Mothers of attacked children call for dogs to be kept on leads

Mothers whose children have been attacked by dogs have called for pets being off their lead in public to be made illegal.

One of the parents, whose daughter was killed in an attack by two Rottweillers, says ‘nothing has changed’ in law 30 years on from her death.

The parents were giving evidence to the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee at Holyrood.

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Veronica Lynch described how her daughter Kelly was “decapitated” by two “massive” Rottweilers.

Ms Lynch said: “When Kelly died, the laws were ineffective – nothing happened to anybody.

“The owner stupidly allowed his daughter and my daughter to take two massive Rottweilers out. Their combined weight was something like 19 stone and Kelly weighed four and a half stone.

“She didn’t stand a chance.”

She added: “30 years on from Kelly’s death we are still reading the same headlines. Nothing has changed and we have to get something done,” she added.

Lisa Grady’s daughter was also mauled by two Rottweilers while riding her bike outside the family home.

The 10-year-old was left with bite marks all over her body, suffered a broken jaw and was left with “her ear hanging off” following the attack.

Ms Grady echoed calls for all dogs to be on leads and suggested introducing ownership controls after it was revealed that owner of the dogs who attacked her daughter has another Rottweiler “within weeks”.

A third witness told the Committee that a pair of English Bull Terriers bit her six-year-old son’s ear off during an attack in 2015 where he was “rag-dolled all over the ground”.

Mum Claire Booth explained that her son has been left traumatised by the attack, and has had multiple operations to try and repair his wounds, but will still need further surgery to reconstruct his disfigured ear.

“It all happened very quickly”, she said, “It was carnage at the scene.

“I noticed right away that his ear was off the side of his head and a chunk was missing and it was hanging off.

“I was screaming hysterically and the owner was in the background unaware of what was going on, shouting out: “don’t worry the dogs won’t touch you”.”

After the attack, Ms Booth said she felt let down and “frustrated” by the response of the police and dog wardens.

“Police Scotland told us they didn’t have any control over dog attacks,” she said, adding that they didn’t want to take a statement from her injured son and only confiscated one of the two dogs involved.

“Dog wardens came to visit but a week later they phoned to ask if they’d left the statement in our house because they couldn’t find it.

“That whole process was farcical.”

Discussing what changes she would like to see to the law, Ms Booth said: “There’s too many people that have dogs that they can’t control and they shouldn’t be pets.

“I would like to see that in all public places dogs are kept on leads. It happens in other countries, why can’t it happen here?

“As a result, we can’t go to public parks right now because he’s terrified of dogs being off their lead and that’s now resulted in having more counselling.”

Hospital admissions related to dog bites have doubled in the last 10 years, according to plastic surgeon Dr Judy Evans, who warned that child victims are left with “much-worse scarring” than adults.

Radio Clyde journalist Natalie Crawford, who has been campaigning about children being attacked by dogs, revealed that 1,417 people – 255 of them children – attended A&E with dog-related injuries in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area last year.

Lanarkshire and Ayrshire’s figures were both at a four-year high, with 912 and 439 incidents respectively.

Dr Alasdair Corfield, who works in A&E at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, said there were an estimated 5,000 people injured by dogs who receive treatment, one-fifth of whom were children.

Holyrood’s Post-Legislative and Public Scrutiny committee will now consider the evidence and decide what recommendations to make to the Scottish Government, including possible changes to the law.

After hearing evidence from the three mothers, Anas Sarwar MSP said: “The reality is that there’s some people that the state deems are not fit enough to be parents and their children are taken away from them, whereas where is the control around whether someone is fit to be a dog owner?

“Clearly, there are people who should not be anywhere near children and there are people who should be nowhere near any kind of pet or dog.”

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