WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT – Victim of Suffolk dog attack issues warning as police report spike in violent offences
- Credit: Archant
A dog attack victim scarred for life by an out-of-control Rottweiler in Suffolk is calling on owners to think twice when letting their pets off the lead.
Mendlesham farmer Paul Baker was working in a field this summer when the dog came out of nowhere and grabbed hold of his arm, leaving him badly hurt with deep cuts.
The 34-year-old’s warning comes as latest police figures reveal a sharp rise in violent attacks involving dogs.
In Suffolk, six times as many offences were reported in 2016 than in 2009, with 225 being recorded last year compared with 39 eight years ago.
Mr Baker, from Wickham Skeith, said: “I was out spraying my crops, close to some woods but on my land. I turned around and there was a Rottweiler coming out of those woods. I never heard it, that was the thing – no bushes rustled or anything so it was a big shock.
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“It had hold of my arm, it had a strong jaw and once it had let go I had some really nasty bites, but I’ve been told it could have been even worse.
“It was scary, I think if I could say something to dog owners I’d ask them to be aware of the dangers and keep them on a lead.
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“They need to be more aware – they can get out of control.”
So far this year, in data recorded up to July, 184 violent offences – specifically dog attacks – have been logged by police.
Ben West, a dog trainer at the Stowmarket-based K9 Classroom, said dogs starting to act aggressively are likely to have been poorly trained.
“I teach around four to five dogs a week that are starting to display aggressive behaviour,” he said.
“It’s often because they have not had enough training, or haven’t been given enough attention by their owners.
“I think attacks on livestock as well are going up because owners let their dogs off leads even though they are aware they are near farms.
“They go out of sight and cause devastation.”
Pc Emma Grosvenor is a dog legislation officer for Suffolk police – she is qualified to identify and handle prohibited and dangerous dogs.
She said the reason for the rise might be due to an increase in awareness, and added: “We receive occasional reports of incidents involving dogs.
“Each case is judged on its merits and if called to an incident we would assess whether the dog was a danger to the public or an illegal breed and take the appropriate action.”
Suffolk Kennel Association secretary Bee Lee said training schools provide pets with discipline owners are sometimes unable to give.
She added: “Dogs are not violent by nature, things that happen in their lives can affect the way they behave.
“I think before anybody decides to get a dog, they need to go to a training school.
“There are a lot of people who get a dog but they are not at all prepared.
“You need to know what you are in for, puppies especially can be quite a handful if you’re unsure how to discipline them.
“The same goes with rescue dogs, you don’t know their history and what they have been through, so you don’t know what is going to trigger bad behaviour or viciousness.
“When they are left alone for a long time as well the human contact isn’t there so they can become frightened.
“They’re more likely to act up and in the worst instance attack if they are scared.”
The role of Dog Legislation Officers (DLOs)
Two specialist officers at Suffolk and Norfolk police are operational handlers trained and qualified to identify and handle prohibited and dangerous dogs.
They offer guidance and help to police officers regarding any aspect of the Dangerous Dog Act 1991, and the Dogs Act of 1871, with seizing, identifying dogs and prosecuting owners.
Both can also offer advice to the public about what to do with any dog incident – for instance, if they suspect a pet to be a prohibited dog or one used in fighting.
A seized dog might be destroyed at the owner’s request, when an owner signs a disclaimer and the police arrange euthanasia, or when a court issues a destruction order.
Pc Grosvenor said a major recent change to legislation has made an attack on a guide dog or any assistance dog by another animal an aggravated offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
Such a crime carries a maximum three-year jail term for the owner.