Viewpoints: What can be done about dangerous dogs?

 
Staffordshire bull terrier A Staffordshire bull terrier, like the one seen here, is believed to be one of the breeds which attacked Jade Anderson

Following the death of Jade Anderson, the 14-year-old girl who was attacked and killed by four dogs, a range of experts explain what they think should be done about dangerous dogs.

Sean Wensley - senior veterinary surgeon for PDSA

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Sean Wensley

Almost one in three dog owners have been bitten or attacked by a dog”

End Quote Sean Wensley Senior Veterinary Surgeon for PDSA

This very sad case is a shocking reminder that any dog, even family pets, can on occasion display problem behaviour.

Every year we hear of awful stories of dogs attacking other animals and children, sometimes with fatal consequences. This has to stop. It is up to owners to take responsibility by ensuring they provide appropriate early experiences for their young dog, so that their pet grows up to be friendly and outgoing.

Looking at the broader problem of dog behaviour on a national level, the recent PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) report has revealed that almost one in three dog owners have been bitten or attacked by a dog and 51% know someone who has.

A lack of understanding by owners about the importance of basic training and socialisation for young dogs are the underlying causes of most behavioural issues.

In a small number of cases, dogs may have been deliberately trained to be aggressive. But in the majority of situations the problem behaviour is not deliberately intended.

PDSA

  • The People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, or PDSA, is a veterinary charity founded in 1917
  • PDSA provides free veterinary care to the sick and injured pets of people in need and promotes responsible pet ownership

Socialisation is the process of gradually introducing puppies to everyday sights and sounds during their first few weeks of life.

Carefully socialising dogs while young will prevent fears from developing, which can often be a cause of problem behaviour and aggression in later life.

Any owner with a young dog should, without exception, make a commitment to socialising and training their pet using kind and effective methods.

The PAW report found that just 21% of owners with aggressive dogs had trained them in the first six months of life.

Caroline Kisko - Kennel Club secretary

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Caroline Kisko

Breed specific legislation as part of the Dangerous Dogs Act is fatally flawed”

End Quote Caroline Kisko Kennel Club secretary

The Kennel Club is extremely saddened by the tragic death of Jade Anderson and our thoughts and deepest condolences go to her family.

While media coverage typically focuses on speculating about the breed of the dogs involved, we would stress that this is largely irrelevant and that far more important is the way any such dogs are reared, socialised and trained.

Defra recently made a commitment to extend the law to cover incidents which occur on private property - as with the current case. For this, they should be commended.

This change in law cannot come soon enough, whilst also allowing sensible provisions for responsible owners.

Our position will always be that breed-specific legislation as part of the Dangerous Dogs Act is fatally flawed and wastes limited police resources on seizing dogs of a particular breed, rather than focusing on dogs of any breed that are out of control.

The Kennel Club

  • Founded in 1873 it concerns itself with the health and welfare of dogs
  • It specialises in dog breeding and presents Crufts, the annual dog show

Unfortunately, breed specific legislation has the unintended consequence of turning banned breeds into status symbols, so that they are taken on by the wrong people who train them for the purposes of fighting or aggression.

Where government proposals fall down, is in respect of genuinely preventative measures, to break the cycle of aggressive or problem behaviour and educate owners regarding responsible dog ownership.

We feel that Dog Control Notices, as introduced in Scotland and currently under consideration in Wales, would provide preventative action that can reduce the prevalence of more serious offences.

In this respect we are in correspondence with the Home Office to highlight the need for such measures and hope they will take heed of our suggestions in light of the current tragedy.

James Beaufoy - secretary of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club

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The law hits hard at the dogs, it needs to start hitting harder at the owners”

End Quote James Beaufoy Secretary of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club

The government has been very slow to react on the issue of dangerous dogs.

It is trying now, and the advent of compulsory micro chipping for all dogs in England will help identify the whereabouts of dangerous dogs in the future.

However, the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 has become infamous for its inability to deal with the problem.

There is no reason to proscribe certain breeds of dog.

The UK has a large population of dogs and there will always be a risk of dangerous incidents, but the onus should be on the owners.

There are owners that allow their dogs to be out of control, and even refuse to bring them under control.

The Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club

  • Founded in 1935 it is the parent club of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed
  • It aims to promote the breed and foster a community amongst owners

The welfare of people must come first.

If a dog is showing aggression towards people, there must be a severe threat that the owner of that dog can be punished by the law.

At the moment dogs which attack people are killed while the owners escape with a slap on the wrist.

The law hits hard at the dogs. It needs to start hitting harder at the owners.

Dave Joyce - Communication Workers Union health and safety officer

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Dave Joyce

How many more lives must be lost before action is taken?”

End Quote Dave Joyce Communication Workers Union Health and Safety Officer

We want new UK-wide laws which tackle the scourge of dangerous dog attacks and the failings of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.

The government's reaction time is woefully inadequate as we're still waiting for an implementation timetable for Defra's announcement to extend the law to private property.

How many more lives must be lost before action is taken?

Up to 5,000 postal workers and 400 telecom engineers are attacked by dogs each year and 70% of those happen on private property where the law still does not apply in England.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have changed the law and Wales is currently legislating, so it can be done. David Cameron promised me in 2010 he would do it.

Communication Workers Union

  • It is the biggest union for the communications industry in the UK with 204,500 members
  • Its members include Royal Mail workers, who have suffered in the past from attacks by dangerous dogs

Our Bite Back campaign seeks greater responsible dog ownership to reduce dog attacks.

Preventative measures are the big omission from the government's announcement.

We'd like dog control notices which would be a way of intervening before an attack takes place, and harsher sentences for offending dangerous dog owners to act as a deterrent.

Compulsory insurance would be another big help. But government inaction is an insult to victims and their families.

Robin Hargreaves - president-elect of the British Veterinary Association

Start Quote

Robin Hargreaves

We need to tackle irresponsible ownership”

End Quote Robin Hargreaves President Elect of the British Veterinary Association

The tragic death of Jade Anderson is yet another painful reminder that we underestimate the potential danger of any powerful dog at our peril.

The legislation we have in place in England to deal with the problem of dangerous and out of control dogs is woefully inadequate.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was introduced in reaction to similar terrible incidents but, because it was such a kneejerk piece of legislation, it was seriously flawed and has failed to protect the public.

The government has recently announced that it will introduce new legislation to tweak the Dangerous Dogs Act but that is not enough.

Yes, the law should be extended to cover private property, and yes, we need to allow the police discretion over keeping all banned dogs in kennels pending court proceedings, but we need so much more.

The British Veterinary Association

  • It is the national representative body for the UK veterinary profession
  • It represents and protects the interests of vets in the UK

Top of the list has to be a more preventive approach such as the Dogs Control Notices that are used in Scotland, or a national roll out of the Dog Behaviour Contracts pioneered by Eastleigh Council.

We need to tackle irresponsible ownership and worrying behaviour in dogs long before it results in attack and injury.

Every dog has the capacity to be aggressive and dangerous when it is not properly trained so we need to better educate dog owners and potential dog owners about their responsibilities.

Coleen Lynn - founder and president of dogsbite.org

Every country should help establish a human victim-centred organisation with resources and statistical studies.

Dogsbite.org

  • Based in Austin, Texas the website raises awareness about the potential danger posed by some dogs
  • It advocates changes in legislation and regulation to minimise the risk of dog attacks

This organisation should be independent of influence and funding by dog breeder, veterinarian and animal welfare groups.

We're a US charity dedicated to reducing serious dog attacks. Every week, a person from the UK writes to DogsBite.org asking if a similar organisation exists in their country.

Thus far, we frustratingly write back: "Not to our knowledge."

 

Comments

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1994.

    Tragedy though it is, no reports have investigated exactly what the Jade Anderson was doing to those dogs to make them attack her. This may seem insensitive, but it's irresponsible to call for action until the full facts are established. Staffs are particularly renowned for their friendliness and tolerance of people, so I cannot believe that they turned on her without severe provocation.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1993.

    Heh. Like as if you didn't click on that link.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 1992.

    Surely we just need a bit of common sense here. You can't just hate a dog because its big and a bit scary.
    Dog owners should be held accountable when there are reasonable grounds to believe that an incident could happen, ie 5 large dogs locked in a small house knowing someone may or may not go in. If they had attacked a burglar I'm sure the argument would be different.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1991.

    What about sending out of control kids and their parents to the equivalent of dog obedience classes! Get them under control and their dogs might have a chance.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1990.

    1989.
    Lord_Raiden
    Rather not bother Wayne,' "rock star spec" hot tub' pretty much says it all.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1989.

    "Challenged"...? Hardly old boy.

    Check this link, look at "Charlie" (the Rott I rescued). There's a picture; you can just about see our outdoor "rock star spec" hot tub and a glimpse of the 1-acre garden (paddock not shown).

    The write up was quite nice I thought.

    http://www.rottweilerrescuetrust.co.uk/dynamic/contents.php?filename=rehomed2007_1.htm

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 1988.

    1986.
    Lord_Raiden
    Always off whenever you're challenged I see.
    Back to your dreams Sweetie.
    Oh, and clean up your Poodle's poo on your way around the block.
    Pip pip!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 1987.

    Release the hounds , what what!!!
    what a crass and arrogant bigot ur lord_raiden. presumably u only came on this forum to sneer at the lower orders. you clearly have no interest in the welfare of ordinary british people, Haughtiness doesn't win arguments or did they teach u something different at Eton?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1986.

    @1983
    Oh dear, glass houses old chap.
    Learn to punctuate before criticising the likes of me - however ineffectually. Think what you like and see if I care!

    I'd love to chat, but must dash. I've better things to do with my time.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1985.

    A life threatening attack by a dog once a decade would be unacceptable in a truly civilised society

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1984.

    Not at all. It's simply that people like me understand what can happen when a feckless, workshy chav crams FIVE large dogs into a tiny house like the one you live in; never walks them, never trains them, doesn't feed them - and some poor girl walks in with a meat pie.

    We understand that this is 100% the fault of the owner.

    We understand that banning all big dogs because of this is unjustifiable.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1983.

    1980.
    Lord_Raiden
    Are you still at it? Grief.
    However, try though you may, to appear the country squire, your poor grasp of language is letting you down old chap.
    Off to Peter Christian with you Wayne, time to cover up your roots.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 1982.

    Lord_Raiden: i can assure you the fear that Jade Anderson felt when she was being attacked by those dogs was very real right up the point when they took her life. you clearly are more interested in defending dogs than innocent children. Its disturbing the number of u pro dog perverts who haven't even mentioned her yet.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1981.

    @1979
    "people are being attacked and killed by dangerous dogs on a weekly basis."

    Ill tel u wotz real I dont know where ur read that prob the Daily Mail lololol!!!111!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 1980.

    The dog-haters here, with their irrational fears, hatreds and petty neuroses (living in the lower middle class shoebox-cum-denizens of the outer 'burbs of London), have no concept of the value and necessity of dogs. Here in the country, we NEED our dogs, large and small.

    My stalwart Rott guards with devotion 24-7. You would have him taken from the likes of me, but not while I'm still breathing.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 1979.

    I'll tell u whats real Lord_Raiden (1977): people are being attacked and killed by dangerous dogs on a weekly basis. IT IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE IN A MODERN SOCIETY. People have no intrinsic right to own these animals. we have to do something about it NOW, not over a 20 year period. Also stay on topic, equating dogs with motor vehicles is totally irrelevant.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1978.

    Pedigree breeds were engineered to fulfil specific roles i.e. hunting, shepherding, guarding etc. Breeds deemed to be naturally viscious should be outlawed completely; and the owner of a dog of any type that causes harm to anyone should be held criminally liable; as if the harm were caused by the keeper. No mitigation should be allowed under any circumstances. Try that as a solution.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 1977.

    @1975
    Right, so you want a 100.0% risk-free world, where no one can ever own a dog that's bigger than a Yorkshire Terrier (on pain of the hapless dog's destruction, no doubt). Or ever own a fast car. Or a motorbike. Or ever undertake any activity where there's the slightest risk to others, no matter how small...

    Seriously, this is getting embarrassing. Just listen to yourselves. Get real please.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1976.

    Political correctness gone MAD!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 1975.

    There is a simple argument which no dog owner can deny:
    Some breeds of dog not only rarely attack people, they are also physically
    incapable of causing severe or fatal injuries.
    OUR CLEAR OBJECTIVE IN THIS DEBATE IS TO MINIMISE THE RISK
    FROM DANGEROUS DOGS.
    Dog owners will never be 100% responsible therefore we should restrict the types of dog people are allowed to own & their overall numbers.

 

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