JADEN Mack, a 14-week-old baby killed by two dogs in South Wales, is the latest in a dreadful catalogue of savagery inflicted by dogs on defenceless infants.
This catalogue is growing. On Monday six people, including two children, were injured when two Alsatians went on the rampage in Bristol.
Four were taken to hospital with bite wounds.
Fatal attacks in the US and UK have grown 30% in the last decade.
There is always a knee-jerk response to such violence. There is little resistance to having offending animals put down and calls for jailing or heavily fining the owners are not uncommon since it is rightly perceived that a dog’s bad behaviour is largely the fault and responsibility of the owner.
Many people believe that the owners of a dog that savages people or other animals should be banned for life from owning that or another animal.
A more extreme reaction is a call for the offending breed to be banned altogether. American pit bull terriers were banned in the UK under the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991.
Some people have even suggested that all animals, pure or crossbred, known to have a history of violence, should be done away with once and for all.
This would include American pit bulls, Staffordshires and English bull terriers, German shepherds, rottweilers and Jack Russells, all of which have a bad record of attacks on children.
This is abhorrent to Lisa Singh, of Lindley, who has an English bull terrier called Marley.
She said: “Our dog is a loving, loyal family pet, even tempered, well behaved and also very good with other dogs. We are responsible and sensible dog owners ... so why are our daily walks constantly ruined by ignorant, rude and hurtful comments made by some who take it upon themselves to tell us that our dog is ugly, that the breed is aggressive and that they are fighting dogs?
“I am absolutely fed up with this unjustified prejudice from people who know nothing about the breed and have never met an English bull terrier in their life.”
The partnership of humans and dogs is one that goes back thousands of years.
While dogs now come in all shapes and sizes, their distant ancestor is the wolf – and we ignore that heritage at our peril.
The species is adaptable. We have bred them for hunting, herding, retrieving and guarding and working dogs still perform these age-old services today.
But we have also bred dogs for fighting and for show and though many breeds have been created specifically as house-pets, we have indiscriminately brought all these breeds into our homes and called them man’s best friend.
The unpalatable truth is that bringing a descendant of the wolf into your home is always high-risk.
It is also true that a dog is NEVER to blame for what it does. Its behaviour can be moderated, redirected, tamed, controlled and disciplined but it cannot be erased. Wolf laws transcend all others.
So what is a dog?
A pack animal, accustomed to pleasing the pack leader but ready at any time to challenge that leadership. A dog can perceive a child to be an unfair challenger in the pecking order and will wait until the pack leader’s back is turned reassert its position by attacking the challenger.
A defender of territory, including its sleeping area, food water and patrol area. Remove its food, step on its tail or paw, disturb it while it is sleeping and it could respond by attacking.
Sick or injured dogs revert quickly to savage behaviour, over-riding years of training.
Most breeds perceive a human who tries to break up a dogfight as a secondary threat.
They are prey chasers and will often revert to type if they think a person is running away from them.