Vetting process needed in dog ownership

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Much has been made of the many changes to British society over the decades, but one national characteristic which has remained the same is our love of dogs.

Being a non-dog lover myself (there, I have said it), I never cease to be amazed by the extent which some folk idolise their pets, to the point where they are considered to be family. Yes, I get the loyalty thing and the fact that, most of the time, a dog shows an unconditional love that parents can only dream of, but companions who can’t buy a round just don’t interest me.

My views are out of step with millions of other people, some of whom will be using this column to clear up the result of Rover’s morning constitutional from the utility room.

But, there is a risk, albeit a slight one, of allowing an animal into the heart of a family, something which has been tragically highlighted by the death of two baby girls, one here in Lancashire, this month.

While none of us know the exact circumstances of these horrible tragedies, what we do know is dogs were responsible for the fatal injuries. In the local case, the animal has been destroyed and arrests have already been made, and we can only hope the legal process is allowed to take its place so the tiny victim can be allowed to rest in peace.

But statistics reported this week show last year some 600 babies and toddlers were admitted to hospital after being attacked by a dog. Granted, given that there are an estimated 8.5 million pet dogs in the UK, this is a small figure, but I would argue that one mauled baby is one too many.

Experts with a far greater knowledge than I will tell you there are a number of reasons why dogs attack, and yes, provocation and neglect is among them – bad owners.

What I have never been able to understand is why there is not some sort of framework to allow families who want a dog to undergo some sort of vetting procedure by experts.

Yes, it would cost money to set up, and it would be declared by some as an infringement of human rights, but soon adults will be banned from smoking in vehicles with children, so why not protect youngsters against potentially dangerous dogs?

Any parent will tell you staff on maternity wards will not allow newborns to be taken home until mum or dad have produced the standard safety car seat, something nobody quibbles about. It is this instinct to protect children which makes it all the more perplexing that nothing more is being done to stop youngsters from being attacked by dogs.