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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 June, 2005, 20:14 GMT 21:14 UK
Law change call after girl mauled
Anna Knuckles' injuries after being savaged by her next door neighbour's dog
Anna's injuries have healed but she is terrified of dogs, her family say
A father whose two-year-old girl was attacked by a dog says the law needs to be changed to protect families.

Anna Knuckles needed more than 100 stitches in her head and face after she was mauled by a neighbour's pet.

Her parents said they have no power to insist that the animal next door in Llansteffan, Carmarthenshire, is put down, as the attack was in a house.

Dyfed-Powys Police said the dog did not come under the Dangerous Dogs Act and had not been put down by its owner.

Anna needed emergency surgery after she was attacked by the dog, an Akita, a Japanese breed originally reared to hunt bears.

Ken Knuckles said he had taken his daughter with him to return a video to their neighbour when the dog pounced on her.

He said: "All of a sudden I heard a yell from the other side of the room. Me and a workman standing nearby tackled the dog.

"I tugged from one side and he tugged from the other. He knew the dog pretty well and was able to get it off pretty quick.

An Akita dog
Akitas are a Japanese breed prized for their ability to hunt bears

"When I got Anna out she was unrecognisable through the torn scalp and blood. If the workman had not have been there, she wouldn't have stood a chance."

Anna's ear was torn, her jaw muscles damaged, and her skull compressed and split open. There were three holes in her skull where the dog had bitten her.

The family said they had been friendly with the dog's owner, Steve O'Connor. The BBC tried to speak to Mr O'Connor about Anna's mauling but have not been able to contact him.

The difficulty the Knuckles family face is that the attack, in January 2005, happened inside the house on private land and the law is designed to protect people in public places. The family want that changed.

Mr Knuckles said: "Perhaps the police can't do anything, I'm not sure of the laws, but we need to know one way or the other because if the dog law protects the dog, I see it as absurd.

Ken Knuckles
Mr Knuckles said the law protects dogs and not children

"It means that a child can go into a house and a dog can kill that child and the police can't do a thing. There's something wrong with the law."

In a statement, Dyfed-Powys Police said: "This particular dog does not fit the criteria outlined in the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, and it has not been put down by its owner.

"Police have no powers in these particular circumstances to do this."

The Knuckles' lawyer, Michael Imperato, said: "The Akita is bred to bring down bears, so this little girl had no chance.

"I don't know why someone in Wales would want a bear-hunting dog and I feel strongly that the government should add them to the list of banned breeds."

Kennel Club spokesman Phil Buckley said the organisation considered the Dangerous Dogs Act "flawed" because it singled out particular breeds of dog.

'Correct training'

"It seems a bit silly that if a dog attacks in a public place then the owner is liable but in a private dwelling the owner is not liable," he said.

"It's very much an ownership issue to us. We feel that we should make owners more aware of their responsibilities.

"If these dogs are trained correctly and the dogs' behaviour is understood there shouldn't be any problems."

A spokesman for rural affairs department Defra said that there were no plans to alter the laws in the way that the Knuckles family wish.




SEE ALSO:
Three-legged dog left locked up
16 Jun 05 |  North East Wales
Dog track helps greyhound rescue
03 May 05 |  South West Wales
Jail and life ban for dog cruelty
22 Dec 04 |  South East Wales


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