June 8, 2017
The IKC was shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Teresa McDonagh as a result of the attack by two dogs.
The exact circumstances of this incident will never be known, however the calls for a review of dog control legislation should not be based on breed specific legislation. Such current breed specific legislation has failed to protect the public and dog owners from bite incidents.
While not familiar with the particular circumstances of the two dogs in this tragic incident, fear and territorial aggression are often the result of poor and inadequate socialization by puppy farmers of dogs during the formative period up to 12 weeks of age.
The sourcing of dogs in Ireland is a major contributing factor to dog aggression. Puppy farmers are producing many tens of thousands of pups which research shows will have poorer health and temperament than those from responsible breeders.
The current review document on Dog Breeding Establishment Acts calls for 1 staff member per 30 dogs to clean, feed, exercise and socialize dogs on a daily basis. The IKC/DSPCA submission to the Review recommends a maximum of no more than 10 dogs per staff member. The Review does not mention mate selection by temperament or by health screening, yet peer reviewed scientific papers show that temperament is inherited.
Currently the IKC through international partnerships with academic institutions and other Kennel Clubs is now reviewing best practice on the socialization of dogs.
Bite statistics in Ireland show an increase in bites from the introduction of the current Dog Acts, demonstrating the ineffectiveness of the legislation in place. As has been pointed out by Dr Paraic O Suilleabhain of NUI Galway, the legislation can give people a false impression that only the listed dogs were “dangerous” and that other breeds would not show aggression. Instead he calls for the need for education which is supported by Veterinary Ireland and the Irish Kennel Club
International research and statistics show that bite incidents occur generally to family members or those people who know the aggressor dog and occur close to or within the dog’s home. The vast majority of victims are children and most bites occur during the summer months.
The Irish Kennel Club has developed an educational tool for the benefit of small children which has already been demonstrated and positively received in three schools. We hope to make this available, free of charge, to all junior schools at the start of the new school year in September. This educational tool is a result of international collaboration with other national kennel clubs and is aimed at younger children, the category most at risk. The teaching unit covers care and welfare of dogs, understanding their body language, and what to do if approached by a strange dog.
This type of education would be invaluable for the future.