'Put down' dogs that attack call

By Paul Baker
BBC Inside Out, East

Image caption,
Both dogs that were attacked survived despite being badly injured

A couple who were mauled by four dogs have called for animals that attack people to be automatically destroyed.

Roy and Karen Clarke, of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, made the call as BBC Inside Out revealed figures showing the number of hospital admissions for dog-related injuries rose from 4,700 in 2007/2008 to 5,800 in 2009/2010.

Following Freedom of Information requests (FOI), Inside Out in the East also found that police forces in the region have seen 1,127 reported dog attacks over the past two years.

Despite a presumption in law for destruction, the FOI requests reveal that very few dogs are destroyed.

In March 2010, Roy and Karen Clarke were walking their Cairn terriers, Angus and Hamish, in their local woods.

A Rottweiler, an Alsatian and two bull terriers had just escaped from a nearby house. They ran into the same woods and attacked Mr Clarke's dogs, then they turned on the couple.

The couple needed emergency treatment and their terriers were close to death.

'Horrible accident'

The owner of the Rottweiler and Alsatian, Julie O'Brien, pleaded guilty to allowing the dogs to be dangerously out of control in a public place and cause injury.

But the dogs were not destroyed. Instead, the court ordered that the dogs be muzzled whenever they were out.

O'Brien was given a community order at West Suffolk Magistrates' Court on 6 July 2010 which also banned her from owning any more dogs for two years.

She was ordered to pay compensation of £2,700.

The owner's partner, Robert Conyers, told the BBC that he thought the muzzles were enough of a control.

"It was just a horrible accident and we are sorry for what happened to those people," he said.

"We thought [the dogs] were going to be destroyed. I didn't think they should be because to me there must have been a reason to set them off in the first place."

But the muzzles are not enough to reassure Mr and Mrs Clarke.

"When they attacked us, they had escaped. So when they escape they're not going to have a muzzle on - they're only going to be muzzled when they're out for a walk," said Mr Clarke.

"If they escape again, they'll be free to do what they want. I think if a dog attacks anybody or anything, it's got to be destroyed before it does it again."

The full report can be seen on Inside Out on Monday at 1930 GMT on BBC One and BBC One HD. Viewers elsewhere can see it on BBC iPlayer.

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