A new campaign has been launched to help reduce incidents of dog bites in Merseyside, starting this summer.
‘Taking the Lead’ is being supported by local councils including Liverpool, Merseyside Dog Safety Partnership (MDSP), the Blue Cross, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, University of Liverpool and Royal Mail.
The aim of Taking the Lead is to offer important safety tips to all dog owners in Merseyside about looking after their pet, especially around children, which could prevent serious injuries.
To help with this aim, over the summer holidays Merseyside Police will post a series of informative and useful videos on our social media platforms to educate dog owners as well as join with partners to speak to people in parks and other public places.
The videos will involve our partners, who will offer their expert tips and advice on ownership and how to reduce the chances of dog bites.
Police data shows that children under 16 are most likely to be the victims of dog bites and this risk increases significantly in the summer when more children are at home with their pets or around other people’s dogs, and are also spending more time in public spaces.
Although parks and beaches have been identified as hot spots for incidents, dog bites can happen anywhere and most bites occur in the home. Any offences that happen in private can be prosecuted in the same way as bites in public.
Councillor Laura Robertson-Collins, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Communities and Streetscene, said: “During the summer holidays, many families head outdoors to enjoy our parks and open spaces, where dogs are being exercised.
“Working with Merseyside Police and other partners, we are reminding owners of their responsibilities, as well as providing advice for parents, carers and children.
“It is about balancing dog ownership with keeping children safe, which is why last year we introduced a Public Spaces Protection Order preventing dogs from being taken into play areas and enclosed sports grounds.”
Inspector Katie Wilkinson said: “We know that during the summer holidays, when children are spending more time at home, the number of dog bites increases.
“By running the ‘Taking the Lead’ campaign as the schools break up, Merseyside Police hopes to give children and parents the knowledge and skills to stay safe over the six week holidays and in the future.
“This will help to reduce the number of youngsters hurt by dogs and improve their understanding of dogs and their needs, regardless of their breed or size.
“We are determined to reduce the numbers of children and adults in Merseyside being hurt by dogs. It is crucial that we educate youngsters at an early age about how to be around dogs.
“Some of our simple messages includes not bothering dogs when they are eating their dinner or when they are sleeping and not approaching a dog you don’t know.”
Another key focus of the Taking the Lead campaign is advising people to think before they buy a dog and research the breed characteristics to make sure they can provide that breed of dog with the right home setting.
The breeding of large bull breeds by unlicensed breeders for onward sale to some people who keep them as status dogs instead of pets, or who cannot provide the living space and stimulation for these breeds of dog, is also concerning the police and the Merseyside Dog Safety Partnership.
These breeders are unregistered and the dogs and puppies are often badly treated and kept in poor conditions.
They are then placed into homes that are unsuitable for their size and this poses significant risks to the people who live there.
Criminals who breed status dogs do so for profit and in many cases it funds serious and organised crime in our local communities.
When finding the right dog for your home, you can always check the Dogs Trust website for the latest advice, which includes reputable breeders.
Inspector Wilkinson added: “We understand there are a lot of dog owners who don’t have the right home for larger breeds of dogs.
“This is particularly the case for XL Bully type breeds. These dogs are becoming increasingly popular but many owners don’t have a suitable home due to their size and they don’t provide the dogs with the right exercise and training.
“If you need to properly exercise a larger dog, you can hire safe and secure private dog exercise areas at a number of locations throughout Merseyside. These locations are a safe way to exercise dogs and can be found online.
“Keeping these large dogs at unsuitable home poses a risk to people living or visiting the address because the dogs are stressed and agitated when they are being kept in these environments and this increases the risk of the dog biting someone.
“I must stress that we are not trying to demonise any particular breed of dog or their owners, but we are working with our partners to promote responsible dog ownership and to make sure that owners are aware of the impact on the wider community of their dog’s actions. Owners should remember that every dog, not matter how well trained, has the potential to bite.
“If walking your dog out in your community, always make sure they are on a lead and consider whether they need to be muzzled.
“If you keep your dog in the garden or rear yard, you must make sure that the area is secure and properly maintained and that the dog has access to both shelter and water.
“Merseyside Police works with a number of partner agencies to reduce the number of incidents involving dangerous dogs.
“In most cases, dogs become part of an owner’s family, and we make no excuses for targeting those owners who use their dogs to intimidate others, or allow their dogs to bite people and other animals, or cause fear of injury to other. Owners have to be aware that they may well be held accountable for their actions under the law, and could end up with a criminal record.
“I would also urge people to contact police on 101 if they have any concerns about dangerous dogs in their area. Residents should be able to feel safe in the community and if they do raise concerns about dogs then these will be fully investigated. People can also contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.”