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Dogs in the media spotlight again

As dogs hit the national headlines for all the wrong reasons,
OUR DOGS asks: ‘Where next for Man’s Best Friend?’

What the experts said…

WAS MIGHT be expected, there was a great deal of media interest in the horrific story of the mauling to death of five month-old Caydee-Lee Glaze by two Rottweilers. As might also have been expected, there were calls for Rottweilers to be added to the list of ‘banned’ breeds under the Dangerous Dogs Act, along with calls to toughen up the law.

There were also the inevitable calls for compulsory dog legislation, with Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt giving a political sound bite on this subject at the Labour Party Annual Conference. Mrs Hewitt received an immediate letter from the Kennel Club’s External Affairs Manager Phil Buckley, who was attending the conference, pointing out how compulsory registration would not work, but suggesting alternative ideas.

Expert opinion was very much in demand earlier this week. This is what some of the experts had to say:

Sean O'Meara from K9 Magazine believes the lesson to be learnt from the tragedy is that young children should never be left with a dog, no matter what breed.

Quoted in The Sun he said: ‘It is not time for Rottweilers to be banned in the wake of this sad incident.

‘The damage comes from irresponsible dog ownership. There is too high a price to be paid for dogs to be left in close contact with young children.’

Roger Mugford, the Animal Behaviourist who has assessed and appeared as expert witness for the defence for many dogs caught up in court cases brought under the Dangerous Dogs Act – including one of Princess Anne’s Bull Terriers - was speaking on GMTV last Monday. Mugford pointed out that any dog – big or small – was capable of inflicting injury on a human being if they were not trained properly. ‘We don’t need new laws – Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act is extremely harsh and applies to all dogs,’ he said. ‘What we need is better education of dog owners and people should prove themselves proficient before owning a dog.’

Trevor Cooper, the well-known dog law solicitor who has defended many dogs on charges under the DDA and also the Dogs Act 1871 was interviewed on Radio 5 Live and other radio programmes throughout Monday of last week. He reiterated his comments to OUR DOGS:

‘It’s difficult to see any how any law can legislate against any eventuality, such as this tragic attack. What the authorities must steer clear of is a knee-jerk reaction to enact more laws or target other breeds.

‘We all need to reflect on what is the appropriate response to this tragedy – and I believe that this is better education for dog owners. I’m aware of the calls for compulsory dog registration, but I fail to see how registration should be the be-all and end-all as an answer to the problem of dogs that are not properly controlled.’

Cooper is assisting the Kennel Club and the Metropolitan Police in their ongoing review of the current dog control laws. ‘We will of course take on board recent development in any amendment we suggest to the DDA,’ he added. ‘I’m also looking at the 1871 Dogs Act and how it can be improved, as this Act covers dog attacks and incidents on private property as in the case of Caydee-Lee.’

Cooper ‘threw’ one radio presenter who was taking a fairly aggressive stance with questioning on ‘what could be done about dog attacks’, by responding: ‘Well, the obvious answer is to ban all dogs, isn’t it? But that’s not going to happen, no more than we will have all cars banned for road accidents. Better education has to be the answer.’

Mike Mullen, Dobermann Breeder, Championship Judge and Dog Trainer was speaking on his regular slot on BBC West Midlands Radio.

‘I made the point very strongly that no child under the age of 15 years – even if they were raised with dogs – should be left alone with dogs,’ said Mullen emphatically. ‘Under the skin a dog is still a wild animal and we must recognise this fact in training them and caring for them. We have a responsibility to our children and we also have a responsibility to our dogs covering their training, feeding, caring. You have to be proficient to use shotguns, and to drive cars, so why not when it comes to keeping dogs?

‘I would be very happy for people to be licensed to keep dogs and I believe that every dog should be microchipped and registered. Breeders would, by law, have any puppies they breed microchipped and then when the puppies were sold, the legal responsibility would be transferred to the new owners.

‘I would go further and say you cannot own a dog until you have taken a course at dog training classes with an examination at the end, whereby you either pass as a proficient owner or fail. And then when you actually acquire a dog, by law, you have to go back to the training school and properly train that dog.

‘As for extending the dog laws, we don’t need to do that – the existing dog laws are quite adequate. We have to remember that a dog is blood, bone, muscle, gristle and has 42 teeth. It needs to be trained and taught to be well behaved. If you don’t teach children codes of behaviour and give them boundaries, they become tearaways – the same is true of dogs. The responsibility lies with the owner.’

‘Throw thug dog owners in jail’

THUG DOG owners who train their dogs to attack have been warned they face jail if they let their animals savage people in the street.

The country's top prosecutor said he ‘would not hesitate’ to press for GBH charges against yobs who urge out-of-control dogs to attack and injure innocent bystanders.

Ken McDonald QC, the UK's director of public prosecutions, spoke out during a visit last week to Merseyside to open Wirral's new Crown Prosecution Service office in Birkenhead.

Mr McDonald was responding to a question posed by a reporter from the Liverpool Echo newspaper, which is currently running its ‘Biteback’ campaign against irresponsible dog owners, following a number of attacks by dogs on members of the public and other dogs and reports of organised dog fighting within the city.

The campaign is calling for amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act to toughen up laws against aggravated dog attacks, whilst also making the scope of the already draconian Act far greater.
He assured that the authorities would not tolerate deliberate dog attacks.

Mr McDonald said: ‘Although I'm not aware of a national issue developing, legislation always benefits from a review.

‘If, as the ECHO describes, there have been situations where people have deliberately trained dogs to act dangerously, there are a number of offences they can come under.

‘There's no reason why GBH charges cannot be used if someone trains a dog and tells it to attack. They are basically using a dog as a weapon.

‘That would be a straight-forward case of assault, which can carry a prison sentence.’

Mr McDonald played down the need to amend the DDA –no doubt to the ECHO’s chagrin – and pointed out that there were plenty of laws under which dog attacks could be dealt with.

‘We encourage prosecutors to be flexible and creative, and there's no reason to be fixated purely on the Dangerous Dogs act when dealing with such cases,’ he concluded.

Rugby star backs call for tougher Dog Laws

RUGBY LEAGUE legend Andy Gregory has added his weight to a regional newspaper’s campaign for tougher dog control laws.

The former Great Britain star, who is recovering after being attacked by a Rottweiler, described the Bradford Telegraph & Argus’s ‘Curb The Danger Dogs’ campaign as ‘positive and long overdue’.

The 13-stone former scrumhalf was attacked by a Rottweiler as he walked his two dogs near his home in Wigan.

Mr Gregory needed hospital treatment for his injury and still has eight teeth marks in his side.

Although Mr Gregory said that he does not want the dog destroyed, he said it should be muzzled, kept on the lead at all times and taken out only by a responsible person who can control it.

Mr Gregory said that he welcomed the newspaper’s Curb the Danger Dogs Campaign, which was started after a series of dog attacks in the Bradford area including one on teacher Sue Brown, 58, who was attacked by a Rottweiler off its lead in Heaton Woods, Heaton.

The newspaper is calling on Home Secretary John Reid to toughen up the Dangerous Dogs Act in a bid to prevent more people falling victim to attacks, calling for:

Compulsory dog registration for all breeds;

Microchipping of all dogs allowing owners to be traced;

Mandatory life bans from dog ownership for anyone convicted of having a dangerous dog;

A record of control orders to be kept on a dog's registration;

The creation of a specific offence of allowing a dog to stray.

The campaign closes on October 12th and all signatures will then be presented to the Home Office for Mr Reid’s attention.

Rukhsana Khan speaks out on Dangerous Dogs
The original dog attack victim supports newspaper’s Danger Dog campaign

By Nick Mays

THE VICTIM of an infamous vicious dog attack that shocked the nation has broken a 15-year silence to back a campaign launched by the Bradford Telegraph & Argus newspaper.

Rukhsana Khan, now 21, talked exclusively to the Bradford newspaper about the terrifying ordeal she suffered when she was just six years-old when she was thrown around like a rag doll in the street by a dog alleged to be a pit bull terrier.

It took a group of men using bricks and sticks to beat the dog off her before she could be taken to hospital suffering from more than 30 wounds.

In the wake of her ordeal in 1991, the Dangerous Dogs Act was rushed through Parliament by then Home Secretary Kenneth Baker.

But Rukhsana has now backed the T&A’s ‘Curb the Danger Dogs’ campaign calling for the law to be tightened up to prevent anyone else suffering as she did.

The campaign was launched by the newspaper in the wake of continuing attacks by dogs and complaints by the authorities that the law does not allow them to take tough enough action against the owners of dangerous dogs.

Rukhsana told the T&A: ‘I still have nightmares about the attack and I am still terrified of dogs to this day.

‘The law was changed because of an attack on me 15 years ago but today these attacks are still taking place and people are suffering terrible injuries.

‘I have to live with the memory of the attack and the scars for the rest of my life. I do not want another child to have to go through what I did.

‘If by speaking out I can get the law toughened then I will have helped prevent someone else suffering. I fully support the T&A’s campaign.’

Rukhsana was shocked to read in the T&A that her former teacher Sue Brown, who visited her in hospital after her ordeal, had been attacked by a dog herself this summer as she walked in local woods.

The newspaper’s campaign has won the support of Bradford Council and local MPs and hundreds of people are signing a petition calling for changes to the law which will be presented to the Home Secretary.

T&A Editor Perry Austin-Clarke said: ‘In recent months we have covered a spate of dog attacks and the message which kept coming back to us was that the law just wasn’t good enough to allow dog wardens and the authorities to ensure that owners take proper responsibility for their dogs, keep proper track of them and, if necessary, take action enforcement action.

‘The Home Secretary needs to realise that the current law is doing little to prevent horrific attacks by dogs.

‘The fact that Rukhsana has broken her lengthy silence to add her voice to our campaign adds serious weight to our message.’

Caroline Kisko, Secretary of the Kennel Club said that that following OUR DOGS’ coverage of the T&A’s campaign in previous issues, the KC had written to the MPs for Bradford and surrounding areas. ‘We have explained the current dog attack laws and offered to help them with any questions they may have arising from the T&A’s campaign,’ said Ms Kisko.

With thanks to the Bradford Telegraph & Argus for permission to reproduce excerpts from their exclusive interview with Rukhsana Khan.


What the breed standard says

THE ROTTWEILER is a comparatively new breed to this country, having been introduced back in 1936 and first shown at Crufts the following year. The Kennel Club breed standard describes his temperament as ‘good natured, not nervous, aggressive or vicious; courageous, biddable, with natural guarding instincts.’ Registrations have declined over recent years, partly as a result of less than favourable publicity around the time the Dangerous Dogs Act was passed in 1991.