Published: 00:01, 01 April 2015
Kent has seen an alarming 357% increase in dog attacks since 2012, according to figures obtained by KentOnline.
The data from Kent Police shows that in 2012 there were 100 attacks in public places which resulted in injury; in 2014 this figure leapt to 457.
But the number of people charged has decreased, with 13% of attacks resulting in a charge in 2012, compared to just 6% in 2014.
Trevor Cooper, a dog law specialist for the Dogs Trust, said: “There is a perception that the number of dog attacks is on the rise and these statistics seem to bear this out
“It could be because there are more dogs around than ever before, there could be more victims, or police are more inclined to take action.
“Dogs should be appropriately trained and socialised by the owner. It’s one of those basic things people need to do with any dog they get.”
“Dogs should be appropriately trained and socialised by the owner. It’s one of those basic things people need to do with any dog they get” - Trevor Cooper, Dogs Trust
Police use other means of redress including cautions and ‘community resolutions’, which in 2014 accounted for 1% and 15% of dog attack cases respectively.
But many incidents appear to go unpunished.
In October last year new laws came into force intended to reduce the number of dog attacks.
The legislation allows police and local authorities to force dog owners to take preventative measures.
Intimidating dogs can now be reported before an attack has taken place, and their owners ordered to attend training classes, muzzle the animal or repair fencing to keep their pet under control.
Failure to comply could mean a fine of up to £20,000.
Dr Sam Gains from the RSPCA said: “People may now feel they have a better means of reporting a dog they’re scared of, so it may just be better reporting. We’re now aware of issues we weren’t aware of a couple of years ago.
“It was like an out of body experience, it was hard to believe it was happening to you. It wasn’t until afterwards you realised the danger you were in" - Phillip Cole
“If people have a dog whose behaviour they are concerned about they need to seek professional help, not only to protect public safety, but to protect the welfare of their own dog.”
But the new powers would have done little to help Folkestone historian Dr Phillip Cole.
Dr Cole and his two poodles were attacked by three Staffordshire bull terriers on an isolated footpath.
Dr Cole was knocked to the ground in the attack, and one of his poodles, Shandi, was mauled to death. The other was injured, but survived.
“It was a strange feeling” he said.
“It was like an out of body experience, it was hard to believe it was happening to you. It wasn’t until afterwards you realised the danger you were in.
“Police were under the impression they were trained fighting dogs. Even after it had been apprehended the captured dog was still very aggressive and was described as un-rehabilitable.”
But Mr Cooper, from the Dogs Trust, says most owners are responsible.
“We’ve got nine million dogs in uk,” he said.
“The vast majority of dogs are very well behaved and the vast majority of dog owners are responsible, but there’s a small minority that haven’t trained or socialised their dogs. They are the ones we need to target.”
The Dogs Trust has launched a campaign to teach parents and children about dogs and how to live safely alongside them.
Mr Cooper said: “It seems sometimes as though we’ve forgotten how to behave around dogs.
“You hear about these tragic cases where children have been left alone with dogs we are just reminding parents don’t leave a dog unsupervised with a child.”
Police say the increase may be partly due to how attacks are recorded, but the last ten years show a steady rise overall.
In 2005, there were 129 attacks, compared to 160 in 2008, followed by a sharp drop to just 59 in 2009.
By 2011 recorded attacks had fallen to just 15, before a massive increase to 100 in 2012, and an all time high of 457 in 2014.
So far 2015 has seen 37 attacks.
Kent Police said the fluctuations - and the increase - are down to a variety of factors.
A spokesman said: "There have been changes to dangerous dogs legislation which have prompted more media reporting of this issue.
"That coverage, in turn, has raised these types of offences in the public’s consciousness and triggered more crime reports.
"At the same time Kent Police has undergone a thorough review of all its crime recording practices and now has a strategic lead Dog Team Sergeant with responsibility for ensuring all reports of dangerous dog-related crime are correctly recorded in compliance with the new legislation."
To find out more about dealing with aggressive dogs click here.
Additional reporting by Graham Stothard
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