Last night I was contacted by various media about this tragic case. I have spoken this morning to BBC Radio Leicester about dogs and children living together.
UPDATED NOON 6TH NOV
Our sympathies go to the family of this 4 year old child, the latest in a line of fatalities and injuries caused by dogs. The presenter said 16 people had been killed by dogs and Defra quotes that approximately 9 million dogs live in the UK. So these incidents are indeed rare and perspective is important.
This story is still developing, so “facts” may be nothing of the kind. There are pictures of Lexi with a Dogue de Bordeaux, a large French Mastiff dog and sources say the dog is from a pound or a rescue and had been with the family for a few weeks, Some say it was bought privately and some say dogs weren’t allowed there. All speculation at this point.
None of this is confirmed yet, but I did comment on the radio that it is vital to ensure that any dog coming into your home, especially if an adult, should have been thoroughly assessed prior to adoption or purchase. Some rescues don’t assess dogs or give a handover plan, some private sellers are getting rid of their problem and lying.
Pictures of kids sleeping on top of dogs or hugging dogs are all over facebook and some of them show a dog that is displaying stress and discomfort. When this is pointed out, it usually results in abuse being posted to the person trying to help.
Breed is irrelevant apart from the fact that a larger dog could cause more damage than a small one. The key is training and mutual respect. Dogs can be prepared for the arrival of a new child or for the combining of households so common these days. Yet few people do it. I have been through this process with lots of families who wanted to ensure their dog faced as little stress as possible and would be comfortable with the new child.
If your dog seems unhappy or uncomfortable with the attentions of a child, get professional help. Younger children can be frightening to a dog. They scream, wobble, fall, make odd noises, are often covered in food and have weird sounding toys. From a dog’s perspective, this could be terrifying.
Dogs and kids can be wonderful together, teaching each other so much. But ultimately, it is the job of adults to supervise and train both of them and get help when they need it. In quite a few of these cases, the dogs have had a history of aggression, are often not neutered and some have been there a short time.
Quotes for this story include a family friend saying the dog had come from the stray pound and it used to pull the child over when she walked it. If true, why would someone take a huge, unknown, untested dog to live with a child? Who would let a 4 year old child hold the lead of any dog, never mind one that weighed at least 3 times what she did?
When will people learn to get help, to choose carefully and listen to advice instead of abusing people trying to help?
I sincerely hope the full truth does emerge and that others can learn from it.
Updated at noon 6th November 2013
It appears that the dog is, as suspected NOT the Dogue de Bordeaux in the photos so eagerly circulated by the press. It appears to be an American Bulldog type dog and a local dog pound has stated they rehomed the dog to this family. I won’t name them, it isn’t official enough for that yet, but I hope this serves as a lesson to people taking on unassessed dogs.