Call for law change after puppy loses eye in 'dog-on-dog attack'

  • Watch: Full video report on the incident which cost a little dog an eye

A woman from Kent is calling for a change in the law after her pet suffered serious injuries in an ‘attack by another dog’.

Rupert, a one-year-old Shih Tzu, lost his left eye after allegedly being bitten in Ramsgate two weeks ago, but Kent Police told his owner that the incident didn’t amount to a criminal offence. 

Rebecca Chapman has now started an online petition calling for new legislation to better hold owners to account for their dogs’ actions. 

Rupert before and after the incident in which he lost an eye. Credit: Rebecca Chapman

According to Ms Chapman, the incident happened at about 8.30am on Thursday, 9th September, as she took Rupert for his morning walk on Ramsgate beach in Kent.  

She describes how another dog, which had been running off the lead, “locked onto Rupert’s face… within seconds”.

She said: “[The man] grabbed onto his dog’s harness and was pulling him off. I think the force of him pulling his dog off mine pulled my dog’s eye out.”

Ms Chapman says the other dog owner refused to provide contact details and left the scene “like nothing had happened”.

Rebecca Chapman (centre) walking her dog with her daughter, Gemma (left), close to where the incident took place in Ramsgate.

In a statement, a police spokesperson said: “Kent Police was contacted on Thursday 9 September 2021 and it was reported that, shortly after 8.30am that morning, a dog had bitten another dog near Marina Road, Ramsgate.

“Officers have carried out enquiries into the circumstances and no criminal offences have been identified.”

The government department responsible for animal welfare, Defra, has defended the current laws available to police, including the offence of allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control.

But the RSPCA believes the current legislation surrounding dog-on-dog attacks needs reform.

Sam Gaines, a dog welfare specialist at the charity, told ITV News Meridian: “We’d like the government to take a very different approach to dog control and consolidate and reform all the current legislation that exists. This would then sit under one Dog Control Act which would give them the ability to be more preventative and allow early interventions which will hopefully tackle and prevent some of the dog incidents that we see today.”

  • Watch: Advice for dog owners from the RSPCA's Sam Gaines:

Rupert has now recovered from the operation to remove his left eye but his owner says he’s not the same dog that he was. 

“He bumps into things, he’s not judging space. He has changed quite a bit. I’m going to try and do therapy with him and whatever we can to get him back to being the Rupert he used to be,” Ms Chapman added.

Rebecca Chapman says her veterinary costs were covered by insurance but she’s set up an online fundraiser to help the families of other dogs which are hurt in similar circumstances, as well as an online petition calling for a change in the law to make dog-on-dog attacks a criminal offence. 

A spokesperson for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said:

“Dog attacks can have horrific consequences, which is why it is a criminal offence to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control.

“Any dog has the potential to be dangerously out of control, and we have a range of different measures to tackle dangerous dogs and irresponsible ownership.”