A BLIND woman whose guide dog was savaged by an out-of-control bull terrier has backed the Record’s fight against dangerous dogs.
Yesterday, at a top-level conference inspired by our campaign, Elaine MacKenzie called for action against irresponsible owners. Sponsor a Guide Dog, for Just £1 per week
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and scores of delegates debated plans for a crackdown at the summit, which brought together police, the SSPCA, councils and dog organisations.
The conference was called by Alex Salmond after a meeting the Record arranged with the mothers of three young attack victims.
Tracy Cox, Zoe Hall and Veronica Lynch showed the First Minister photos of their children and urged him to back our calls for dog licensing, mandatory microchipping and suitability tests for owners.
The Government later launched a consultation programme, which closes on Monday, asking for views on microchipping, a licence fee and bigger fines for irresponsible owners and breeders.
The Record’s Stop The Danger Dogs campaign has been nominated in the Scottish Press Awards.
And yesterday Elaine, 61, of Bonnington, Edinburgh, praised us for forcing the topic on to the political agenda.
She said: “Something needs to be done. There are too many people who have a dog as a status symbol.
“They don’t do their research on being an owner – they just want a dog to show off.”
Her two-year-old guide dog, retriever-Labrador cross Una, was bitten on the neck, chest and shoulder by a Staffordshire bull terrier at a Tesco supermarket in Leith in 2011.
Elaine, who is registered blind, said: “Una was screaming like a child, it was a horrible noise.
“Staff and customers were able to get the dog off her after about five minutes.
“She was terribly distressed but the man whose dog it was never even apologised.”
Una’s physical wounds have healed but she still becomes distressed at the sight of dogs resembling the one that attacked her. Elaine said: “She obviously still remembers it because she cowers into my legs.”
At yesterday’s summit in Edinburgh, MacAskill and Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead met representatives from Police Scotland, the Dogs Trust, Guide Dogs Scotland, the Kennel Club, local authorities and the SSPCA.
MacAskill said: “Today’s summit brings together a range of organisations to discuss dangerous dogs and what more can be done to protect communities and encourage responsible dog ownership.
“We are currently consulting on measures such as microchipping.
“The summit provides the opportunity to learn how agencies make use of existing powers and hear the views of groups with an interest in safety, animal welfare and dog ownership.”
Lochhead added: “The ongoing consultation will seek views on measures to improve responsible
ownership and the practicality and effectiveness of widespread compulsory microchipping for all dogs.”
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said current dog control laws are not rigorously enforced because many councils lack funding and manpower.
He also had reservations about some of the measures under discussion.
He said: “Compulsory microchipping is a tax on responsible owners and a chipped dog is no safer than an unchipped one.
“The main benefit is that the owner can be traced – but I can’t remember the last time there was a serious attack and the owner was not traced.”
Flynn also opposed muzzling every dog in public, saying: “That would cause a huge welfare problem, and when the muzzle comes off a dog is more likely to bite.”
Kay Hamilton, chair of Scottish Staffordshire Bull Terrier Rescue, said: “We have got to do something because there are going to be more attacks, but Staffies aren’t the problem – it’s the cross-breeds which are dangerous.”
Jane Horsburgh, policy manager for Guide Dogs Scotland, said: “Out-of-control dogs cause a problem for everyone but the effect on a guide dog and its owner can be devastating.
“The summit is a welcome and positive step towards building a framework for responsible dog ownership in Scotland.”
Dogs Trust law specialist Trevor Cooper said: “It is encouraging to see a renewed focus being placed on responsible ownership and we eagerly await the outcomes of the summit and the consultation.”
Labour MSP Paul Martin said: “We should be willing to take robust and creative reaction.
“Microchipping is for me a no-brainer. I don’t know why anyone in their right mind would be against it.”
WE launched our Stop The Danger Dogs campaign last November in the wake of a series of horrific attacks.
It calls for the return of dog licensing backed by suitability tests for prospective dog owners.
We want dog wardens to police the new system, funded through the cost of the licence, mandatory microchipping of all dogs to keep proper track of animals and encourage responsible ownership, and discussion on how far other safety measures, such as muzzling, should be extended.