For many a dog is a companion, they are there to care for the blind, the deaf, the lonely or just to cheer people up of an evening. But does ownership come too easily for some? More than 20,000 people are estimated to be killed by dogs per year. This figure alone should be enough to make people decide enough is enough and persuade the government to crack down on the number of dangerous dogs roaming the streets. There should be no exceptions to the social training a dog has to undergo. People should be in charge of their dogs, they are not children or weapons, and owners are responsible for its learned behaviours.
The most recent and appalling case of a dog attack involved Lexi Branson, the four year old girl killed by a family pet they had rescued from a rehoming centre. By bringing this dog into their home her parents had tried to give him a better life, but he was obviously too damaged by his previous owner to live with a normal family. It is an example of the often unpredictable nature of dogs, but also shows that more has to be done to ensure that every puppy has the correct training and therefore the public has the best chance of safety from attack. The solution to attacks such as this should be prevention in the longer term, although for some it is too late to turn them into sociable pets.
I was recently witness to an attack in the middle of a busy North London high street. A Staffordshire terrier had broken its lead, in order to grab a Chihuahua that was walking past with her owner. Nothing had been done to provoke the attack of this much loved pet. Passers-by watched in horror as the larger dog shook the Chihuahua around like a rag doll. The owner of the Staffy terrier was beating the dog about the head to get him to release his grip. Eventually after a few very tense minutes and a lot of water being poured on the dog, it threw the mauled Chihuahua to the ground.
The owner of the Staffordshire terrier walked away and as of yet the police have not caught up with him, despite the fact that the incident was recorded on CCTV. If there were rules in place to stop people like this from being able to own dogs in the first place or proper and compulsory training provided on how to treat his dog then the incident would not have happened in the first place. There are no satisfactory laws or guidelines in place to stop people raising an animal from an innocent puppy to an aggressive attack dog.
There are strong rules and regulations on weapons, and gun licencing laws in place, yet anyone, anywhere can go out and buy a puppy from a pet shop or breed from their dog, which could potentially grow to be a lethal weapon. These dogs are on our streets and, despite looking cute, can be as dangerous as a firearm.
The Dangerous Dog Act states simply that 'dogs should be kept under proper control', yet how are we the public protected and assured of whether a dog is under the proper control of its owner? Unless there are stricter laws to stop people either unable to look after a dog or those trying to turn their pet into an aggressor, how can anyone be safe? As well as prosecuting people when their dog has already attacked, there should be tougher prevention laws so that the attacks are less likely to happen in the first place.
While it would be an arduous process changing people attitudes to pets and implementing stronger restrictions on who owns them, something must be done to stop people from turning their dogs into aggressive animals that are a danger to everyone in society.
Education for owners and their dogs will also free up police time to deal with other weapons being used on the streets. Often there is no provocation for dogs attacking and it could happen to anyone on the street and unsuitable owners must be prevented from owning dogs in the first place.