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Man calls for tighter dog controls after fighting off pitbull attack in Dunorlan Park Tunbridge Wells

A 73-year-old man who fought off an attack by a pitbull terrier is calling for tighter controls on dogs at a Tunbridge Wells park.

Malcolm Flanagan has spoken out following the incident in Dunorlan Park last week, and fears someone will be seriously injured or killed if measures aren’t enforced to control dangerous dogs.

A bull mastiff-type pitbull dog. Image: Thinkstock
A bull mastiff-type pitbull dog. Image: Thinkstock

Mr Flanagan says he was walking in the park on Thursday, June 22, when he saw a pitbull racing towards him.

“It came charging down the field,” he recalled. “I saw it from 100 yards away, and then realised it was coming towards me at speed. At 50 yards I realised the shape and size of it, and realised it was a pitbull. I didn't want to run because I didn't want to be attacked from behind and knocked on the floor.”

Having realised the dog was intent on attacking him, he turned to attempt to face it down, but it leapt at him and tried to bite him.

“It jumped at me and I punched it a couple of times,” added Mr Flanagan. “By this time it was an all-out attack. When it came back again I kicked it three times. At some stage I knew I would run out of energy and then it would have the advantage, but then I saw the owner coming down the hill.

“When it came for the fourth time, the owner grabbed it. I asked him who he was and why he had the dog there.

“I said ‘this is a really dangerous situation, if I was an old lady or little kid it could have been a fatality.’

Dunorlan Park, Tunbridge Wells
Dunorlan Park, Tunbridge Wells

Mr Flanagan said the owner then ran off with the dog, leaving him shaken by the incident.

He then reported it to the police and the council, and believes dog owners should be forced to have their pets on leads at all times in the park.

“Luckily it didn't manage to lock its teeth on me, because I kept knocking it away,” he added. “It wanted to lock its teeth around my thigh. It's more the emotional stress - if that guy hadn't come running what would have happened?

“Pitbulls are supposed to be banned, so that dog shouldn't have been there anyway. I think this policy by the council is fundamentally flawed.

“Are parks for people or for dogs? Some people use it a lot but where are they going to go? It was very dangerous and frightening.”

News of the attack comes as Kent Police reminded dog owners of their responsibilities, following a spate of similar incidents – and a predicted rise in attacks during the summer months.

In 2022 there were 98 attacks reported in July, with just 44 in February the same year – but so far this year May has seen 124 reported incidents including dog bites and dog-on-dog attacks, with 44 reported in the early half of June, until June 12.

Dunorlan Park in Tunbridge Wells
Dunorlan Park in Tunbridge Wells

Reflecting on his experience, Mr Flanagan said it was only a matter of time before someone was seriously hurt at Dunorlan Park.

“What is the solution?” he added. “Park walkers could arm themselves with tasers or guns perhaps. Better still change the by-law allowing dogs off the leash in that area. And fine and imprison the law breakers.

“Parks are for gentle people to relax — and not for dangerous dogs to attack humans. Every time you see a pit bull remember they are potential killers. Why would you wish to own an animal like that.”

A statement from Kent Police confirmed they were investigating the attack, adding: “The incident happened at around 1.15pm on Thursday June 22 when a dog, described as a pit bull terrier-type, is alleged to have run over to the victim and bitten his thigh.

“The owner, who was white with a beard and wearing a green t-shirt and shorts, came across and retrieved the dog. He left the scene towards a car park and officers are completing enquiries to identify him.

“Witnesses and anyone with information that may assist the investigation is urged to call the west Kent appeal line on 01622 604100, quoting 46/113150/23.”

A spokesperson for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council said: “Mr Flanagan did report the incident to us and we were very sorry to hear about what had happened to him. The policy for dogs on leads in certain sections of the park is not new. It was introduced in May 2022 following a public consultation.

“Previously there was no requirement for dogs to be on leads in any part of the park, owners were asked to have their dogs under control. Now there are designated areas where dogs must be on leads and in the off-lead section they should still be under control. Our enforcement officers do visit the park periodically and they will speak to anyone who is walking their pet and not following the rules.

“Anyone attacked by a dog should call 999 immediately.”

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