Dog attacks in Wales up by 81% over the last 10 years

A pit bull terrier Pit bull terriers are one of the breeds named in the Dangerous Dogs Act

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Dog attacks in Wales have increased by 81% in the last decade, a BBC investigation has found.

Research by Week In Week Out found there were 407 hospital admissions from incidents in 2012/13 alone, with 91 of those aged 14 or under.

Andy MacNab, a consultant in emergency medicine at Morriston Hospital, Swansea, said they were treating two or three dog bites a week.

Animal charities want legislation which punishes the dog's deed, not its breed.

Although there were amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act, they want it to go further.

The RSPCA says owners would have to abide by dog control notices if their pet was a nuisance or out of control.

But the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the amendments gave more "flexibility".

Start Quote

Andy MacNab

Very severe dog bites particularly to children may require many hours in theatre and admission to hospital for days, occasionally may even lead to intensive care admissions”

End Quote Andy MacNab Morriston Hospital
'No concern'

Charities told BBC Wales' Week In Week Out of their concerns over backstreet breeding.

Researchers for the programme contacted 20 people who were advertising dogs, such as huskies, to find out what questions they would ask potential buyers.

None wanted to know if the dog would be living with small children.

When researchers said the dog would be kept in a small flat with a newborn baby and no garden, six out of the 20 expressed concern about the size of the home and three refused to sell their animal because of the circumstances.

But four were happy to sell dogs that could potentially be classed as illegal pit bull types as defined by the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Week In Week Out used the latest NHS Wales data which suggests there has been an 81% increase in dog attacks since 2002/03.

Research by BBC Wales' Week In Week Out found there were 407 hospital admissions from incidents in 2012/13

"The most emotive wounds that we see tend to be the facial wounds - it tends sadly to be in children," said emergency medicine consultant Mr MacNab. "Even with good plastic surgery there is usually a cosmetic consequence to a dog bite on a face.

"Very severe dog bites particularly to children may require many hours in theatre and admission to hospital for days, occasionally may even lead to intensive care admissions."

The Dangerous Dog Act, which was passed in 1991, banned four breeds in the UK - pit bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brazilierohas.

But it has been criticised as hurried legislation and some have argued it has failed to effectively deal with the problem of dog attacks,

The RSPCA has said punishment should concentrate on a dog's deed rather than the breed.

Prof Kenton Morgan from Liverpool University, who has led research into how to reduce the risk of dog bites, agreed with the charity.

"I think the Dangerous Dog Act was a knee-jerk reaction," said Prof Morgan.

"If you review all the literature there is no evidence that the breeds that have been stipulated are more likely to bite than any other dog so I don't think that breed directed legislation is effective. In fact, in Holland they've recently repealed their breed-directed dangerous dogs act."

Increased penalties

Until last year, the Welsh government was considering introducing dog control notices as part of the Control of Dogs (Wales) Bill.

However, it dropped those plans in order to work with the UK government on the introduction of a new law covering England and Wales.

Hospital admissions from dog attacks

• Admissions to hospital for dog attacks have been rising steadily more or less since 1999

• There has been an 81% increase in dog attacks since 2000

• 1,257 of those attacks have been admissions of children aged 14 or younger

• Since 1999 there have been 4,263 admissions to hospitals in Wales from dog attacks

• There were 407 hospital admissions in Wales in 2012/13 from dog attacks, 91 of those aged under 14

• Of the admissions, 394 were to A&E

SOURCE: Week In Week Out research using NHS Wales data

The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which amends parts of the Dangerous Dogs Act, will come into effect in May.

It includes increased penalties and sentencing to tackle the issue of nuisance dogs, but does not include control notices and has left the RSPCA disappointed.

Steve Carter, the RSPCA's director for Wales, said: "We thought the dog control notice was a very effective way of dealing with the issue, through training, education and by enabling owners to understand how their actions are impacting on their animals.

"We think the Westminster legislation is very generic and dogs are just in there because they form some of the behaviour."

Natural Resources Minister Alun Davies has said his officials have been working closely with Westminster and Defra and does not rule out taking legislation for dogs back under Welsh control.

"It is not something which we have walked away from," he said.

"If I am persuaded that the UK legislation doesn't deliver the statutory framework that I believe is necessary then yes, we will go back to our legislation and yes, we will pursue legislation."

Defra has said the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime, and Policing Act will allow police and local authorities to issue community protection notices before any dog attack takes place.

It will address the same issues as dog control notices but will offer greater flexibility, the department said.

The programme comes after the death of six-day-old Eliza-Mae Mullane at her home at Pontyberem, Carmarthenshire, where Dyfed-Powys Police seized and destroyed two family dogs.

Week in Week Out is on BBC One Wales on Tuesday, 18 March at 22:35 GMT

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