More dog bite victims needing hospital treatment
Sam EmanuelThe number of people needing hospital treatment after being bitten by dogs in Norfolk has risen by almost a third in the last four years according to new figures which have sparked calls for the government to change dangerous dogs laws.Sam Emanuel
The number of people needing hospital treatment after being bitten by dogs in Norfolk has risen by almost a third in the last four years according to new figures which have sparked calls for the government to change dangerous dogs laws.
More than 230 people in the county needed hospital treatment for dog bites between the years 2000/1 and 2003/4 - 32pc more people than between the beginning of 2000 and the end of 2003, when there were 175 people needing treatment.
The figures, revealed in a Parliamentary answer, have led to fresh calls for the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 to be reformed.
They show that 48 people were treated for dog bites at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) in the year 2007/8.
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The previous year, 53 people including 14 children aged under 10 were treated at the hospital, and both years there were up to five cases at the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston.
Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary Chris Huhne described the figures as 'astonishing', and said: 'The Dangerous Dogs Act is one of most ineffective pieces of legislation of recent years - costing millions and being completely unworkable.
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'The huge rise in attacks is undoubtedly due to the worrying trend of dangerous dogs being used as fashion accessories or, worse, as weapons.
'Irresponsible owners are more likely to make a dog 'dangerous' than it being born a particular breed. Police need to be able to get tough with reckless owners of out-of-control dogs, regardless of the breed.'
The Dangerous Dogs Act defines a dangerous dog as a pit bull terrier, a Japanese tosa, any other dog which appears to have been bred for fighting or to have the characteristics of a type bred for that purpose and any other dog which appears to the Secretary of State to present a serious danger to the public.
It is an offence to have dog which is dangerously out of control in a public place, and any dangerous dogs which fit in with the description in the act should be muzzled and kept on a lead while in a public place.
One victim of a dog attack is Claire Frost, 43, from Newton Flotman had to be treated at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital after she was bitten in August.
She said: 'I would like to see the law changed. Physically I'm absolutely fine now but mentally it has been quite hard because I've got the memories.'
A spokeswoman for Norfolk Police said that many people who have been bitten by a dog and need hospital treatment do not report it to the police, and added: 'Each case reported to police is judged on its merits. If we are called to an incident involving a dangerous dog we would assess whether the dog was a danger to the public or an illegal breed and take the appropriate action.
'On other occasions it maybe more suitable for a dog warden or the RSPCA to get involved to offer the necessary advice and guidance. A dog warden may feel the need to refer an offence to us which we would then investigate.'
George Rockingham from the PACT animal sanctuary in Hingham said that better legislation is needed regarding breeding and the licensing of breeders.
He said: 'There is no differentiation between serious bites and non-serious bites - most of the figures probably refer to play biting or miss-handling of usually friendly dogs and therefore it is false to imply that all dogs can be dangerously aggressive.
'The increase could also be the result of dogs being kept as weapons and status symbols by drug and alcohol abusers, or because of a decline in the moral standards of the population of this country and the lack of respect for animals in general.
'How does one define a dangerous dog? Most dogs will bite if scared or if treated badly. Education of children and adults on how to respect, treat and train dogs should be included in new legislation.'