As yet another young child is savaged by a dog, it is time for society to ask if more than mere legislation is needed to tackle this menace.
Epping Forest is a nice place for parents to take their kids, the heart of the countryside in Greater London. Last Saturday, that idyllic country stroll became a nightmare as a father fought in desperation to free his six year old daughter from the clutches of man's so-called best friend. The unnamed victim was lucky - if one may use that word - to escape with having most of her right ear ripped off and her neck and shoulder injured. Her mother was also wounded as she tried to protect her daughter from what is believed to be a Staffordshire bull terrier, and is known to be a direct descendant of the wolf. If you watched the recent TV series Frozen Planet, you might have seen one of these creatures attack and kill a bison, the largest land animal in North America, and one ten times its own weight.
The man in charge of the dog, presumably its owner, has already pleaded guilty under the Dangerous Dogs Act; the 56 year old male is hardly the stereotypical dangerous dog owner, usually considered to be a young urban type with a penchant for drug dealing or something equally disreputable. The reality is of course that although there are breeds like the Golden Labrador (used as guide dogs) that are renowned for their temperament, any dog can turn on a human being.
Last year, a local newspaper in Greater London began a campaign against dangerous dogs. Those with long memories will have recalled the case of Rukhsana Khan who was 6 years old when she was subjected to an horrific attack. Although that happened in 1991, she is still terrified of dogs to this day. Far more recently, an even younger girl, Ellie Lawrenson, was savaged to death.
The problem of dog attacks is not of course unique to Britain, nor to young children; here is a report of an attack on an adult from Canada last month. And here is a list of fatal dog attacks in the United States compiled by that font of all knowledgeWikipedia. They are mainly from this Millennium, and bear in mind this list is only of fatal attacks, and may not be complete. It remains to be seen how many such fatal attacks there are in other countries, including those where rabies may be an issue. The statistics given here are almost certainly far from complete.
Yesterday morning, one of the guests on the BBC Breakfast news programme was Angela McGlynn, whose four year old son was killed by a banned breed in November 2009. Unsurprisingly, she argued in favour of stronger legislation, and called for all dogs to be muzzled both around children and in public places.
Although most people would not argue that a guide dog should be punished for the sins of a pit bull, there are clearly some breeds that have no place in Britain and indeed no place anywhere, except perhaps in a zoo. The legislation called for by Angela McGlynn would be extremely difficult to enforce; we would be far better off rounding up any of the listed dangerous breeds and erring on the side of caution where this cannot be determined. These animals should then be put down, and the same treatment should be meted out to any individual dog of any breed that gives the slightest cause for concern, especially to the very young, elderly or otherwise vulnerable. Most of us have no compunction about slaughtering and eating other animals; it is time this stupid sentiment about dogs is consigned to the dustbin of history where it belongs. Most of them do nothing more entertaining than wag their tails, unlike cats they defecate all over the place, and oft' as not show their contempt for humans by licking your hand or even your face after first licking their own private parts.
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