Page last updated at 07:02 GMT, Monday, 15 February 2010

Dog attack injuries rise by 60% in a decade

Injured pit bull-type dog
Some campaigners want a return to a system of dog licensing

The number of people sent to hospital after dog attacks in Wales has risen by 60% over the last decade, according to NHS figures obtained by BBC Wales.

Radio Wales' Eye on Wales programme has learned that, on average, every day somebody somewhere is hospitalised because of a dog attack.

Incidents have gone up from 234 in 1999/2000 to 373 in the year ending in March 2009.

Campaigners are calling for compulsory dog micro-chipping to help the problem.

It is understood the number of dog attack injuries could be higher than the official figures suggest as the statistics do not include those victims who were treated in accident and emergency departments or doctors' surgeries.

Figures released to Cynon Valley AM Christine Chapman from South Wales Police, under the Freedom of Information Act in December, showed that there were 800 attacks reported to the force over the last two-and-a-half years.

"Some were pretty horrific," she said.

The idea behind compulsory micro-chipping is creating a sense of responsibility and traceability
Sian Edwards, Dogs Trust

"You're talking about attacks on children, attacks on pets. Some pets were actually killed. This was very worrying

"There is evidence now that dogs are being kept for protection - they're known as status dogs.

"You're talking about rival gangs, you're talking about protection. It's not good."

Betty Williams, the Labour MP for Conwy, has also called for action after she was was attacked last September while walking in a park close to her home - even though the dog involved had been put on the lead by its owner at her request.

"As we were passing each other this Rottweiler leapt in front of his owner towards me and bit me quite viciously on my right arm," she said.

"I had to go to the GP threes times and the A&E at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor three times.

"My arm is disfigured, I still experience pain and discomfort when I'm writing and also have discomfort when I'm eating. It's quite unpleasant."

'Education needed'

The assembly government is now considering the compulsory micro-chipping of dog as part of its plans to control the breeding and sale of dogs.

It is an approach that has the support of the Dogs Trust.

Sian Edwards, from the dog welfare charity, said: "The idea behind compulsory micro-chipping is creating a sense of responsibility and traceability.

"It means that every dog will be linked to somebody, so people can't go, 'It's not my fault, it's not my dog, it's not my responsibility'."

But Ms Williams is doubtful that micro-chipping would have saved her from injury.

She would like to see a return to a system of dog licensing.

This idea also has the support of David Ryan, who has 26 years experience as a police dog handler and is now chairman of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors.

"I don't just mean a little card you have to take across to the Post Office," he said.

"It would include education, micro-chipping, neutering where possible, it would include taking out third party insurance, little add-ons that would make owning a dog a responsible thing to do as opposed to a disposable thing."

Eye On Wales is on BBC Radio Wales on Monday 15 February at 1830 GMT.

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