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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 December 2007, 17:19 GMT
Death puts spotlight on dog laws
Ellie Lawrenson
Ellie Lawrenson died after a savage mauling by her uncle's dog
The fatal attack on a one-year-old boy by a pet rottweiler comes almost exactly a year after five-year-old Ellie Lawrenson was killed by her uncle's dog.

It is certain to reignite the debate about how to deal with dangerous dogs and the legisation covering them - which was introduced after a series of attacks and has been widely criticised as rushed and ineffective.

Indeed, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was cited in a BBC Radio 4 poll last January of laws the public would most like to see revoked.

It bans the breeding, sale or exchange of four kinds of dogs: pit bull terriers, Japanese tosas, the dogo Argentinos and the fila brasileiros. Cross-breeds of these are also covered by the law.

Other dogs which appear bred for fighting are also banned.

The vast majority of rottweilers never get involved in any incidents
Chris Window
Rottweiler Club

A dog classed as dangerously out of control in a public place can be destroyed and the owner fined or jailed for up to six months.

Owners can be imprisoned for a maximum of two years if their dog injures someone.

The government said it has no plans to amend the legislation or to add rottweilers to the list of banned breeds following the latest attack.

The RSPCA has said it is wrong to "criminalise" individual breeds of dog, but this latest death will put rottweilers firmly in the spotlight.

A fortnight ago kennel worker Mandy Peynado's arm was amputated after she was mauled by a rottweiler in Wiltshire.

But Chris Window, from the Rottweiler Club, said there were tens of thousands of rottweilers in the UK and it was very uncommon for attacks to take place.

Banned dog

"The vast majority of rottweilers never get involved in any incidents," he said.

He added that when incidents do happen the injuries sustained are significant.

And he stressed that young children should never be left alone with any breed of dog.

The Kennel Club said it thought the dangerous dogs legislation was "poorly drafted" and not the solution.

Club secretary Caroline Kisko said: "It is the responsibility of parents, teachers and the government to educate dog owners and children with what to do and what not to do when they are in the company of a dog."

Ellie Lawrenson's death in St Helen's, Merseyside, on New Year's Day 2007 was the only other fatal attack by a dog this year.

She was mauled by an illegal "pit bull terrier type" called Reuben at the home of her grandmother, Jackie Simpson, who was later found not guilty of manslaughter through gross negligence.

Ellie's uncle Kiel Simpson, 24, was jailed for eight weeks after admitting owning a banned dog.

Plastic surgery

But while deaths by dangerous dogs are extremely rare, serious attacks, which can leave victims - often children - scarred for life, are occurring on an almost monthly basis.

  • In October this year a six-year-old suffered serious face and arm injuries when he was attacked by a pit bull terrier in Winson Green, Birmingham
  • Just days later a 12-year-old boy was taken to hospital after having "chunks of flesh" torn from his arm when he was attacked by a Staffordshire bull terrier in Gateshead
  • In the same town six weeks earlier, an 11-year-old girl was taken to hospital with facial injuries after she was attacked by a bull mastiff
  • In August, six-year-old Sophia Kimpton, from London, needed plastic surgery for 17 injuries to her head, arms and back after an attack by two rottweilers while on holiday in Northern Ireland
  • In December last year a man in a wheelchair suffered serious injuries after a mauling by a pit bull-type dog in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. The dog was destroyed after tests proved it was an illegal breed
  • In September 2006, 12-year-old Kerry Neary from Birmingham, needed 30 stitches when a rottweiler bit her right arm while she was playing in a park - the same month

The Princess Royal became the first British royal to have a criminal record when her English bull terrier, Dotty, bit two children in Windsor Great Park.



SEE ALSO
Family dog kills one-year-old boy
29 Dec 07 |  West Yorkshire
Postman badly hurt in dog attack
19 Dec 07 |  South Yorkshire
Dog attack woman loses left arm
14 Dec 07 |  Wiltshire
Girl, six, mauled by rottweilers
22 Aug 07 |  Northern Ireland

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