Dangerous dogs: More than 3,000 people in hospital in Wales following dog bites last year

More than 3,000 people in Wales went to hospital following a bite by a dog in 2022. 

Of those recorded, at least 588 - or around one in five - were children under the age of 17.

However, data obtained by ITV Cymru Wales shows that the number may be well short of the true figure.

Of the seven health boards asked for data in Wales, only four responded with full figures.

The latest data follows a number of high profile dog bite incidents across the country, with a spate of attacks taking place in the Caerphilly county borough.

In November 2021, 10-year-old Jack Lis was killed on the Penyrheol estate by an XL Bully, a relatively new breed of dog known for its size, strength and muscle mass.

Just over a year later, an 83-year-old woman was killed on the same estate by a Bully-Cane Corso cross.

In April this year, a five-month-old baby was rushed to hospital after being attacked by a dog, again in Penyrheol. 

Just a few weeks later, two schoolboys were attacked at a house on the Graig-y-Rhacca estate in Caerphilly.

Helen Howell gives evidence in dangerous dog cases in court

Helen Howell, a dog behaviourist who gives evidence in court in dangerous dog cases, told ITV Cymru Wales the type of dogs she sees coming through the court system has changed in recent years.

“There are a lot of larger bull breed dogs because they are a very popular dog at the moment, so there is more chance of being bitten by one because they are more popular,” she told ITV’s Wales This Week.

However, she does not believe any single breed is more likely to attack than any other.

“There’s no robust scientific evidence to suggest that any one breed is more likely to bite than another, however, a large breed dog, a large powerful dog, is more likely to cause significant injury if they do bite. 

“It’s very, very rare that dogs will bite without giving any warning or any indication that they’re uncomfortable in that situation. 

“I would say that a large proportion of the incidents that I deal with in respect of dangerous dog cases have occurred as a result of inappropriate management of the dog so it's crucial that people take responsibility.”

Hope Rescue, a charity that saves stray and abandoned dogs in Llanharan, has also seen an increase in the number of bully type dogs coming into their care.

Of those that do end up in their care, many have been poorly bred, mistreated or mutilated; something that those working at the centre believe is leading to behavioural issues.

Sara Rosser, Hope Rescue’s resident behaviourist, said: “Where the problems have come is that dogs are being bred irresponsibly, there’s no concern for health, there’s no concern for behaviour or welfare.

“[They are] then being bought by owners who are just interested in the way they look. And then are not giving the right socialising, the right training. 

“We’re also seeing a large number of this type of breed coming in with ears that have been cropped. 

“That is not conducive to building a well rounded dog but it’s not to say those that have been bred responsibly can’t make wonderful dogs.”

The four banned breeds in the UK are Japanese Tosas, Dogo Argentinos, Pitbulls and Fila Brasileiros.

Under the Dangerous Dogs Act, it is currently illegal to own one of four banned breeds: Pitbulls, Dogo Argentinos, Japanese Tosas and Fila Brasileiros.

It is also illegal to be in charge of a dog dangerously out of control, regardless of breed.

Campaigners are currently calling for a change in the law and tighter restrictions on breeding, selling and licensing.

Watch Wales This Week: When Dogs Attack on ITV Cymru Wales at 8:30pm on Thursday, June 8. Catch up afterwards online and on ITVX.

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