Dog Attacks and the Media Causing Hysteria

Statistics reveal  that there have been 18 deaths from dog attacks in the UK since 2005 and that number will rise. I don’t think there ever seems to be a month that goes by without some sort of hysteria fuelled by the media. Hysteria that causes both dog owners and non-dog owners to demand knee-jerk reactions, more regulations, restrictions and biased views on various breeds and dogs in general.

The media thrives on controversy and lets be honest, without it they wouldn’t sell papers. What often follows the stories is assumptions about causes and a public demand to ensure that these cases never happen again. Then the MPs hear those concerns and quite rightly, decide to act. Frankly, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a single solution to these problems? Sadly the reality is that as a result they are mostly just making legislations that are not fit for purpose and patchwork messes. Dangerous Dogs Act 1991,  I’m looking at you!

Let’s take the recent proposals to increase sentencing for offences under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 from 2 years maximum to 14 years. Although most would welcome tougher sentencing, according to ITV News out of the 1,192 adults were convicted of dangerous dog offences in 2010 – less than 20 faced jail.

Lord Taylor, the Defra minister responsible for animal welfare, said:

 ”We’ve seen tragic instances of attacks by dangerous dogs, and irresponsible dog ownership has a serious impact on many of our communities. The new guidelines … show the seriousness with which this problem is being taken.“

Would these legislations prevented these tragedies from occurring? I’d like to say yes but I highly doubt it,  and I’m not alone, the RSPCA has recognised that these measures are by no means a preventative. (Article by the Telegraph here. 06 Aug 2013)

Let’s go back past the 70s in the UK. There was little or no education for responsible ownership, no Dangerous Dogs Act, no such thing as animal rights as the government had absolutely no concern for it  – yet there wasn’t, as the media claims, an ‘animal welfare crisis‘ (The Guardian via RSPCA, Tuesday 24 April 2012) and a high number of cases of dog attacks being reported.

So what’s gone wrong here? Why are things becoming worse?

Your guess is as good as mine. Social and economic environments have changed dramatically since then, population has rapidly grown in the UK and the public attitude is much different.

Instead of pushing in knee-jerk answers, instead we must first ask the right questions. 

Simply put – more and more people are getting dogs, and unfortunately a very small number have no common sense or understanding the responsibilities they have when owning a dog and that small number is rising. Those irresponsible individuals are the ones who speak for the rest of the dog community in terms with the media.

When reading these stories, or any story featured on the news, take it with a pinch of salt and look at it objectively. Realise that any changes will only affect all of the responsible owners, demonise various  breeds and do very little to those who will disobey them unless enforced properly. Instead of pushing in knee-jerk answers, instead we must first ask the right questions. The United Kingdom is a nation of responsible dog lovers and we must keep it that way.

What do you think should be done? I’d like to hear lots of different opinions!

19 thoughts on “Dog Attacks and the Media Causing Hysteria

  1. Great read this n has conjured up a millions points I could make but regardless of anything else it’s starts with responsible selling of the dogs and responsible ownership thereafter ppl take owning any pet far too lightly … Education, education, education

  2. Thanks Erika, I have to agree with you there. Education wasn’t a issue back then but I believe now it’s necessary for potential future owners and of course current ones. Glad you enjoyed it!

    1. This latest one in Manchester is a worry a ridgeback got out n mauled a 14yr old and the lady trying to stop it . A neighbour said he had to stab it to death to get it off.
      What worried me was the owner was heard going crazy as it had got out. Why should she be so worried if the dog was socialised and exercised properly to start with surely shout the dog it will come bk in?!?! . My friend has this breed and they are gentle giants he’s more afraid of my two than they ever have been of him and he towers over them. He’s been walked for hours. From the day he was allowed out and taken everywhere they go. So it would say to me this poor dog had been an poor choice for this woman as she clearly hasn’t catered for its needs and neglected it’s exercise massively that it would get out n go crazy.
      Stupid people making stupid choices will now condem another breed of dog makes me really angry ….. Lol sorry rant over

  3. My whippet willow was attacked by 5 staffs off the lead with no collars. Willow was on the lead and we moved out of his way and he let them come over to us and they turned like a pack of wild animals ripping willow to bits. She was extremely lucky to survive having over 100 stitches and 4 hrs of surgury. I got puncture wounds and lacerations to my hand and the cps have decided to just caution the man as they don’t think they were out of control! How does one man control 5 staffs without even a collar on. I was also bitten not through putting my hands near willow. Even the man could not get his dogs off her he had no control. DDA is not used so what message does this give to irresponsible dog owners

  4. I would like to see a number of measures introduced. I would like a dog license to be compulsory, and the person holding the license would have to first of all sit a basic test which would cover dog training/behaviour and a knowledge of breed types and their requirements. I think a knowledge of breeds and the different requirements they have is important, as it would hopefully ensure that a person gets a dog which fits in with their lifestyle/energy/exercise levels. I would also like to see any person who has an uneutered/unspayed animal over a certain age be made to pay a breeders tax of around £400 annually. I would like the revenue collected from these things to be used to set up and maintain a national database similar to the DVLA one, on which the details of each dog is held which would include owner details, microchip details, if they are neutered/spayed and their vet details. It would be the responsibility of the person selling on the dog to update the details, and they would face penalties if they didnt. I would like pet selling over the internet to be made illegal, as I feel that today this contributes to the feeling that a dog is a disposal commodity, and not a lifetime commitment. I would like all police, dog wardens and vets to routinely scan all dogs they come in to contact with in their work, to ensure they are chipped and their details are correct. If the animal isnt chipped then it is seized and not returned until the owner has satisfied requirements. I think if these things were implemented it would reduce significantly the numbers of out of control dogs, irresponsible owners, lost and abandoned dogs.

    1. Very interesting reply Louise and in a ideal world I think those measures you mentioned would do a lot of good with welfare in all areas. The only reason I’d imagine why they haven’t got most of those measures you’ve described is because of the lack of public funding.

      I’ve spoken to many dog wardens and councils and I know that in some areas they only have 1 full-time dog warden for 3 councils. They would love to employ more but it’s just impossible because of the cuts in council funding. Same goes for the police, there are much more important things the police have to deal with than scanning dogs in the street and going into breeders houses.

      So in theory, I agree with a lot of what you’ve said but when putting forward these proposals you have to look at the available resources you have, and these days it’s not a lot.

  5. Part of the problem has got to be the lack of places you can take your dog, its a bit difficult for people to socialise their dogs if you are not allowed to take them anywhere. Though equally irresponsible owners have made it difficult for business to open their doors. I know of a few pubs that have stopped allowing dogs in after dogs have defecated on the floor (and left it to the staff to notice and clean up) or allowed them to run around growling at other customers. Also if muzzels carried less of a stigma more people might be likely to use them in potentially stressful situations.
    Education is the way to go, I personally believe that their should be a schools program teaching children the correct way to behave around dogs, to help keep them safe, and raise a generation of people who know the requirements and responsibilities that come with dog ownership.

    1. I think you’re right Sally, education is the way forward. Charities like Dogs Trust, Blue Cross and Battersea do an amazing job going into schools and educating the next generation of dog owners. It’s not going to solve the issue but if it helps one dog then it’s worth it.

  6. This is an area that can cause such anger and I feel we need to start with the law changing about dog ownership firstly you should have to pay a dog licence whoever you are ! At the same time breeders should be regulated with harsh penalties for breeders all owners should be on a data base just like car registration so the owner can always be traced, then finally educating children, adults about dog behaviours, I myself brought a dog from what seemed an above board breeder but when I went to collect her the goal posts had changed, but once I saw this tiny puppy on her own in a back of a car I couldn’t say no luckily she is adorable but I’m convinced her unsociable behaviours are from how she was treated before I had her at 10 weeks old

    1. You’re absolutely right Wendy, it’s a area that causes a lot of opinion and emotion. I’m a bit sceptical about dog licences, I’m more concerned with how they are going to enforce it, there are many welfare regulations in the UK that are rarely enforced due to lack of funding and man power. But the idea of a car registration sounds brilliant, it was mentioned by my local dog warden Dave Griffiths who expressed some really interesting ideas – http://www.markwalden.org/2013/08/compulsory-microchipping-views-part-2/

      1. All I hope who ever is making these decisions listen to people on the ground dealing the problems
        Thanks Mark for the blogg

  7. To understand the aggressive behaviour of dogs you must realize that dogs are domesticated animals, not people. Dogs in a family situation see humans as members of their pack and attempt to establish their place in the social hierarchy by challenging more submissive family members, especially children. When dogs show dominant aggressive behavior gestures like growling while guarding their food dish or aggressiveness around dog food, and they aren’t scolded for this behavior by using aggressive behavior management, they inch up in dominance surpassing certain family members. Subtle signs of dominance can go unnoticed. Because we love them we explain these faults away until the dog finally bites a human who infringed on its alpha position. Owners often do not realize what occurred and think the dog “bit for no reason.” These dogs are often taken to animal shelters and are killed because their owners did not understand how aggressive behavior comes about.

  8. I am a owner of 3 beautiful Staffordshire Bull Terriers know in the media as ‘Devil Dogs’ that is of course complete rubbish.
    However,In the UK there’s a rise in the number of Staff’s attacking, very sadly, but no one is looking at why? The cops come along and bang, end of dog, end of story.
    I’ve been trying to work out what’s going wrong and I have found not one of the dogs were from a reputable breeder, they are all from (dare I say) backyard breeders. Is this the link to what’s happening?
    Over many years the reputable breeders have removed/bred out 98% of the aggressive gene bred into them so they could be used for bull baiting/fighting by carefully selecting dogs for their looks and excellent temperaments and not breeding any dogs that shows signs of shyness, over protectiveness, or simply aggression. But a BYB doesn’t care; they just put their bitch with a friend’s dog and have a litter. Over time due to the irresponsible BYB over breeding and cross breeding for money this ‘bad’ gene has been bred back into the Staff that now is coming to light in the newspapers with reports of sudden unprovoked attacks. We can all say it’s not the dogs fault it’s bad owners and I believe this 100% We need to admit there is a problem and work together to get the Staff back his excellent reputation he deserves and not using them as a quick quid.

    1. Well said Debbie i had two staffies when they Weren’t a status symbol, so over 20 years ago I brought then up with my children & I child minded at the time too, they were our loyal friends they died of old age about 9 years ago we still talk about them like old friends, I totally agree with what your saying you see staff pups everywhere here in croydon if you see a puppy you can lay money it’s a staff and I can guarantee they haven’t come from registered breeders, the out come rescue centres full of staffies !! Misunderstood and product of bad breeding and fashion.
      Although this is happening with other breeds which are high fashion! Staffies get the bad press, lets hope change what ever is needed happens soon

      1. It’s a matter of pressing your local MP to enact legislation that forces the Local Authority and the Police to issue enforcement notices on those owners when dogs start showing aggression or seen out of control when it first starts. Not when we have an end result of another death or serious injury to either human or other protected animal. It’s important to connect the 5 needs of the dog as outlined in the Animal Welfare act 2006 with the Dangerous dogs Act 1991 and not expect just one piece of legislation to be a cure all.

        1. Thank you Jan in Croydon it is an epidemic and I will support what’s best for the safeguarding of animal welfare always

  9. I personally believe that the responsibility is with the backyard breeders to face up to what they are doing and stop using animals as cash machines.
    The problems i see with any law (that lets face it will be towards the Staffies) would be if they bring in a ban owning them then what breed will be next?
    The UK banned Pitbulls and have moved on to the Staffies (Bully Breeds) ban Staffies will it be Labs next? Bull Terriers after? where will it end?
    If irresponsible owners don’t stop breeding and to keep their dogs under control this will never end.
    I would trust my dogs with anybody from a baby to the old BUT i wouldn’t leave them unattended with them because who’s to say the other party might touch the dog wrong or something might come into play that frightens them and before you know it blood spills and a dog dies for no fault of their own.
    My dogs are 15 years, 9 years and 5 years old when they are walked they stay on a lead, i don’t understand why others can’t do the same?
    Although when reading this in a article i think it’s going slightly ott “Home owners could potentially face prosecution if their dog scares a child who strays into their garden.”
    Really??

  10. One of the worst results of the Dangerous Dogs Act is Section 1. This section of the Act that applies to the following dogs:

    •Japanese Tosa
    •Fila Brasiliero
    •Dogo Arengtino
    •Pit Bull Terrier

    Making it illegal to own or be in possession of one of these breeds or breed types and making them desirable to the undesirables. How many “crazed pit bull” headlines appear with regular monotony before the breed of the dog is actually confirmed?

    BSL has done nothing except demonise some dogs for looking a certain way regardless of how they actually behave. So much time and money is spent prosecuting owners for having a dog that “looks dangerous” instead to tackling the owners of dogs that have actually attacked regardless of the breed involved. This leads to owners of dogs that haven’t been involved in any incident having to go through the process of having their dog exempted whereas the owner of the small dog along the road that attacks anyone who passes is never prosecuted for having a dangerous dog.

    The legislation was all part of the knee jerk reaction to fatalities where there was more to the story than the breed of dog involved. The focus has to shift from the dog to the owner – after all, if someone is hurt in a car accident its the driver who is prosecuted – not the car

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