Poll: Can children and dogs live safely under the same roof?
The last seven days has brought with it the terrible news of the deaths of two children who were mauled and killed by the family pet.
The shocking tragedies would have sent a shudder down the spine of any parent with a small child and no doubt they would have asked themselves when they were pregnant and expecting - what do we do with our dog?
But do these horrific incidents provide evidence parents should consider whether the family dog and baby can live together under the same roof - or are they simply unavoidable one-off tragedies?
Hollie Stevens, 29, of Cawston, in north Norfolk, has owned a dog since her daughter Liliana, now eight, was nine months old.
Miss Stevens and her boyfriend Jeff Allen own three lurchers and a rottweiler and plan on getting a terrier.
She said: “I will never get rid of my dogs just because I have children. Me and my boyfriend have four dogs between us and have already discussed how we will manage them if we have a baby.
“Re-homing isn’t an option, it won’t happen, the dogs are here to stay.”
In 2010, Miss Stevens became homeless and stayed in a hostel for five months. Even then she did not part with her pets.
“I was prepared to sleep in my car with them on my mum’s driveway if I had to - people give up too easily.
“When Liliana was newborn my dad went away for a week and I had his lurcher - Lil was two weeks old. I put her in a baby carrier and away we went on walks in the fresh air.
“It was exactly what I needed to get me out of the house.”
The issue has come to the fore after news this week in Wales, of the death of Eliza-Mae Mullance after being attacked by the family’s Alaskan malamute on Tuesday. She was just six days old.
This came barely a week after 11-month-old Ava-Jayne Corless, of Blackburn, was killed by a pit bull terrier as she slept last Monday.
Animal healer, Niki Senior, who lives near Dereham, grew-up around dogs from the age of one after her parents imported the first rottweilers into the UK in 1969.
She has worked with animals for more than 17 years and explained that dogs need an adequate amount of exercise and good food for a well-balanced life.
She said: “How people lead lives now is different to when I was a child - they have busier lifestyles now. When I was growing up we had the time and the land to walk our dogs for miles.
“Some people don’t take into consideration the time needed for the breed of dog they want.”
Ms Senior, of Animal Magic, School of Animal Healing, explained that in the last few years people have jumped on the “designer dog bandwagon” of cross breeding, leading to a rise in families with dogs. And although not against having both children and dogs together she was clear on one thing - “you cannot trust a dog 100pc alone with children”.
“Children move quickly and in a very different way to adults. For dogs, in the majority of cases, bigger ones pick on the runt of the family - that’s how dogs integrate.
“If there is a weaker member of that pack - such as in a litter of dogs - they pick on the smaller one. They do not see it as being part of the pack and it will be the same as how some dogs see children.”
She advised parents who were planning on introducing a dog into the family to do their research first.
She said: “If it’s a rescue dog find out its background, has it been around children before? Or if you are getting a new dog try to choose a younger dog as you may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks.”
• Dr Isla Fishburn and Ms Senior are holding a two day seminar in understanding and communicating with your dog in August. For more information visit www.ukanimalhealer.co.uk.
• What do you think - can children and dogs live in Harmony? Write to the Letter’s Editor at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.