Government to hold ‘crisis talks’ over rise in fatal dog attacks since lockdown

A doubling of deadly dog attacks on people has prompted the UK Government to hold talks to deal with a "national crisis".

So far this year six fatalities have been recorded, four of them children under the age of three.

The rise in maulings has been partly blamed on a pandemic boom in pet ownership with animals, sometimes imported, left unsocialised in lockdown.

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has now called for round-table talks to discuss potential changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act, the Daily Mirror reports.

It said: “We have set up a Responsible Dog Ownership project with the police, local authority representatives and animal welfare stakeholders to look at dog control issues.”

It comes as police, the courts and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have been criticised for not fully enforcing the law, with the Royal Mail and Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) being forced to take out private prosecutions against owners.

The RSPCA also says the current law is not working, while post and delivery staff say they have been left with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after being savaged while at work.

The CWU says dog attacks injure 3,000 postal, collection and delivery workers a year.

Overall, dog bite injuries have more than doubled in the last 15 years with more than 10,000 people a year requiring hospital treatment.

The union's Dave Joyce said: “This is a national crisis. We have 90,000 members and every day I wake up thinking ‘is this the day I am going to get that call that one has been killed?’ We’ve come close.”

Mr Joyce added that a major problem was a lack of enforcement by police, the courts and CPS.

The CWU wants “sentences that fit the crime”.

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He said: “Courts can order prison sentences of up to five years for aggravated dog attacks leading to serious injuries. But the longest we’ve seen is four-and-a-half months, involving a postman who was nearly killed."

The CWU wants changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act to simplify prosecutions, saying the law suggests an owner has to be aware their pet is dangerous, which is hard to prove.

Dr Sam Gaines, of the RSPCA, said: “There is an urgent need for reform. We want to see the end of breed-specific legislation. Any dog can bite.”

Royal Mail said: “We will seek to prosecute dog owners in criminal courts when appropriate. We will continue to push for changes in the law to reflect the severity of attacks.”

Postwoman Sarah King, 46, had her finger bitten off, leaving her needing counselling and a prosthetic finger.

The mum-of-two, from Barnsley, was attacked by a ­Rottweiler-shar pei cross near Mexborough, South Yorkshire.

She said: “There were no bristles or back to the letter-box so it got its snout in. When I pulled my hand out, part of my finger was missing. The pain was awful.”

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