Why It Matters: Protecting our dogs from dangerous dogs

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As a supposed ‘nation of dog lovers’ we must campaign against an outdated law that says our dogs are not worth protecting from other, violent dogs


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Pepper recovering from an attack in which the chances of survival were minute – but miraculously, the operation a success. Pic: Stephen Emms
On Saturday our 7 year old Jack Russell, Pepper, was savaged for the second time in just over a year. This unprovoked attack, by two Staffordshire Bull Terriers off the lead, took place in leafy Highbury Fields.

She was bitten in five places, from nose to armpit and hind leg, with two punctures, including a deep one on her neck (below left) that, the vet told us, ‘just missed her lung’. She was so terrified during the ordeal she emptied her bowels. She had to be given morphine for her distress; she is recovering now, on painkillers and 2 courses of antibiotics.

Luckily there was a very kind witness, who is happy to testify, although under present law that testimony is little more than useless. And what’s shocking is that these two dogs and their owner, in his early twenties, were known to the park warden and other users. On a typical weekday afternoon, the man sits, smoking a joint, dogs guarding his side.

We registered the attack with Islington police. Polite though they were, they repeated that it’s a ‘civil’ issue (like domestic argument, or row with a neighbour); that, in keeping with the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, it only ‘matters’ if the dogs show signs of being dangerous towards humans.

‘Did they look like they’d actually attack you?’ asked the friendly policewoman. I wasn’t sure. ‘We’ll get safer neighbourhoods to look into it,’ she said. OK: bye then.

This wasn’t the first time Pepper has been mauled. Just over a year ago, on a cold March evening, she was attacked by two huge Rottweilers on the Kent coast. They came out of nowhere in a vast field rising up behind the sea – one took her neck, the other her leg, and the two animals pulled her like a rag doll. It was a bloodbath.

The resulting injuries were so bad that she lay dying on the vet’s table (left). I was told she would have to be put down, although, if we were insured, the vet hospital would attempt ‘open heart surgery’ (almost impossible on a small Jack Russell). The chances of survival were minute – but miraculously, the operation was a success (see main pic, taken in hospital.)

We reported this horrific ‘left for dead’ attack to the ‘dog division’ of Dover Council (shortly afterwards axed in the cuts). I emailed them photos of the owners and the dogs. Yet no-one – dog warden, insurance company, police, even the local paper – attempted to trace rottweilers or owners. The vet bill was nearly £3000. Our insurance covered it, yet we still had to pay 10% for the privilege.

So why are dogs like these allowed to continue to be off-lead? Muzzle-less? Why are the owners rarely penalized? Why doesn’t it matter to the government if a violent dog attacks your innocent dog?

‘What we need to introduce is the normalization of muzzles,’ said the locum at Abbey Vets in Kentish Town, who administered Pepper’s treatment on Saturday. ‘Muzzles on dangerous dogs period. These are essentially big carnivores. We need more power as vets to decide how dangerous a dog who has bitten is, and whether it needs to be put down. Any dog has the potential to be dangerous: and with some owners it’s a status thing, an aspect of dog ownership that has to disappear.’

So Theresa May, shall we introduce decent dog legislation? The Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 banned pitbulls, Japanese tosa, fila brasileiro, dogo argentine and, vaguely, ‘any dog known to be bred for fighting.’ It was amended in 1997 to allow judges leeway in its interpretation – but this actually magnified its very weakness. And the crucial fact is that it only protects humans from dog attacks – not other dogs.

The excellent Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) website is campaigning for a better law. Its author, known only as Dave, says on the site: ‘The obvious trouble is that the list is at the mercy of the Secretary of State. There doesn’t need to be any parliamentary debate. New breeds can be added any time. So there is no democratic representation of the views of the many involved parties – such as vets. A Home Secretary chasing votes in a general election might feel need to add to list of banned breeds to curry favour – being seen as a man of action, whilst sending thousands of dogs to destruction.’

So what’s the solution? Dog licenses were a failure last time round (widely ignored and finally abolished in 1987 – at which point they cost 37p). My knee-jerk emotional reaction to Pepper’s latest attack is to enforce leads and muzzles in public for all so-called ‘dangerous’ breeds: Staffs, rottweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Mastiffs etc. And to enforce that no dog should be off-lead on any kind of road. (Did you know that Section 27 of the Road Traffic Act 1998 states that ‘a person who causes or permits a dog to be on a designated road without the dog being on a lead is guilty of an offence.’)

Yet DDA argues that the breed plays ‘no significant role in propensity to attack. Breed specific legislation is misguided. There are only dangerous and irresponsible owners.’ Which, of course, only underlines deep societal problems. If we’re dealing with posturing and cowardice, what do we do with those young men (and it’s nearly always men) who encourage their dog to show aggressive tendencies? ‘You should have picked her up,’ shrugged the owner of the Staffs to us, after the attack, before scarpering.

‘Had a law been formed with due consultation of dog behaviourist experts, vets and other interested parties, Parliament would have been far better informed about real issues surrounding dog attacks, ‘ says Dave from DDA. ‘We might now have a sensible law that assists in protection of public and is easily enforceable instead of the mess that is the current act.’

So most people – including, it seems Defra, who have issued a ‘public consultation on possible changes to the law – agree that the best idea would be to repeal the Dangerous Dog Act and construct a better law not based upon breed specific legislation, but rather upon actions of dogs and owners. Shouldn’t irresponsible owners be penalised for dog-on-dog attacks, if there is a witness and clear photographic evidence? A cash fine and muzzling at the very least?

We’re fortunate that London is full of wonderful parks and open spaces – but we should be able to walk our dogs in peace. We should not have to accept that our family members (every dog owner considers their pet a child) may get attacked with great distress for ourselves, and no consequence for the criminal owners. As a supposed ‘nation of dog lovers’ we must campaign against an outdated law that says our dogs are not worth protecting from other, violent dogs (whatever their breed). Are you with us?

The park warden promised to call us back with an update. He hasn’t yet. It’s unlikely the owner will be reprimanded – but we’ll keep you posted.

So what should the Dangerous Dogs Act be replaced with? And should the law be based on deed not breed? We’d love to hear your thoughts. If you are a dog owner or dog lover, please support us and Facebook, Tweet or repost this feature. Add your name below. Let’s get a dialogue going.


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  • Judy Young

    What a shocking story. So scary, especially as your lovely dog looks so like mine..

    If you haven’t read yet last week’s Daily Telegraph article, please do and sign the petition for Dozer!

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/allison-pearson/9194139/Who-will-defend-dog-owners-like-me.html

  • rachel andrews

    nearly in tears reading this stephen, very well written.totally agree that dog owners should be fined if an attack like this happens and have to pay towards vet fees.hope pepper is doing ok.good luck with campaign, am totally with you.

  • Accidental Londoner

    A horrifying story but sadly not a rare one, unsurprising given the staggering number of vicious-looking dogs around in our area of North London. I hope poor Pepper recovers soon – you’ve obviously got quite a little fighter there!

  • Kentishtowner

    Thanks people – just to add if you can spread the feature via FB etc we’d appreciate it.

  • Jenbel

    I was actually in the Vet’s on Prince of Wales Road just as you were coming out on Saturday, with my cat, Toro, and overheard you talking about it. Glad to hear Pepper is ok. I regularly use the small park in Rochester Road and worry constantly at the unleashed and uncontrolled dogs as my son and daughter run around.

    I think alot of the time it’s not agression as such in the dogs, they are attracted by fast moving objects. So when my son is darting about the park I really am very bervous of these sorts of dogs.

  • Hannah

    So very sorry to hear this has happened to your dog again. Completely agree with everything you’ve written and will repost and publicise as much as I can. I was out on Ham Common with my dachshund and twin toddlers last summer when a man came cycling past with his two staff crosses. He’s well known to dog walkers in the area for his rude behaviour and threatening dogs – one killed a swan on the pond some years ago but nothing was done. As the man cycled past he told me ‘You’d better put your dog on the lead or move away or mine will f-ing kill it’. It wasn’t a threat, more a half-hearted warning, as if he were powerless to control his own dogs. Needless to say they weren’t muzzled or on a lead, and never are. So putting mine on a lead wouldn’t have afforded him much protection. To avoid confrontation, I gathered up my children and dogs and our summer’s afternoon out came to an early end.
    As a child, our family dog – a Westie – was attacked by an English bull terrier off lead, and our Scottie by a collie. Hard to define what a ‘dangerous dog’ is so we must definitely do more to tackle dangerous owners. Best of luck with the campaign.

  • fiona

    Crying. Just seen this. Pepper xxxxx Chippy sending you loads of love and nuzzles. Can’t believe it (or can I ). I’m so sorry. Yes, something must be done. Bloody obvious. Bull breeds (clue in the name there) have BIG JAWS and big muscles. So even if they’re playing and get over-excited (clearly not this instance here) they have the potential to do serious damage. (Before anyone responds with a ‘Chihuahuas can be vicious in the wrong hands’ comment, I should add that my son, then aged seven, was randomly attacked and bitten from behind whilst walking up the road, by an ‘over-playful’ Staff and he’s never wished it had been a Chihuahua instead).

    Staffies can be the most adorable, sweet and loving dogs, but once those teeth have decided on a course of action, there’s not much room for debate left.
    Yes, muzzling is the answer. Chippy has a muzzle should he need it (food/toddler situations). There are loads of different breeds up on the Heath all happily going about their business with muzzles on. If a sweet-natured, docile ex-racing greyhound can accept a muzzle as it’s lot, wishing to do no more than what it’s been trained for, then any dog can.

    I’m not sure what constitues a ‘dangerous’ breed (apart from what the law has told me), but I’d think that anything genetically predisposed to guard or fight could reasonably be expected to wear one. Problem of course being that the owners are often nowhere near as reasonable as the dogs.

    Anyway, rant over. Beautiful Pepper, please get well very soon. This is so dreadful. I will repost.
    x

  • Friends of Cantelowes Gardens

    What a horrific sad story !

    Dangerous dogs and aggressive behaviour should always be reported immediately to the Police – 999 – whatever the breed – http://dangerousdogsact.com/

    Thankfully here in Cantelowes Gardens, Camden, London, NW5 there have been NO such recent incidents.

    Rochester Road gardens is just down the Camden Road. I don’t blame Jenbel for worrying about her kids.

    Q : Are parks and opens spaces for people or dogs ? Interesting point…

    Vigilance and reporting all bad practice and behaviour is needed from local residents to deter those from making the space no go area for other park users.

    I wish Pepper – the Jack Russell – a speedy recovery…

    from the Cantelowes Gardens Friends Group : http://www.facebook.com/cantelowesgardens

  • tazmo007

    Gutted to hear this. Was only in the vet on Friday (routine) when a jack russell came in with thick scar across back of his neck from elbow to elbow. 3rd dog in the area to be attacked by a local dog, police have been informed. Nothing done because it is “dog on dog”. Like that is ok. If it happens to my dog, i will stick my arm in and let it be dog on human.

    Would love to open dialogue – have no idea what the answer is – in the meantime, so sad for all dogs involved.

    Hope Pepper is soon recovered. And you too.

  • fiona

    In reply to Friends of Cantelowes..I know both parks really well, as both a dog owner and a small grandchild owner. You surely can’t be implying that Rochester Square is somewhere to be avoided, while Cantelowes is aggro-free?! have I misunderstood? sincere apologies if I have. I think all the work done to make Cantelowes more user-friendly is just brilliant; the planting, the zero-tolerance for dealers etc, but to promote it as an exemplary dog park is, er, stretching it! It would be wonderful if it was though..

    • Friends of Cantelowes Gardens

      Thanks Fiona for your comments re : improvements done to make Cantelowes Gardens more user friendly.

      No park will ever be 100% aggro-free, but as park users will testify, CG it’s a lot better than it used to be.

      The Kentishtowner hit the spot perfectly when they say :-

      ” Cantelowes/ Rochester/Talacre – all these local parks have the same mix of dogs. None is safer or worse. ”

      and what Daniel says also makes a lot of sense…

      Hugs to Pepper !

  • Kentishtowner

    Thanks for everyone’s comments and stories. Glad there is support here to rethink this shoddy piece of legislation. It seems muzzles are the obvious instant solution – but how to enforce an irrresponsible owner without the backing of a law change?

    A couple of points: Cantelowes/ Rochester/Talacre – all the local parks have the same mix of dogs. None is safer or worse.

    Jenbel: dogs will chase a ‘fast moving object’ yes, but in Pepper’s case she was just ambling along on a lead and got jumped without hesitation by a Staff.

    Keep your comments coming.

  • Jenbel

    Not commenting on your situation KT’er, just an observation of the dogs I’ve seen off the lead where I go. Clearly I’ve also seen dogs square up to each other, and have seen staffie crosses and other dogs attack other dogs.

    The overall point stands though, it’s the owner not the dog.

    Short of an on the spot fine/ forced sterilisation or euthanasia programme which would be a nightmare to enforce, the only other action is to ban ’em all like other dangerous dogs not allowed in this country (e.g. dogo argentino’s etc.).

    Good luck with that one.

    Btw @Friends of Cantelowe Gardens, I’m a boy!

    • Friends of Cantelowes Gardens

      Sincere apologies Jenbel ! Well said – “it’s the owner and not the dog”

  • Beth

    What an awful story, something definitely needs to be done!

    I own a Great dane x Rottweiler and he has frequently been attacked in the past, however it has been by little dogs with ‘big dog’ syndrome and when confronting the owners about this i have been met with…”your big dog probably started it” even though he is on his lead or cowering behind me whilst being nipped at ( I should explain that he is the biggest princess you’ll ever meet).

    Whilst I agree that bigger dogs tend to be more the cause of attacks, little dogs can be vicious as well.

    It is down to the owner not the dog.

  • Phil

    So sorry to hear about your dog. We’ve been in the same situation – our dog is a 55kg Akita mastiff cross who is a rescue dog – big soft n clumsy. He has been attacked 3 times by Small off lead dogs whith owners who either don’t care or are to dumb to understand their dog.

    3 fairly bad puncture wounds later I now tend to avoid owners and dogs who I don’t know. The last time he was bit badly the owner was saying it was my fault for having a large dog. Ours was on a lead and their’s off lead and very dog aggressive.

    It should be owners not breed that is pursued. Any dog can be trained and if you know your dog is dog aggressive then at very least keep it on lead at all times in public.

  • Fiona S

    Very very distressing – all the best to Pepper for a speedy recovery.
    We have to make owners legally responsible – killing or injuring a dog is the worst sort of ‘criminal damage to property’. The Police dismissing such incidents as ‘dog on dog’ is totally unacceptable.

  • Kerryn

    It’s not just in towns, we live in a small village in North Yorkshire with several bad tempered dogs and even worse tempered owners. One collie in particular terrified my very gentle wolfhound so much she ripped a forged steel dog hook out of the wall at the village shop trying to get away, I found her cowering by our gate begging to be let in. The same dog attacked my young labrador so badly that seven years on despite intensive (and expensive) behavioural training she will no longer even tolerate black and white collies. My youngest dog is now five and when a puppy it became virtually impossible to take her out for a training walk because of the bad tempered dogs in the village, she’s turned out to be quite nervous of other dogs when she’s out, and certain locations bring her in so close to me she’s welded to my leg. In training classes, at friends houses, in town and even at the vets she’s absolutely fine but because of the experiences when she was young when out and about in the countryside she’s constantly alert and wary.
    Owners who reply that their dog doesn’t like other dogs on leads (let them off they cry – not likely!), that they’re just playing or, as already been mentioned, that your dog started it need some intensive training themselves. Unfortunately I can’t see an easy remedy. Good luck with your campaign, and everyone please do sign the petition on the Telegraph (even though it’s talking about horse attacks it still applies to other dogs).

  • ashley

    Thank you for your story & thankfully Pepper is okay… I sympathize with you fully & can’t imagine if this happened to mine. I find it outrages and enraging that our pets are not protected! I have 2 small dogs and live right near highbury fields- would you want to do a public protest as it gets warmer and start making people in our area aware of what’s going on? Small children will not be safe with these dogs and it should be a priority to PREVENT another catastrophe with a dog or small child.

  • Gen

    Certainly agree that things can’t continue as they are. I think all dogs, irrespective of breed, should be on leads in all public, non-dog-playing areas, and yes, muzzles for some breeds would be appropriate. Staffies in particular have a reputation for being mostly wonderful with humans including children, but very difficult with other dogs. (Boxers too, though you don’t hear about anywhere near the number of problems with them.) A clear set of laws regarding dog ownership/management, and on the spot fines for transgressors, would certainly be a start.

    I would also like to see much more control over how people acquire dogs in the first place, though I don’t know how the best way to approach this would be. But this problem exists alongside the other fact of bull breeds being overproduced by unscrupulous breeders to satisfy ‘demand’ from those who do not intend to train and look after them properly.

    Volunteering at an animal home I met staffies that had been left on the side of the road or attacked by bigger, unneutered dogs; there are too many of these dogs and they’re not being cared for or trained sensibly. Some more control over who can breed animals, where people can get them from, and what criteria they have to satisfy to be an owner (show awareness of training, behaviour, needs of their chosen breed etc for a start) could help to bring down the numbers of dogs turning violent and attacking people or other animals.

    I hope Pepper has no more frightening encounters! She looks like a sweet character. Best wishes to you and her.

  • Dennis

    Stephen, I am very sorry to read about what happened to Pepper and I am glad she is alright after her ordeals. Recently my girlfriend and I had a terrifying experience while looking after a guide dog here in London, although our dog was lucky that she was not hurt as much as Pepper. Just yesterday I noticed an unleashed not-very-friendly looking dog waiting for its owner outside the Iceland on Kentish Town Road. A agree that something needs to be done about dangerous dogs!

  • Paul

    What about a dog license? You simply need one to own a dog. Some sort of assessment of the owner should be involved, and a license should be available for view on request by an official like driving. Although I would worry about the knock on effect this might have on adoptions although adoption centres usually assess owners before adoption anyway.

    I’m not sure of the actual rules, but my dog trainer has mentioned many times, the rules regards dog on dog attacks. I got the impression that you can certainly sue for damages (small claim court etc) based on the which dog was off the lead. Basically if a dog is off the lead and attacks your dog who is on the lead, the owner of the aggressor is entirely liable. Both dogs off the lead possibly becomes another issue.

  • Lucy Nickoll

    So upsetting poor poor Pepper this has made me cry but then i am a real softie when it comes to dogs. What a brave dog she is to pull through both attacks though. Also, credit to Peppers owner who has stuck by her when very ill, nursed her back to health and is now doing something constructive about how to solve this horrible situation. As most of the contributors agree, its the dog owners at fault here and more should be done to make sure they are as responsible as possible.

  • Rebecca

    We have a lovely Rottweiler in our family, belonging to my uncle but all of us have taken his training very seriously. It is the responsibility of anyone frequently interacting with a dog to not only enforce obedience training but know how to behave as a person around the dog.

    The amount of abuse we have received about him is nonsense; while walking him, he was calmly carrying a stick at my heel when a woman marched over yelling at me about how vicious my dog was and that he was looking at her children. I did try to explain that he is a dog, and this fairly incapable of giving anyone a ‘look’, I even gave her a demonstration of his bite control, but she threatened to have him put down for no reason. It was bonkers.

    While the laws still focus on the type of dog and not on the responsibilities of the owners, it will always lead to victimisation of certain breeds. I’m not saying that no breed is more violent than another, but it can take less than a week to curb a dog’s behaviour – sadly little can be done right now about the idiots who encourage aggression in their pets then pretend it isn’t their fault when there’s an accident.

  • Spudman101

    Maybe pet insurance should work like car insurance, i.e. be compulsory and paid out on a third party basis. That way a 16 year old trying to buy a ‘status’ dog may think twice when he realises what the insurance premiums will be and he might think a bit more carefully about letting it off the lead if he thinks he may lose his no-claims bonus.

  • Terri

    I’m so sorry to read this story and really feel for you and for Pepper.

    My dog is a staffie/german shepherd cross so she is a big, heavy girl and a number of people do find her frightening at first glance. Yet, I’ve always been hugely conscious of my own responsibility in having a large dog and have worked hard to ensure she is a social, well manner dog who is safe around other animals or children (although if there is a cat or squirrel involved I’ll always use the lead!). As Beth above says, the more common reality is that smaller dogs see her and react aggressively, probably in self protection, so I most commonly intervene in trying to protect her. This does happen distressingly regularly.

    It really frustrates me that so many dog owners don’t have adequate control of their dogs. This applies to small dogs as much as big ones, even though the damage they inflict is less (lets face it, most of the time my Lunar can and does run away faster than they can chase her).

    So, in conclusion, my heart goes out to you. As one dog owner to another, I really feel for the pain you and Pepper have been through. I do, however, totally believe the solution is that responsibility for dogs behaviour, lies wholly with the owner. Whether this is around traffic, behaviour in parks and fields, towards people of other animals (I feel just as strongly about dog owners who don’t keep their animals under full control around livestock too – they are natural predators, however much they love you, and instincts are strong), the owner is accountable. In the case of dog on dog, with witnesses and evidence, perhaps the owner should be fined and required to attend compulsory dog-responsibility classes, the same way driving offenders are required to do compulsory road safety training.

  • dotty

    i saved a jack russell from two staffs recently at public park.
    the two dogs were off the lead in a park full of tiny children.
    the staffs attacked the small dog and the owners of the staffs couldn’t do a thing.- no control.

    i managed to get the dogs off after a lot of physical nonsense including spraying the dogs in the eyes with deodorant – i went mad at the owners who were drunk males of about 50 who didn’t give a STUFF.

    i didn’t know the little dog, or it’s owner – but took them both to the vets. the dog lived. it had 7 large punture wounds, the police couldn’t care less.

    The amount of small children screaming in the park at the sight of what happened was also horrific.

    I refuse to own a dog right now as i can’t bare the thought of something happening to it.

    I think there should be licenses – i also think ALL dogs should be muzzled in public. I know this will ruin the fun for dogs who like catching sticks and balls, but how else can this be stopped?

    it is appalling and it is getting worse.

    Good luck with your campaign, I really hope Pepper gets better too. Poor thing.

  • Suzanne

    I’m not a dog person but this sad story should resonate with anyone with an ounce of decency and outrage. Would happily support any action to stop such dreadful attacks and yes, as a nation of animal lovers, we can do better. Wishing Pepper well and hope that some good will come out of such viciousness.

  • Glenda

    I’m so angry that Pepper has had to go through this because idiots can’t or won’t keep their dogs under control. I’m hearing of so many dog on dog attacks, they do seem to be increasing. I also don’t think that you can demonize a specific breed or type and that it’s generally the owners that are at fault. Maybe introducing compulsary training/socialization classes would be a start. Compulsary muzzling for dogs that have attacked, whatever the breed, micro-chipping so that owners may be traced. The problem is that it would tend to be only the decent owners that would do this.

  • Kate

    I’m so sorry to hear about this awful attack. I was astounded to learn that vicious dogs that cause harm to other dogs are pretty much left alone and the owners aren’t reprimanded.
    My nanna and the family dog Deefer was attacked by a Japanese Akita whilst walking along a main road. The Akita had run out of an open gate and towards my Nanna and Deefer – Deefer stood in front of my Nanna to protect her and was bitten several times along his body, ripping part of his ear off. My Nanna was also injured, sustaining puncture wounds to her arm and scratches to her face.
    Once it had been reported, we found that the dog had killed 2 other small dogs in the area in the previous 18 months and that the owner was to keep it indoors at all time. When outdoors it was supposed to be on a leash and muzzled at all time. The owner protested that he’d left the garden gate open which was how he’d got out. The police made the decision that the dog needed to be put down (my Nanna protested, being a dog lover) which sparked a lot of abuse from the owner to my Nanna.

    I hope Pepper makes a full recovery. Deefer has nerve damage and his back legs shake intermittently when he’s stood still. He also refuses to walk on the path he was attacked on and doesn’t like walking at night either. I think we need a better system in place to combat the problem of dangerous dogs.

  • Bonnie

    I live in Scotland and I’m not sure if the law is very different, but my neighbour’s Beagle has been attacked several times (all by dogs that aren’t ‘dangerous’ breeds and have never attacked another animal). Most times it just involved fighting (as dogs are prone to) and him being pinned down, but the last time blood was drawn, so they reported it and the owner was given an ASBO which states that the dog must be kept on lead at all times. I’m surprised this hasn’t happened in your situation. My dog is a German Shepherd and I would be very angry to have to keep a good-natured and friendly dog with no history of violence on the lead at all times (especially as he walks at heel), I’d be even angrier to have to muzzle him and basically criminalise him, discouraging people from petting him and not letting him chase sticks (basically his favourite thing). Just as parents should be punished for the behaviour of their kids, dog owners should have to take responsibility for the actions of their pets, but there’s no reason to punish everyone for the actions of a few.

  • nick s

    Newer “failure to control” laws in other countries provide a good template for legislation: they’re not breed-specific, or limited to attacks on people, and they often permit the classification of dogs as “vicious” or “menacing” on the basis of reported behaviour, which places stiffer requirements on owners such as the need to muzzle their dogs or carry liability insurance.

    Here’s the law in New Zealand, as an example:

    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1996/0013/latest/DLM374410.html

    I’d be inclined to support breed-specific laws to the extent that certain breeds should require liability insurance, which could be offset to some degree by taking a certified obedience course.

  • Kerry

    It’s absolutely devastating to read about what your poor little dog had to go through and I’m so pleased that the wee fella pulled through and you didn’t lose him to such an awful end. I would just like to add (in addition to similar comments above) that these behaviours are massively dependent on the owners and that particular breeds shouldn’t be criminalized for the neglect shown to them by their owners. We recently adopted an abandoned Staffordshire Bull Terrier from Dogs Trust and she’s one of the gentlest, sweetest dogs I’ve ever come across. She loves to play – and there is absolutely no sign of roughness when she does so – with other dogs, and also with our 6 year old cousin. She’s one of the least aggressive animals I’ve ever encountered and her traits I’ve found in numerous Staffies, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers etc. – basically, any of these ‘dangerous dogs’. I volunteer at my local Dogs Home and have found that any animal with poor training who has been either neglected or abused is susceptible to violent behavior, and these include the ‘sweet little Jack Russels’ and ‘family friendly breeds’. Please bear in mind that an animal is only as good as it’s owners.

  • Bella

    I’m from Kentish town and often take my dogs to the Heath where I’ve had to rescue the smallest one from bigger dogs several times. Your poor dog, I’m so sorry. Thank goodness he’ll be ok.

    Why oh why can’t there be a license system for dogs?

  • Susan Sonnenberg

    Totally horrified and totally behind your efforts to have the law insist on muzzling dangerous dogs. Muzzle the owners too, if possible. So moved by Pepper’s magnificent spirit and and all the care and love bestowed to ensure recovery. Sending all good wishes for a total recovery as well as my support for this important campaign.

  • Elkie Thackeray

    I am so sorry to see what has happened to your dog :(.

    It really upsets me that people have dogs for status reasons. I have posted a link to this on my facebook. I hope that the government realise that dogs also need protection.

  • Nyree

    I fully agree that the legislation has to be changed, yes it’s not the breeds, it’s the owners that fail to take responsibility or are unable to control their dogs either through apathy or inexperience, whatever, the reasons do not matter it is the action the law takes that is important in today’s “broken” society. Dog-on-dog attacks, along with dogs attacking humans, should not be tolerated. In my opinion ALL dogs should be muzzled in public places. This way if they are off the lead and bound up to you, your child, your toddler strapped in a front facing buggy, your Aunt in a wheelchair, your pet Jack Russell, will not be at risk of attack, permanent injury or disfigurement or death. You will not be in fear as the dog approaches. You will not have to get into discussions with some of the idiots that fail to control their dogs near yours who give you a mouthful of abuse and swearing (they think it’s your fault and should lift your dog! Yes, putting you and your dog at risk as a result!) Not to mention you can’t do this if you also have young children with you. If you don’t want your dog muzzled, then walk your dog on private land. The police must be given the power to enforce this however. They should be able to have the unmuzzled dog removed if the owner refuses to do so, and the three strikes and you’re out rule ie, if you’re caught three times walking an unmuzzled dog on public land, you should have a dog owning ban. All dog owners should unite by muzzling their dogs, to show these irresponsible owners and their dangerous dogs the right way to be, and if they can’t, then don’t let them have dogs.

  • chezlah

    Very sorry to hear about your lovely little jack russell, your article is beautifully written and very touching apart from being filled with lots of common sense.

    We have problems in finsbury park with similar unprovoked attacks be they from staffs, rottweillers or other dogs. It’s very distressing and most of the time, I won’t let our terrier off the lead when there is a chance of it being to be busy. I don’t let him stray from my side very far for fear of such attacks.

    it really is only getting worse and some kind of solution is required very soon.

    best wishes to pepper and here’s wishing for a speedy recovery

    cheryl

  • Grace

    Poor Pepper, I’m so sorry he had to go through such a horrible experience again. As my dog was attacked viciously by 2 pit bulls a year ago, I can completely relate and sympathise. I do have ideas of what should be done…the Government really needs to start enforcement against dangerous dogs by intense screening/regulation on council estates. This is not to stigmatise responsible dog-owning council tenants, but because so many of the dangerous dogs, indeed nearly always owned by anti-social young men, come from the estates. And, since the Councils are landlords of these estates, they should start enforcement of dangerous dog policies by using their clear powers as landlords on estates and council properties. In particular, each estate should have a dog warden, and each estate/council property needs to register all dogs which reside there, requiring microchipping/ID tags on dogs with names/addresses of owners. Fees to keep any dog on estates/council properties should also be levied on tenants, to help weed out responsible from irresponsible owners. It is common practice in the private rentals and hotels/B&B sectors in any case to charge extra fees to tenants with dogs/pets, so Councils have no reason not to follow suit by levying a fee on each dog/pet residing at a council property. Further, the Government needs to increase substantially greater liability/fines on any owners with dangerous dogs that hurt other dogs/pets/people. Compensations awarded should be greatly increased to include all vet fees, related medical/funereal costs, market value of the dog/pet attacked if the pet dies, and pain/suffering of both owner and dog, which in total should run into the thousands of pounds not a few mere hundred if any, to be recovered from future earnings if necesssary. If local councils would begin serious dangerous dog enforcement first on their own council properties/tenants, I’m willing to bet there would be a significant effect on reducing incidents of dangerous dog attacks on people and other dogs.

  • Daniel

    I am not sure how we enforce the new rules and proposed ideas though. for example with dog licenses. there is loads of cars out there right now with no insurance or current tax disc. The good dog owners will pay for one and meet the requirements, its the bad owners that are the problem. they just won’t bother with a license, how you enforce it? see also muzzles. Many Eastern European countries force ALL dogs of any type, in public, to wear one. Park Wardens and council staff in parks are being cut. Something does need to change though, just not sure how you make the bad dog owners comply.

    There was a nasty dog attack from a staffie recently in my local park, whilst all the dog owners checked out the injured and bleeding dog, the staffie owner and dog ran off. really bad behaviour. the injured dog went to the vets. If my Collie attacked or hurt a dog I would stop and give my details and offer to pay all costs, never happened though. This owner just sneaked off and didn’t apologise or anything. Not all Staffies are bad, there is some lovely friendly ones in the park and there is many being dumped or taken into charities. They are loving but need strict control and training, So many people with them don’t care at all!

    There was a tv article on bbc inside out London recently about this problem in London’s parks and they went to Chicago. They had a huge problem with dog fighting and dogs in parks and the owners (quite often all related to the inner city gangs). They offered all new dog owners free dog training in community groups and for some people and breeds it was compulsory. I think the first training for the owner and the dog is really important. All the best for Pepper x

    • Grace

      Regarding enforcement, it would be difficult/inefficient to enforce rules on chipping/tagging with blanket borough-wide rules, mainly because there would likely be no official capable of enforcing rules on such a wide-spread level so that most of the irresponsible owners would dodge such rules making it toothless. This is why I support Councils only enforcing such rules on Council properties/estates, which is in any case where so many dangerous dogs emanate, being owned/bred largely by irresponsible young men. As the Council are landlords, they CAN enforce requirements to have all dogs living on such properties to be properly tagged/chipped and registered with the council and screened by appointed dog wardens. Extra charges can also be levied on rents for dogs for being allowed to live on council property, helping to weed out more of the irresponsible young owners.

  • Paul

    Staffies are only getting a bad name at the moment because they are fashionable with a certain type of irresponsible person. It was the same with Rotties in the late 80s.

  • Nikita

    It is about time the useless DDA was repealed. Banning dogs makes no difference – we have more pitbulls and pitbull crosses in the UK now than ever before, a full 21 years after the ban came into effect.

    Incident-based action (deed not breed) needs putting in place – just assuming that certain breeds are dangerous is simply not fair. I own two dobermanns; a dobermann cross; a rottweiler cross and also a belgian shepherd (malinois) cross – malinois are very popular as military protection dogs. Yet all of my dogs are friendly, well mannered, and well behaved – their breed has no influence on their behaviour. My training, socialisation and kind, fair handling is the influence as it is with all dogs – raise them with kind and fair handling, they are kind and fair dogs; raise them with violence and constant telling off, they become stressed animals prone to reacting with a short temper. No different to children.

  • Gen

    Paul, I agree with you; both Rottweilers and Staffies are in principle, very good dogs, but their physical presence and strength makes them attractive to people who would rather use them as weapons than companions. That said, when the fact remains that they and other large breeds have proved themselves to be adept at guarding, defending, and in worse hands, intimidating, I think it is fair to ask that they be muzzled when in a public place.

    Bonnie, in response to your comment –
    “My dog is a German Shepherd and I would be very angry to have to keep a good-natured and friendly dog with no history of violence on the lead at all times (especially as he walks at heel), I’d be even angrier to have to muzzle him and basically criminalise him, discouraging people from petting him and not letting him chase sticks (basically his favourite thing).”

    I don’t think anyone sensible would wish to criminalise well-behaved dogs. But I don’t think muzzling and keeping on the lead are the same thing. I adore dogs but I never like seeing them being walked off the lead. If I had a small dog, or the world’s smooshiest labrador, I’d still keep them on the lead because [a] I wouldn’t want to be responsible for an accident if the dog did suddenly behave out of character and [b] I would feel more able to protect my dog from harm if connected to it by a lead – not just from other dogs, but things like road accidents or other non-animal related incidents. I don’t think muzzling for all dogs is appropriate, but certainly for ‘at risk’ breeds and for dogs with any history of hotheadedness at all.

  • sharon douglas

    QUOTE
    My knee-jerk emotional reaction to Pepper’s latest attack is to enforce leads and muzzles in public for all so-called ‘dangerous’ breeds: Staffs, rottweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Mastiffs etc.

    if this were to happen then it must be all dogs, not just certain breeds and, as for the young posturing lads, no one under the age of 21 be able to own, or, in a public place, be in sole charge of a dog over a certain height or weight

    ive had some nasty bites [and i mean bites not nips] from JRT, from my own yorkie, from chihuahuas [nearly lost my little finger to that one] Thunder [a boxer mastiff x]has had numerous collies attack her and the odd westie hang of her jowls

    QUOTE
    but we should be able to walk our dogs in peace. We should not have to accept that our family members (every dog owner considers their pet a child) may get attacked with great distress for ourselves, and no consequence for the criminal owners.

    All dogs and dog owners should have the right to walk their dogs in peace, and that should include those who have lead aggression dogs and fear aggressive dogs, free from offlead ‘friendly’ dogs running up into their faces, despite the owner having it onlead, probably muzzled and informing the other owner that their dog isnt good with other dogs
    and no, my dogs are not my children they are my dogs, my children may get away with raiding the fridge, taking snacks without asking, lounging on the sofas or the beds, eating junk food or answering me back [my kids are stroppy late teens not little ones] etc, my dogs most certainly dont

    QUOTE
    On a typical weekday afternoon, the man sits, smoking a joint, dogs guarding his side.

    this i feel is very ungenerous of you in what otherwise is a well written article, falling into the trap of stereotypicalising a ‘staffy’ owner. Do you ,for instance 110% know that its a joint hes smoking? it could just be a rolly, go into any £ shop and you can buy spliff sized papers and even spliff sized rolling machines, just cos it looks like a joint , doesnt mean it is one, and you let yourself down by presuming that because hes early 20’s has two staff type dogs and is sitting in the park most afternoons that he must also be smoking pot

    I really hope your lovely dog recovers quickly, the bites are horrific and i cannot even begin to contemplate the pain and fear Pepper and yourself have gone [still going] through hug.gif
    but
    it could just have easily been any offlead breed, yes some can do more damage but all, given the opportunity and nature can inflict a lethal bite. No breed is more dangerous than another, lifelong training and socialisation, even for an old, battered, abused but rehomed dog, is what makes the difference, not the breed

  • Kentishtowner

    Thanks to everyone for their continued thoughtful responses.

    Sharon Douglas: “Ungenerous?” It’s worth remembering that I picked my words very carefully for this article. Having used the park for ten years I can assure you – as will many other users -that what he smokes is definitely a joint. This is all besides the point, however. Much better to concentrate on the issue at hand. And thanks for your contribution, anyway, and kind words about Pepper.

  • Linds

    I am so sorry for what has happened – i agree those of us who own dogs must be allowed to walk them safely. Accidents happen, but sometimes dogs are simply dangerous and there is a need to understand breed traits, and for owners to socialise and habituate their dogs – if they do not, then they risk or encourage serious problems.

    Status dogs are not usually that friendly to other dogs or people.

    I believe however that there is a precedent set under the 1871 Dogs Act (yes, it’s a civil act) but I understand the police have acted under it recently. Look into this as it might help. Your own police may well not know about it but then they are not always au fait with every single small bit of the law.

  • Andrea Morton

    I have what is known, in some circles, as the Chinese Fighting Dog. He is a Shar Pei. He has been attacked on several occasions, by large, medium and tiny dogs. On one occasion nearly losing his life and on the others suffering much time and trauma in the vets, not to mention cost. Owners were differing in age, an elderly man, middle aged woman, two young men – you get the gist. Not once was the breed any of those mentioned. On the most severe of occasions my poor boy emptied his bowels and bladder and cried like a baby in pain. When my husband and i were trying to save him he made no attempt to bite the hands getting in the way of bared teeth from the other dog. We were warned by vets that the attacks may make him aggressive but he isn’t. There is a reason for that, he was well trained, well socialised and is a lifetime comittment we take very seriously. We pride ourselves on that. Dog attacks on anyone, human or dog have nothing whatsoever to do with the breed it is purely about the owner. Any dog has the ability to bite. We need to have stricter laws pertaining to unsuitable and uncaring owners. Learn about your breed and your individual dog. Train constantly, Socialise, Neuter, Microchip, Insure and know your dogs quirks. Be a responsible owner because the ones who pay for your mistakes are the dogs.

    • Terri

      This is my favourite comment so far. Well said, Andrew. And very many sympathies for your poor boy.

  • bebo kobo

    I love DOGs…that why i care a lot for them. Thanks for sharing your views.