Ministers face call to give dog law more teeth

NEARLY 700 people were treated in hospital after being attacked or bitten by dogs in Yorkshire in just 10 months amid concern legislation has “completely failed” to protect the public.

The total was the second highest in England, and charities say that nationally there has been an increase of nearly 50 per cent in bite incidents over the past five years.

New statistics reveal that between June 2010 and March this year 689 people were treated in hospital.

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The actual number of dog attacks is likely to be much higher because some victims will not have sought medical attention.

Ministers met animal charities, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Communication Workers’ Union this week amid concern the Dangerous Dogs Act, which was drawn up after the horrific injuries suffered by six-year-old Bradford girl Rukhsana Khan in an attack by a pit bull terrier in 1991, is failing.

The law bans four types of dog and saw 1,705 people prosecuted in 2010, but the Government is being urged to make owners responsible for their pets’ behaviour instead of banning breeds.

An online petition has been launched putting pressure on Ministers to act.

A spokesman for the Blue Cross said: “The current law has failed to eradicate the pit bull terrier in the UK and has, in fact, created a status symbol out of dogs of these types and their lookalikes.

“All dogs have the potential to be dangerous or wonderful, well-behaved pets and it is people, not the dogs themselves, that make dogs dangerous.”

Nationally 5,000 people were treated in hospital after being attacked or bitten by dogs in those 12 months, with only the North West recording more incidents than Yorkshire.

The RSPCA claims attacks are costing the health service £3.3m a year, while attacks on livestock are calculated to cost farmers £2.8m a year.

In August the Yorkshire Post reported how community volunteer Linda Woodhall, 61, from Ravenscliffe, Bradford, was left in a high dependency unit in hospital with surgeons battling to save her arms after being savagely attacked by a neighbour’s bull terrier.

Shadow Environment Minister Huw Irranca-Davies called on the Government to bring forward plans before Christmas.

“There is a real need for action now, backed up by the families affected, dog charities and frontline workers, like postmen and women,” he said.

The GMB union has also been urging people to sign the online petition, which calls for a Bill to be brought forward in the Queen’s Speech next year to update dog control legislation.

A particular demand of the new legislation is that it should cover both public and private places, to give protection to workers such as postmen and meter readers who are attacked on private property.

John McClean, GMB health and safety officer, said: “GMB members are attacked by dogs while they are doing their jobs. Just think how many people come to our homes to deliver goods and services to us.

“GMB members empty our bins, read our gas and electricity meters, dash to our homes when we need an ambulance or a district nurse, to deliver meals on wheels and help our elderly and vulnerable people, pick them up to go the day centre or the hospital and increasingly to deliver goods we have bought have and the all run the risk of being victims of the irresponsibility of dog owners who do not control their animals.”

A Defra spokesman said: “We are working hard to reduce the problems of irresponsible dog ownership which will make our homes, streets and public spaces safer.

“There’s no easy solution.

“After listening to the public and discussing the options with experts – including hosting a roundtable with animal welfare groups, the Home Office and the police this week – we will be announcing new measures early in the new year that will better protect the public, allow the police and councils to better enforce the law and ensure dog owners take responsibility for their animals.”