Dog owners need to be policed more strictly to stop people being hurt - GP Taylor

It was supposed to be a simple walk on the beach. The woman ahead of me was strolling with her small child when a couple of dogs bounded up to them. The owner was not to be seen.

The child looked scared as the dogs were nearly as big as him. Quick thinking, the mother shewed them away and asked a man coming towards her if they were his dogs. The woman explained her four-year-old son felt frightened. The man smirked. His reply was simple and given with a shrug of the shoulders. “If you don’t like dogs, don’t come to the beach…”

When she asked him politely to put them on the lead, he answered “Why should I?” This is typical of some dog owners who think they can let their animals run free regardless of who else is nearby. It is their belief that their pooch can run wherever it wants to, excrete, urinate, and squabble at will without any consequences.

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If they are questioned, you are usually greeted with the same old garbage that the dog is perfectly safe and would never hurt a fly.

Dogs may make great pets for some people but to others they can be a nuisance.Dogs may make great pets for some people but to others they can be a nuisance.
Dogs may make great pets for some people but to others they can be a nuisance.

Sadly, that is far from the truth. As a person who has had several dogs over the years, I know the potential danger even the calmest dog can cause. Whilst walking in the park some years ago, my dog suddenly lurched for another and when I pulled him off, it turned and bit me on the hand. It was frightening to see a pet go from placid to maniac in a split second.

It is often said that our dogs are just wolves in sheep’s clothing and that is exactly what they are. The dog is a pack animal and a hunting-killing machine. Having witnessed dogs ripping up a fox whilst I was policing a hunt, I can testify to that. When the red mist comes down, even the smallest dog can cause severe injuries.

The excuse that a dog is perfectly safe, is totally untrue. Every dog can attack under the right circumstances. Since 1981, dog attacks and fatalities have been on the rise, and it is not just the big breeds that are causing the damage. In 1986, a Jack Russell killed a child and in 2015 a Lakeland killed a baby.

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However, the records are very clear that the most dangerous dogs are those of the Bull Terrier, Mastiff, Alsatian, Rottweiler, and Doberman and associated breeds.

For some reason, it seems to be popular and trendy to own these animals. If you look back over the many fatalities over the last ten years. These types of dogs have been responsible for the majority of deaths. Why then, are people still allowed to keep them without regulations or vetting? Why do people want to keep fancy XL Bullies, built like a weightlifter with teeth like a crocodile as pets?

Yes, I know that most owners do their best to avoid any problems, but as we have seen recently, a woman was killed when the dogs she was walking turned on her. There have been 42 deaths by dog attacks in the UK over the last ten years. That does not take into account the thousands of people bitten or attacked.

How many more people must die or be injured before the government legislates against dogs?

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I know you will be saying that your dog would never do that. I thought the same. Then, one day someone called at my open door. My dog got there first and leapt at the person, hitting them in the chest as it growled. On the advice of the vet, the animal was destroyed.

I have to say that I now try to avoid places where dogs are allowed to roam free. A walk along the North Bay in Scarborough is no longer a pleasure. From September until spring, dogs have free reign. Altercations between animals are commonplace and many owners think it is acceptable to allow the tide to wash away their dogs' excrement.

It is time for the government to take this matter seriously. I do not want certain breeds to be banned, but I do feel that all dog owners should be vetted and licenced. Those people who want to keep any animal on the bulldog spectrum should have additional scrutiny.

It would not be wrong to have a £50 to £100 per year dog licence and for anyone wanting to keep a dangerous dog to have attended specialist training.

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Those who supply dogs should have to fulfil strict guidelines on care. Puppy farms must be outlawed.

It is incumbent on councils to ban dogs from free roaming on beaches and in parks and provide fenced areas where dogs can be exercised safely. All dogs should be kept on a lead when in a public place.

Members of the public should not be criticised for policing dog owners who break the rules. Professional dog walkers must be limited to only exercising four dogs at a time.

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster who lives in Yorkshire.