with Rothwell organizing the New York City event. Supporters turned out in the rain to make Bruce’s message public. And people throughout the world responded.
Even with all the global support for Bruce, it still took the Irish courts another year before finally allowing him to be released to the custody of EGAR Sanctuary. But I’m happy to report he is now safe and living a charmed life at EGAR. In the end, and through all the frustration of governmental bureaucracy, a miracle named Bruce survived. Thanks to everyone who signed the petition, sent emails and made calls on Bruce’s behalf.
Sarah Gunther Describes Bruce’s Condition at Rescue
Aside from being drugged, apparently Northern Ireland felt it necessary to provide six Enforcement Officers to deliver Bruce to Gunther. “I opened their van door and said hello to the poor mite and attached the lead to his collar and he came out very unsteady,” said Gunther in an email to me. “ALL six jumped back and one hid behind my van with a catchpole. I told him there was no need for this contraption and led Bruce across the yard to my van. He clambered into my van and collapsed in the crate.”
To comply with the law, Gunther had to muzzle Bruce while driving through Northern Ireland. She was also given an escort out of Belfast and was forced to sign a document she would not stop in Northern Ireland. “This is ludicrous,” Gunther said. “It felt like I was transporting Hannibal Lecter.”
Indeed… but it certainly explains how the DDA came to be.
Stay tuned to Care2 for more follow-up on Bruce as he adjusts to his new life.
Sources and More Info:
Can social networking save Bruce the pit bull?
URGENT: Bruce the pit bull needs your intervention
Bruce the dog garners worldwide support: Ireland are you listening?
Maria Daines writes ‘I’m Coming Home’ for Bruce
New York speaks pout against BSL and supports ‘Bring Bruce Home’ Campaign
Vigil for Bruce brings Hope – Ireland are you listening?
Candle lighting vigil for Bruce
Photo of Bruce and Sarah Gunther after his release is courtesy of Sarah Gunther, from EGAR.