Commuting Across the Pond

December 7, 2011  

Breed restrictions keep one family from living together

By Sue Smith

“Truffle.” The sign on her kennel caught my eye when I arrived one evening seven years ago for my dog-walking shift at PAWS in Norwalk, Conn. The closer I came, the more this American Staffordshire Terrier wiggled. I was hooked!

Still, it took three months for us to adopt her. Being a new volunteer at the shelter, I had no experience with “pit bulls” and I wanted to make sure I really got to know her. I brought her home a number of times first. My husband, Steve, and I learned that she was loving, intelligent and the best ball player we’d ever seen!

Two years later, Steve was offered a position in London. Learning that the U.K. had changed their quarantine policy for dogs, we began making plans for the move. The new system allowed dogs to serve “home quarantine,” which involved simply a new rabies shot, microchipping and periodic blood testing for six months. The dog would then be free to enter the U.K. and go directly to its new residence.

When I realized that trying to fight the bureaucracy was futile, I devised a plan to keep both my dog and my husband.

We complied with all of the requirements. Two months before our departure, I was browsing the immigration website and noticed a section entitled “Prohibited Animals.” Out of curiosity, I clicked on it — and to my shock found that American Pit Bull Terriers were on the list of banned dog breeds. I made many frantic calls to the British Consulate in New York and to Immigration at London Heathrow and learned that Immigration has the right to “seize and destroy” any banned dog trying to enter. There is no temperament testing, and the judgment goes strictly on body type.

Steve was already working in London, and we had rented a house. When I realized that trying to fight the bureaucracy was futile, I devised a plan to keep both my dog and my husband. I decided that a two-week trip to London every six to eight weeks could work; Steve would also be attending meetings in New York periodically. As for Truffle’s care while I was away, the best option at that time was the kennel at her vet’s office. The staff already loved her, and they began keeping her in the reception area during the week when she boarded. The manager even started taking her in the car when making runs to the bank. We now have a yoga instructor with a flexible schedule to house sit as an alternative to the kennel. In both situations, Truffle is very comfortable and does well in my absence.

This is Steve’s fifth and final year in London. We’ve made the best of the circumstances. Although we’d obviously have preferred to be together as a family, things have worked out. I know that so many stories of breed discrimination end more sadly. It is an issue we will speak out against at every opportunity.

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22 Responses to “Commuting Across the Pond”
  1. AnnVanderlaan says:

    Truffle is one very lucky dog.

  2. ralangsam says:

    What a wonderful story of love and devotion! I’m so impressed that you made it work, so that Truffle could be safe- kudos to you and your family for caring enough to put in the extra effort for your lovely four-legged family member! (And so lucky that you read about that “seize and destroy” rule prior to traveling- you averted a possible tragedy. When I travel with my pittie, I always call or go online ahead of time to find out if there are breed bans where I’ll be. Needless to say, I don’t go to those places!)

  3. StubbyDog says:

    @AnnVanderlaan Yes, she is, and I suspect Sue feels lucky too. 🙂

  4. What a fantastic story. Truffle is beautiful, and quite lucky. Who needs to live in rainy ol’ London, anyway? 😉 Though the experience might have been wonderful, I’m glad it worked out as well as it did.

  5. NicoleBruck says:

    What a great story! And to think people dump their animals because they “don’t have time” and this family totally rearranged their lives for Truffle. I lived in the UK for almost 20 years. The police show up at the rescues/shelters and walk up and down the kennels, and simply by looking at the dogs, point out which dogs have to die and the shelter/rescue has to do it, as it is the law. If one dog’s head seems a bit too wide, or the legs a bit too tall, they die. It is as simple as that. Disgraceful from a country that claims to be animal loving. Yet while the police spends millions of pounds every year seizing these dogs and then housing them in kennels, before murdering them, they do absolutely nothing about the criminals, gang-bangers, hoodies, yobs, ASBOs, etc, that fight, abuse and mis-treat these dogs. So these criminals simply go out and get another illegal dog and do it all over again. The UK authorities still don’t get it that it is the people that are the problem. I miss London and would love to live there again, but will not go as long as there is a breed ban. In the meantime, I have my 3 foster pit bulls I am taking care of in Connecticut.

  6. StubbyDog says:

    @annedreshfield Thanks for your comments, Sue just reported that Steve will be in London for 6 more months, but has spent a lot of time in the states recently, ‘Much to Truffle’s delight!’

  7. suesmith says:

    @annedreshfield Thank you, Anne! We had five wonderful years with our previous dog, a black Lab, in Asia; having a pet while living abroad adds a different dimension and does enhance the experience. But you’re right – London IS rainy, and Truffle is not fond of wearing her raincoat!

  8. suesmith says:

    @ralangsam Thank you so much for your kind comments, and good advice re: traveling with a pittie.

  9. suesmith says:

    @StubbyDog @AnnVanderlaan Yes, we do feel lucky – thank you.

  10. skreidle says:

    “Truffle” may well be my second favorite name for a pit bull, after our own “Poundcake”. 😀

  11. StubbyDog says:

    @skreidle haha, Truffle is a fantastic name!

  12. crystalbruner says:

    I am so impressed! There are so few people in the world that would be so committed to their dog. You obviously have gone above and beyond for your dog! It gives me hope to know there are people like Sue in the world.

  13. StubbyDog says:

    @crystalbruner We know what you mean, Sue and Steve are special people. 🙂

  14. suesmith says:

    @skreidle “Poundcake” – how cute, and truly original!

  15. suesmith says:

    @skreidle Thank you for sending the photos – Poundcake is absolutely adorable!

  16. ginacarbone30 says:


    You and Truffle look great. Thank You for giving her a wonderful home.

    Gina Carbone

  17. suesmith says:

    @ginacarbone30 Gina, thank you – great to hear from you! We are so grateful for all you did for Truffle at PAWS.

    All the best,


  18. WONDERFUL story, glad everything worked out for everyone! As you mentioned everyone would prefer to be together but due the unfortnate circumstance your family took a stand and made it work for your family. Kudos!! To answer your question definitely every chance I/we get we don’t speak about it we SHOUT about it!

  19. larshine says:

    Sue, you and your husband are truly amazing. Truffle is so lucky to have you – as lucky as you two are to have her!

  20. ElizabethMK says:

    As a volunteer for a bulldog rescue and adoptive mom of three bullies I applaud your families commitment to Truffle! Not a day goes by that the rescue doesn’t get inquires from families wanting to dump their pets because they are no longer convenient.
    Thank you also for showing people the damage BSL can do to wonderful families! BRAVO all around!