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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Alamy Stock Photo The boy continues to receive treatment in Crumlin.
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Martin says we need 'to go back to the drawing board' on dog legislation after Wexford attack
The attack has fueled discussion of dog ownership since the weekend.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 30th 2022, 8:51 PM

THE TAOISEACH HAS said we need to “go back to the drawing board” on how to deal with regulation of dogs, following the mauling of a young boy in Co Wexford over the weekend. 

Speaking in the Dáil, Micheál Martin said the “first thing” that needs addressing following Sunday’s incident should be enforcement of regulations around the animals. 

“I think we should go back to the drawing board. I don’t have the full panoply of legislation that’s in front of us but I do think we need to go back.

“Because what has happened is one time too many. And we all have pets, there’s no need for this and it needs to be seriously examined and I’ve reverted to the Minister to whatever cross departmental approach we can take,” he said.

Alejandro Mizsan was near his home in Enniscorthy when he was attacked by a pit bull cross and left with life-changing injuries.

He has undergone skin grafts since he was rushed to Crumlin Hospital by helicopter for his serious wounds.

As of Wednesday evening, he remains in hospital receiving treatment.

A man in his 20s has been arrested by gardaí and Wexford County Council confirmed that two other animals were seized following the incident. The pit bull cross was also put down.

“I don’t understand why there’s a need to own such dangerous breeds,” Martin told Wexford TD James Browne who said the boy had been “savagely attacked” while playing with his friends. 

“I think all of us are very disturbed by what has transpired here — and there is a degree of anger as well.”

The incident has sparked discussion over how to approach the issue of dog ownership and protection.  

In the Dáil today, Browne said there has been a significant rise in the number of dog attacks on humans in the last five years with over 1,700 of these attacks reported from 2016 to 2021.

He questioned whether “we need to do more to target owners of these dogs listed as a dangerous breed”, particularly when they are in public areas without a lead.

It is understood that the Taoiseach told the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party that Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue would be coordinating with other Ministers on legislation and enforcement surrounding dogs and their owners.

Martin added that his thoughts were with both the child and his family following the attack, it is understood.

Under the Control of Dogs Acts, local authorities have the power to not just issue dog licences, but also to seize dogs, impose on-the-spot fines and take court proceedings against dog owners. 

Barbara Bent, director of Wexford and Waterford SPCA, told The Journal that enforcement needs to start with stronger monitoring of microchipping of animals by breeders and owners.

Traceability

“If you get traceability, you’ll get responsibility,” Bent said. 

At present there is “very little enforcement of chipping for dogs or horses”, according to Bent.

“But if you take the food chain, there is very good traceability there and if you sell a car it has to be transferred to the new owner’s name,” she added.

“So if a dog is out and it’s picked up and it is chipped, whose ever name is on the chip they are responsible. That’s the way to tie it down. Selling must transfer ownership.

“Very quickly we’d see breeders doing it and getting it together.”

According to Dog’s Trust Ireland, which runs an annual ‘Be Dog Safe Week’, as many as 320 people were hospitalised in 2020 as a result of dog bites.

As part of its bid to educate the public on how to interact appropriately around all dogs, it has launched this website.

According to Dogs Trust there were 320 people hospitalised due to dog bites in 2020.

There is a list of ten restricted dog breeds with legislation stipulating a maximum fine of €2,500 at the highest end of the punishments in this case.

Included on the list of proscribed dogs are the: American Pit Bull Terrier, Bull Mastiff, Doberman Pinscher, English Bull Terrier, German Shepherd (Alsatian), Japanese Akita, Japanese Tosa, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Rottweiler, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

“We need to strengthen the Control of Dogs Act to ensure tougher penalties for those found in breach and take a real no tolerance approach to this,” Bent said.

Bent believes the Dáil should be discussing how owners treat their dogs, adding that pit bulls can be the “most affectionate loving dogs that you’ll ever meet”.

However, she warned that dogs may become aggressive if not correctly cared for by owners.

“Some people love dogs on the listed breed list. They look after them properly and love them. We need to put responsibility back on the owner more generally in our approach here.”

Additional reporting by Christina Finn