Over 7,000 children under the age of 18 were hospitalised last year for dog bites, according to the NHS. Now a parliamentary committee has recommended new training to keep families safe around pets.
The Commons Environment Committee found that children under 9 were more likely to be hurt than any other age group, sometimes with life-changing injuries. They also suggest that training should be part of the national curriculum to stop the increase in admissions. 4,110 children were hospitalised in 2005, an 80% increase over the last 12 years.
Other recommendations included awareness courses for owners, similar to speeding remedial courses. They also want an independent review into dog attacks for a new piece of legislation to replace the 1991 Dangerous Dog Act.
Chair of the committee, Neil Parish MP, said the current legislation was a “death sentence” for many family pets and good-natured dogs who are put down purely because of their breed. He also said that “evidence from across the world shows that the government should focus instead on encouraging responsible ownership, improving education and ensuring offenders face robust penalties.”
The Dog Trust has already given advice on how parents should teach their children about dog safety:
- Don’t go near a dog you don’t know
- Only pat or play with a dog if they have asked the owner
- Never leave young children unsupervised with any dog
- Don’t let them tease their dog or play too roughly with it
- Don’t go near or disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, ill or injured
But the government says there are no plans to make dog safety part of the national curriculum. The committee also found that schools were unprepared to teach this topic, resulting in patchy results across the UK. Charities say teaching material is readily available, but aren’t being taught consistently.
Some members of the committee argued that responsibility should lie on owners, not children. Tackling reckless and dangerous owners should be the focus point of education rather than in schools. Charities and even police forces should take on owners whose dogs are deemed high risk or who have been involved in previous attacks.