Thousands unhappy with dangerous dog warnings in Meath

Councillor’s Facebook post commended council for erecting signs of restricted breeds

A list of restricted breeds of dogs as seen in Co Meath. Photograph: Facebook

A list of restricted breeds of dogs as seen in Co Meath. Photograph: Facebook

 

Dog owners on Facebook have reacted with outrage after a Meath district councillor posted an image of a public safety notice calling on owners of restricted breeds of dogs to take extra care in public.

Ashbourne Councillor Alan Tobin said he was shocked by the online reaction following his post on Sunday night which commended Meath County Council for erecting signs with images of restricted or listed breeds of dogs.

More than 52,000 Facebook users have reacted to Mr Tobin’s post which has been shared over 56,000 times. The post has also attracted some 110,000 comments.

Mr Tobin posted beside an image of the public safety notice: “As a dog owner I’m absolutely delighted that signs I’ve asked for, with pictures, showing the dangerous breeds of dogs have been erected over the past week. It still amazes me that some people think these dogs are ideal family pets.”

Within two hours Mr Tobin said the post had reached 3,000 people and continued to spread overnight, attracting online abuse from both Irish and international Facebook users.

Mr Tobin decided to post the image because of his concerns following reports of a number of dog attacks in Ireland, the UK and the US in the recent months.

He says the Japanese Akita, which features on the list of restricted breeds of dogs, was originally bred for attacking bears.

“But now they’re a pet,” he said. “People are buying this thing because it’s a cute puppy. But it grows up to be a powerful dog and needs a lot of care and attention.”

“I put the post up to highlight issues to do with dog welfare,” Mr Tobin told The Irish Times.

“It’s just so people can be aware of these breeds and will think twice about getting one of these dogs. This has nothing to do with the love people have for these dogs. It’s just to highlight the fact that these dogs are out there and to make sure they’re under control.”

John Carmody from Animal Rights Action Network (Aran) described Mr Tobin’s Facebook post as “hideous and inaccurate comments that have little basis and that are absolutely hurtful to the many species of dog such as staffies and pit-bulls”.

Mr Carmody said many of these dogs are troubled because of their build and look.

“Mr Tobin is sadly going to rubber stamp the already inaccurate view that these animals are dangerous animals and that families across Ireland should be aware - far from it,” said Mr Carmody. “If anything, these animals are hugely exploited by calculated people who turn them into vicious and nasty blood-thirsty creatures.

“If we are to rely on this type of inaccurate nonsense from Fine Gael going forward, then animals in Ireland should be very worried.”

The Public Safety Notices, which have been erected in a number of locations across Co Meath in the past week, warn that additional legal requirements are needed to protect children and adults in the vicinity of listed breeds of dogs.

It calls on owners of these breeds to ensure their pet is leashed and muzzled, wears a collar bearing the owners name and address and is under the control of a person over 16 years of age.

The dogs that appear on the notice are the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, the Bull Mastiff, the Doberman Pinscher, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the Rottweiler, the German Shepherd, the English Bull terrier, the Japanese Akita and the Japanese Tosa.

These 10 dogs, as well as the Bandog, feature in the 1998 Control of Dogs Regulations list of restricted dogs.

According to research published last year, the number of people hospitalised across the State for dog bites rose by 50 per cent between 1998 and 2013, while the incidence of such cases in Ireland was much higher than in other European countries.

The study showed the number of people hospitalised with dog bites per 100,000 population jumped from 4.65 in 1998, to 5.07 in 2007, and further still to 5.64 in 2013. This means the number of people hospitalised after being bitten by a dog rose from 172 in 1998 to 259 in 2013 (a rise of 51 per cent).

NUI Galway psychologist Páraic Ó Súilleabháin argued in the report that the State’s current legislation controlling dangerous breeds was not only ineffective in reducing hospitalisation, but could also be making the problem worse.

He said legislation focused on holding owners accountable for the actions of their animals was more successful at reducing serious incidents.