Tougher Laws on Dog Attacks – Dangerous Breeds vs Dangerous Owners.

“There’s no such thing as a bad dog, just a bad owner.” said author John Grogan in his bestseller Marley & Me: Love and Life with the World’s Worst Dog. Or, as well-known and highly regarded dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse more accurately put it, “There is no such thing as a difficult dog, only an inexperienced owner.”

Whether you are a dog owner or not, it is difficult to overlook what has already been a soaring debate for many years. With recent changes to sentences for owners of dogs responsible for attacks, the issue is once again at the forefront of the news.

Last Friday, as I was walking down a fairly quiet side street near Oxford Circus, I spotted a group of people sat in front of a building. Nothing unusual, until I noticed the (loose) Pit bull terrier that seemingly accompanied them. Although I’m neither suffering from Cynophobia (the scientific term for the fear of dogs) nor prejudiced against the breed (two of my friends own Pit bull terriers adopted from Battersea Dog &Cat home and the dogs, which are extremely well cared for, are arguably the most gentle ones I have ever met), I will shamelessly say that I hesitated a fair moment before walking past them. It could have been the fact that the dog was unleashed, or the fact that the owners in question were not paying attention to it, or simply a manifestation of the growing fear generated by the rise in dog attack cases in the recent years. Truth be told, I would be surprised if most of you had not experienced a similar situation at some point in their life.

As I was about to walk past them, a couple walking their Doberman – this one on a leash – took the same path, resulting in a short confrontation between the two dogs. Although none of the dogs were actually hurt, it shocked me that, whilst all this was happening, none of the group of people raised a finger to ensure theirs or the couple’s dog was safe. It also dawned on me that if the other dog had not been kept on a leash and quickly walked away by its owners, the outcome may have well been far more gruesome.

In the past year however, we have witnessed more and more instances where either people or pets have paid too high a price as a result. Recent cases (such as that of 14 year-old Jade Anderson from Wigan, who sadly passed away last year after being attacked by four dogs, or the latest example of Meg, an 11-year-old Border Collie mauled by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier near Cheltenham just a week ago) have once more put the issue in the spotlight, both saddening and angering the masses and generating thousands of calls for more drastic changes in the laws regulating ownership and sentences for owners of dangerous breeds.

It seems those calls have now been answered, as shown through recent changes made to the Dangerous Dog Act, with extended prison sentences for owners who allow their dogs to perpetrate attacks. The changes are far from being small ones as well, with owners facing prison sentences of up to 14 years, in comparison to the possible 2 years previously in place.

Those changes have been welcomed by both the local politics and communities, especially when considering how many dogs have sadly been put down as a result of such attacks in the past years (181 dogs for 2013 alone).

Is longer prison sentences the only solution when it comes to dog attacks? Although many people arguably feel that those longer sentences are necessary in terms of preventing re-offending, it could also be argued that prevention all-together might be the way forward.

 

There is no doubt that some owners, not unlike the ones I mentioned above, have little interest for their pet and are guilty of owning a “status dog” for the sake of it, often with dramatic consequences. It is also possible that some breeds of dogs need more regulation than others, if only because of a potential risk due to their nature or ability to cause serious damage to other people or pets. But is banning a whole breed and sending bad owners to prison a definite solution? What about owners who simply are not educated enough (by lack of resources more than lack of interest) about the breeds themselves or how to best take care of them? Should they be classified in the same “bad owners” bracket as the others? What about the rise of unauthorised dangerous breed’s puppy sales and dog fighting clubs? Should there be more focus on preventing those from happening rather than having to take drastic measures when a problem has already occurred?

The question of who is responsible – the dog, the owner or the lack of measures in place by the authorities – and what solutions can be offered to avoid heart-breaking cases, such as the ones we have witnessed recently, to occur again is, without a doubt, going to continue to fuel more debates in the months to come.

What do you think should be done to change the situation? We want to hear your opinion on the subject.

 

 

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6 comments

  1. I was under the impression that under the Dangerous Dogs Act Pit Bull terriers had to be registered, and kept on an lead and muzzled whilst in a public place. Clearly enforcement is totally lacking in this area if such dogs are being openly paraded in busy public places off lead and unmuzzled!

    The fact remains that whilst many pit bull (and staffie) terriers are the softest and sweetest dogs on the planet – as their owners seem to need to constantly remind us – they can cause some very serious injuries if they do attack! Dog attacks are not of course unique to the pit bull. Many breeds including the ‘sweet teddy bear’ looking Kerry Blue terriers that I own need careful management and experienced handling at all times, particularly when around other dogs! Therein, of course lies the root of many of the problems we see.

    Sadly with pit bull and indeed staffie type breeds ‘hard-men’ are using them as a status symbol when in reality anyone who knows anything about dogs and dog training can see that they haven’t a clue aa how to handle any dog, let alone one that needs close supervision! If it wasn’t so serious it would be comical watching their antics – dog decorated with chains and spikes pulling the tough guy in this direction and that, totally out of control – impressive stuff!

    I would advocate a compulsory electronic dog licensing and insurance scheme (similar to the road fund licence) so that a police or local authority enforcement officer can check instantly against a national database. The owner should be subjected to at least an on the spot fine and the dog seized if they are not registered and insured.

    Another area of concern is the unregulated ‘Dog Training’ industry. The rubbish that is being pedalled by some so called dog trainers is just unbelievable! But perhaps that’s a topic for another blog?

    It is high time that our regulators woke up to the fact that we have a big problem with dog ownership in the UK, from puppy farms through to ownership and training. Until the nettle is grasped, the attacks on adults, children and indeed other dogs will continue unabated.

    1. Some really interesting points raised there Michael, thank you very much for sharing. Dog training is indeed a very good subject for a future blog post, we will keep you posted (pun completely intended) on this so watch this space!We would love to hear your thoughts on our other articles too 🙂

  2. I“There’s no such thing as a bad dog, just a bad owner.” said author John Grogan in his bestseller Marley & Me: Love and Life with the World’s Worst Dog.
    It was Barbara Woodhouse who originally said this!!!

    1. Hi Cathy, Thank you for your comment. The quote, as it stands, is indeed from Josh Grogan, but you are right in saying that it is a deformed version of the original quote from Barbara Woodhouse, which was in fact “There is no such thing as a difficult dog, only an inexperienced owner.” We believe it is even more poignant in terms of message, as it does not blame the owners but more highlights a lack of training and knowledge on their side (as a dog trainer would of course highlight). If you check the article now, you will see we have also added Barbara Woodhouse quote to the post, thank you for helping us ensuring the right people are quoted accordingly! 🙂

  3. I truly agreed with your point of views that there must be a law to hold over pet owner. So they must take care of their dogs. Pitt bull is one of dangerous dog breed and owner of this dog breed need to take care much of this dog.

  4. I really think they should start doing something about dog ownership, training and also dog on dog attacks. We rescued an older dog from a friend’s uncle. Due to a serious heart condition we cannot get him neutered (we have tried chemical castration but didn’t really work). In the few years we have had him he’s been attacked by other dogs 5 times. The place where we walk him is a open field that children always play on. Due to other dogs and their owners we can only let him off the lead when the area is free of other dogs. Needless to say it is not just the ‘dangerous’ breeds of dogs that have attacked him and a couple of occasions it has been some of the smaller terrier breeds. Needless to say the other owners are complacent often not paying attention to their dogs or slowly walking across the field and limply attempting to call their dog back. Meanwhile we are trying to get ours out of harms way as quickly as possible. I’ve tried reporting the attacks to our local council and was told quite clearly that there wasn’t a lot they can do as the dog didn’t harm a human. I’m tempted to put my arm in the way next time to try and get a stop put to irresponsible dog owners. I’ve taken to telling other owners that ours doesn’t like other dogs to try and stave off yet another attack although that rarely works as I still had a woman let her dogs come up saying “Oh, it’s ok, once he growls at them mine will run away” Apologies for my rant – I shall cut it short and get off my soap box!

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