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Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 00:03 GMT
'Don't leave children with dogs'
Pitbull-type terrier
Hospital admissions for dog bites have doubled in 10 years
Children should not be left alone to play with dogs, doctors say.

In the British Medical Journal, London Deanery and Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust medics also called for children to be taught how to approach dogs.

Paediatrician Rachel Besser also wrote that dog owners should face mandatory classes on pet control.

A five-year-old girl from Merseyside was killed by a pit bull terrier-type dog recently, and hospital admissions for dog bites have doubled in 10 years.

NHS figures show that 4,133 people were admitted to hospital last year suffering dog bites, almost double the number in 1996. More than a fifth were children under nine.

We must stop placing blame on the dogs themselves and focus attention instead on who holds the lead at the other end - or who isn't holding the lead
Paediatrician Rachel Besser

Ms Besser, from training body the London Deanery, argued that the Dangerous Dogs Act does not work, because it only covers four breeds and just 764 people were prosecuted under it in 2005.

"Most dog bites to children at home happen when the child interacts with the dog in the absence of adult supervision," she wrote.

"We must stop placing blame on the dogs themselves and focus attention instead on who holds the lead at the other end - or who isn't holding the lead as the case may be.

"It is clear that not all dog owners appreciate that children should not be left unsupervised with a dog.

"Just as some parents are obliged to take parenting classes, I would like to see equivalent mandatory classes for expectant dog owners to teach them about the responsibilities of dog ownership."

She also called for measures targeted at children to help educate them on how to approach dogs.

Responsibility

Marina Morgan, of Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust, agreed young children should not play with dogs unless they were closely supervised.

We should be careful not to demonise all dogs
Inga MacKellar, of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors

She said children should be taught to "treat dogs with respect, avoid direct eye contact and not to tease them".

And she added: "They should also not approach unfamiliar dogs or disturb one that is eating, sleeping or caring for puppies."

Chris Laurence, veterinary director of the Dogs Trust, said: "The advice offered is largely common sense but it is surprising that there are a large number of dog owners who fail to follow simple and practical pieces of advice like this."

Inga MacKellar, of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, said there was an onus on owners to take responsibility for pets, but agreed such a blanket ban on unsupervised play was appropriate.

But she added: "We should be careful not to demonise all dogs."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The advice given in the British Medical Journal



SEE ALSO
Family devastated by girl's death
02 Jan 07 |  Merseyside
Dangerous dogs amnesty condemned
11 Jan 07 |  England
Man jailed over 'cats' attack dog
31 May 06 |  Manchester

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