By Dan Walsh
An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, speaking in the Dáil today following a vicious dog attack on a young boy while playing with friends in a public area at Enniscorthy last Sunday, said “enforcement of regulations around animals” needs immediate attention.
“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, (9), suffered appalling facial injuries at Old Forge Road in the Milehouse area of Enniscorthy when he was attacked by a pit bull cross. He has undergone skin grafts since he was rushed to Crumlin Hospital by helicopter.
A man in his 20s has been arrested by gardaí and Wexford County Council has 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,” An Taoiseach told James Browne T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Justice, 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.” An Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
The incident has sparked a serious debate around the issue of dog ownership and protection of the public.
In the Dáil today, Minister 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.
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, stated that enforcement needs to start with stronger monitoring of microchipping of animals by breeders and owners.
Ms. 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.”
According to Dogs Trust 320 people were 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.