By Branwen Jeffreys
Health correspondent, BBC News
The number of people treated for dog bites at hospitals in England has risen sharply, according to figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats.
Chloe sustained serious facial injuries
NHS statistics show the number attending A&E after a dog attack has risen by more than 40% in the last four years to nearly 3,800 a year.
The figures follow a series of widely publicised attacks on children.
Young children and teenagers are the most likely groups to be treated at hospital after a dog bite.
The hospital admission statistics also reveal a strong regional variation.
DOGS BANNED IN UK
Pit Bull Terrier
During the four-year period the number of patients under 18 treated for dog bites in London more than doubled, and in the West Midlands it rose by 80%.
In contrast, the number of under-18s injured by dogs in the East Midlands rose by just 2% over the same period.
Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, called for more to be done to make people aware of the risks of irresponsible dog ownership.
The Liberal Democrats want to see stricter legal duties laid on dog owners, and control orders to impose conditions on ownership - or in severe cases disqualify irresponsible owners.
Of the attack figures Mr Lamb added: "These are dramatic increases. I think in some communities these dogs have become a badge of honour, a fashion accessory in a way, and I think that's very disturbing."
Chloe Grayson, nine, is still recovering from a sudden unprovoked dog attack which has left her left cheek seriously scarred.
Chloe was bitten on the face at a neighbour's house, when she went into the kitchen to ask her mother for a glass of water.
Nicola Grayson said her daughter had blood pouring down her face, and was screaming: "Mummy, I'm going to bleed to death".
Chloe's scars are healing well but Nicola said her daughter had been left terrified of dogs.
She said: "Emotionally it's been very bumpy; she can change from being happy and playful to being an emotional wreck, worrying if she'll be allowed to go to a party because of her scar."
Hospital statistics confirm that children under the age of nine are most likely to be admitted to hospital with a dog bite, closely followed by teenagers.
Some local authorities are concerned that teenagers and young men are buying menacing dogs as a status symbol.
In London where the increase in attacks has been the greatest, the Greater London Authority, Metropolitan Police, RSPCA and Battersea Dogs' Home are launching a campaign on responsible dog ownership.
Chloe needs regular treatment
The London borough of Wandsworth is among the local councils using byelaws and ASBOs to deal with owners who fail to control their dogs.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said comprehensive legislation was in place to deal with people who failed to control their dogs.
Under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 four types of dog are banned: the pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo Argentino and fila Brasileiro .
A spokesperson said: "We keep the Act under regular review and last year we carried out a consultation with the police on dangerous dogs legislation.
"At the time the police did not indicate there was any need to add any other types of dogs to the list of prohibited dogs covered by the Act."
A selection of your comments:
Last year my four-year-old son was mauled in the face by a friend's "cute" cocker spaniel. He is scarred for life. I think that we need a major campaign to change people's perspective on dogs. Working dogs can be very useful but people need to be aware that keeping a dog as a pet is a danger to children.
Stephen, Ballywalter, N. Ireland
I am 37 and was attacked last year and left badly scarred with 15 puncture wounds to my body. The dog was a Chow-Chow that I was taking home for a neighbour - he attacked me for no reason and with no warning. The police do not have the power to enforce a control order or prosecute the owner. The owner still walks the dog 50ft from my home!
Four years ago I was bitten by a dog when I was on my holidays in the Ukraine. After that I came back to the UK and went to see a doctor. I was prescribed antibiotics, but it was not successful. I went to see doctors three time. I suffered near two month and it was not successful. I never head before, that dogs bite take so long to recover. I decided to do what people in the Ukraine do in this case. I put leaf of aloe vera on my wound and it was recovered in two days.
Nataliya Bukharina, Leyland
I am frequently attacked whilst cycling down country lanes. The closest so far was a nip to my tights that left a hole in them. It should be made clear to owners that they are legally liable if somebody suffers a bodily injury.
Mark, Ashbourne, UK
We own a 11-month-old English Bull Terrier puppy. She is a beautifully natured dog. Many people judge her by her breed when in fact she has been attacked twice by other dogs. I do however feel that the government needs to bring in licensing for ALL dog owners. It would make people think twice about owning dogs they simply can't handle.
Emily Pearce-Sawyer, Lincoln, England
Generally it is not the dogs who are menacing but their owners. I am the owner of a Collie cross and a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. My dogs are never left alone with children, never allowed to approach children on a walk, nor adults or other dogs for that matter. The only time we have ever experienced a problem with our Staffie is when an ignorant dog owner has panicked and shouted abuse at us and therefore created a nervous, frenzied energy causing their dog to react defensively. It should be made more difficult for irresponsible members of the public to own dogs.
Liz Wareing, Warrington, Cheshire
I have two dogs ,one of them a giant breed, both dogs are well behaved but we always ask visitors how they feel about dogs before allowing both to meet and when out never let our dogs off the lead near small children.