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Tabloid fever follows two dog attacks

BULL BREEDS were under fire again last week when two of the UK’s downmarket tabloids mis-reported the facts of two separate dog attacks.

In the first incident, a boy of seven allegedly "narrowly escaped death after being mauled by two American Pit Bull Terriers" according to a lurid front page story by the Daily Mirror.

Frankie Knowlden had climbed into a neighbour's garden last Tuesday to retrieve a football when the two dogs attacked him. His father Matthew managed to "prise him from the dogs’ jaws".

Mr Knowlden, 33, of Minster, Kent is quoted as saying: "If he had been there another 30 seconds he would have been killed - they would have torn him apart."

He said: "They had pinned Frankie to the fence. One had its jaw on his arm and the other had his head and was shaking him like a rag doll.

"He was covered in blood and was being ripped apart. He had a 10in gash to his face and puncture marks all over his body."

Frankie was said to be "stable" in hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, after three hours of plastic surgery to his face.

It is believed the dogs had escaped from their steel enclosures in the garden.

Police said they had no powers to remove them because the owner had taken "reasonable" steps in the way they were kept. But Mr Knowlden plans to sue and is angry that they were not destroyed. Neither he nor the Daily Mirror seemed to be aware of the fact that Frankie was trespassing on the neighbour’s property and that the dogs were defending their territory. But this fact, of course, nullifies the impact of a ‘vicious dog attack’ story.

Dave Levy, KC Liaison Officer for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Breed Council commented:
"It is depressing that once again a young child has been badly injured by dogs and that the media's immediate response is to highlight the "breed" involved and ignore the rather more obvious issues surrounding this incident. The police and even the journalists confirm that the dogs’ owner had taken sensible precautions yet the incident occurred and doubtless the owner will be pilloried.

"It would likely have occurred with any breed of dog and really points to the need for people to better understand the guarding instincts of dogs and their pack mentality. The media's immediate reaction to impune the dogs and their owner will once again ignore the real needs to educate people - dog owners and the general public - on how to co-exist safely."

In a separate incident also reported by the Daily Mirror and its rival The Sun, John Smyth, 47, had plastic surgery last week after being attacked by two dogs described as Bullmastiffs in Dunkeld, Perthshire.

Mr Smyth, of Farnborough, Hants, said: "I saw the owners coming towards me. They must have known their dogs were dangerous.

"The big one was pulling on its owner and as soon as it saw me it just went berserk. It came straight at me. It just wouldn't let go of my arm. Then it went for my back."

The second dog joined in but was dragged off by its female owner. The male owner finally managed to release the other dog's grip and it ran off.

Mr Smyth, who had deep cuts in his arm and back, is in hospital in Dundee. Police were said to be "hunting the dogs' owners".