Not a week goes by when one doesn’t read about a dog that attacks and injures, or sometimes even kills, a young child. In Milton Keynes, in February 2023, the family pet killed the owner’s four-year-old daughter. The dog was not a banned breed, and the incident was described by police as an isolated, tragic incident.
The latest Kent incident happened last week when a dog attacked a three-year-old girl who was visiting the owner of the dog with her mother. The mother of the child describes what happened, and Kent Online shows graphic photos of the injuries suffered. Like most attacks on children, they are head injuries. Thankfully, this time they seem superficial wounds, but, beside the physical injury, such dog attacks cause long-lasting trauma to the victim.
In many cases, the police “humanely” destroy dogs that attack humans or other animals. However, in this case, the owners of the dog showed that they were taking precautions to avert any more attacks by muzzling the dog and keeping him on a lead. The dog in question is not a banned breed or one known to be aggressive.
Reading the comments on the article describing the dog attack, I see that many people demand that the dog be put down, whereas others blame the mother and/or the dog owner. I am of the opinion that both the dog owner and the child’s mother are to blame. Something must have triggered the dog’s aggressive behaviour, and I think both the dog owner and the victim’s mother should take a good look at what went wrong. Did they behave responsibly?
Dog owners’ responsibilities
The Gov.uk website says:
“It’s against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control anywhere, such as:
- in a public place
- in a private place, for example a neighbour’s house or garden
- in the owner’s home
The law applies to all dogs.
You can report a dog that’s out of control.
Some types of dogs are banned.”
Your dog being dangerously out of control is defined as if it
- injures someone
- makes someone worried that it might injure them
A court could also decide that your dog is dangerously out of control if either of the following applies:
- it attacks someone’s animal
- the owner of an animal thinks they could be injured if they tried to stop your dog attacking their animal
Increase in dog attacks
According to a BBC report, the police have recorded a 34% increase in dog attacks in the last five years. In comparison to 2018, nearly 3,500 dogs had to be seized in 2022, which is a 36% increase.
“It’s busier than we’ve ever known,” says Paul Jameson, a specialist dog legislation officer for South Yorkshire Police. He says there has been an increase in dog numbers since the time before Covid.
He blames this change on dogs being less socialised due to the lockdown. People were not able to attend training classes to learn to better control their dogs. Due to Covid, people received fewer visitors to their homes. That made dogs more nervous if their home, which they consider their territory, was invaded by visitors.
The British Medical Journal also reports that there has been a large increase in dog attacks in recent years. Incidents that resulted in the death of the victims in England and Wales have increased from 3 per year to 10 in 2022. They report that four of the deaths were children.
“Hospital episode data for England and Wales also reveal an upward trend in the number of attendances for dog related injuries in the past 15 years. There has been an 88% increase in attendances, from 4,699 in 2007 to 8,819 in 2021-22. Growing concern about dog related attacks have prompted media reports across the UK.”
In addition to the trauma suffered by victims of dog attacks, it is reported that in 2017/18 they came at a cost to the NHS of around £70 million.
The pandemic brought with it a surge in dog ownership, but that cannot account for such a huge increase in dog attacks. Looking at how other countries regulate dog ownership, maybe it is time to have a good look at whether the UK needs to review its regulations on dog ownership. This is for the welfare of both the dogs and the human population. Would the return of dog licensing be a solution? It would be interesting to see the figures on dog attacks in Northern Ireland, where they have dog licensing.
My views on dog ownership
My friends, and long-time Kent Bylines readers know that I am an ardent dog lover. When the first of my two dogs died in 2021, I wrote an emotional article about his life.
My second dog died last year, but I now have two dogs again: in November a friend sent me a photo of two older dogs who had lost their owner and needed a new home. They were in Spain, so I made a quick decision and flew there to adopt them. If you are a dog lover and want to see how cute they are, see their page “Daisy and Rosie’s New Life” on Facebook.
But I want to end this article with a very stern warning to dog owners. Your pets might be cute, loving and loyal companions. But dog ownership comes with responsibilities. Dogs cost money and are a lifelong commitment. Whatever their breed or size, they are in need of strict training to control their guarding instincts and anxieties. They can become dangerous if they are spooked and can never be relied upon 100% when encountering small children. It is said that dogs possess similar intelligence levels to three-year-old children. No responsible adult would leave two three-year-olds unsupervised.
I do everything I can to get to know my dogs and keep them safe and to ensure that they do not pose a nuisance or a danger to humans or other animals. I am aware that their behaviour is not always predictable. One must never forget that our pets might be domesticated, but their instincts come from ancestors that were mostly wolves.