43% increase in people being admitted to A and E due to violent dog attacks

The Liberal Democrats release shocking figures

27 February 2008 – The Liberal Democrats release shocking figures a 43% increase in people being admitted to A and E in the last four years

Commenting on the figures, Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk said “These are enormously disturbing figures. Almost 4000 people were rushed to emergency wards in the last year alone due to violent dog attacks. There is a worrying trend in some areas of using dangerous dogs as fashion accessories or worse as weapons. Dogs often only become violent as a result of mistreatment by owners – or because of a failure to train them properly. Irresponsible owners are more likely to make a dog ‘dangerous’ than it being born a particular breed. There needs to be greater emphasis on responsible dog ownership and of warning people of the risks, particularly to children, rather than taking a purely enforcement-based approach. No one knowingly puts their child in danger, but it seems that the message is not getting through at present. With so many children apparently at risk, perhaps now is the time to review the flawed ‘Dangerous Dogs Act’.

Barbara Sykes has written to Mr Lamb explaining the Trust’s view and seeking a meeting. Read her letter …..

27 February 2008

Norman Lamb MP
House of Commons

Dear Mr Lamb

I am writing in response to the news that you have uncovered figures showing the huge increase in dog attacks.

I have been a member of the British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers for 25 years and am also Chief Executive of the Freedom of Spirit Trust for Border Collies. As well as the work I do with this breed, I do regular one-to-one behavioural consultations for all breeds and seminars around the UK. I have been concerned with the rise in aggression over the past 12 years and have seen a big increase in aggression problems in my consultations and seminars, to the point that some seminars are totally devoted to the issue of understanding and handling dog aggression. My book of the same name was published in 2001 and is now in its sixth reprint. It is the biggest seller of all my books.

There is no doubt that we face a huge problem and it is not being addressed in the right way. Aggression can be present in all breeds, large or small, if a dog is not trained correctly. Most pet dog problems are caused by lack of understanding of dogs as dogs. They are not fashion accessories, weapons, or toys for the children. There is too much emphasis on tricks, competitions and socialisation that meet human needs but don’t cater for the dog’s needs.

In addition, we are becoming swamped with dogs which is borne out by the fact that rescue organisations are struggling to cope and many have to shut their doors at times because they can take no more dogs. ‘Greedy’ breeding for profit rather than to bring a new dog into your own line, puppy farming, the sale of dogs on the internet or in ‘puppy supermarkets’ means that dogs are bought with no questions asked provided the person concerned can pay the price asked. Breeding for design also has a lot to answer for with the latest craze being eagerly sought as a must have accessory, soon to be dumped when it is no longer a cute puppy or its behaviour fails to satisfy its owner’s demands. The measures taken against those who encourage aggression for fighting or as a ‘weapon’ are not tough enough.

The Freedom of Spirit Trust for Border Collies was set up not only to support that breed but also to provide education for the correct training and handling of dogs in general. The Trust will be launching a campaign later this year seeking stronger legislation for breeders. A complete overhaul of breeding licences is long overdue and puppy farming should be banned. Any bitch required to have more than one litter should only be bred from after the breeder has applied for an additional licence and given satisfactory reasons for doing so. We will also campaign for every owner to hold public liability insurance for each dog they own which we hope will cut down the number of multiple dog households and make people more responsible for their dog’s behaviour.

The Trust has five ambassador dogs – all Border Collies and all of whom work sheep. They also attend seminars, work with children, (one is a PAT dog - Pets as Therapy) and do media work. I would be very happy to discuss this serious issue with you and any of your colleagues so that a solution can be found that benefits both people and dogs. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Barbara Sykes, MBIPDT
Chief Executive, FoSTBC


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