Bull and mastiff breeds will not be banned under Government efforts to reduce the number of dog attacks in the wake of the death of a four-year-old girl who was fatally mauled by her family pet – a former stray which had previously been abandoned in a local park.
Police confirmed today that Lexi Branson was killed at her home in Mountsorrel, Leicestershire by a bulldog which is not outlawed under the controversial Dangerous Dogs Act. She is the 16 person to die in a dog attack in the UK since 2005.
However, the Government said it would not be seeking to add to the four “fighting” breeds currently banned in an amendment to the 1991 Act which is set to become law next spring. Ministers want to give local authorities and police more power to intervene to prevent attacks and jail irresponsible owners.
The child’s mother Jodi Hudson, who stabbed the former stray to death with a kitchen knife in a desperate bid to save her daughter, described her as "a bubbly, bright little girl". She said Lexi who was off sick from school when the attack happened had been three months premature and “fought for her life from the moment she was born”.
The family owed the dog for just two months and neighbours said they believed the animal was safe around children. Leicester City Council said the dog, aged between six and eight years, was captured by a warden. It was unclaimed and sent to Willow Rehoming Centre in Barrow-upon-Soar in August from where it was subsequently re-homed.
A council spokesman said: "The police are notified of any dogs suspected of being dangerous or on the list of prohibited breeds, and these are not considered for rehoming.”
The bulldog is one of Britain’s oldest breeds. First classified in the 1630s it is synonymous with the patriotic symbol John Bull. Originally used for bull-baiting and fighting in dog pits it later became a popular show dog.
Detective Superintendent David Sandall who is overseeing the investigation said Leicestershire Police were continuing to investigate the circumstances leading up to the tragedy and the history of the animal.
“The dog is a bulldog which is not a breed listed under Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act,” he said.
At present only the pit bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro are banned. Concern over the safety of some breeds has risen sharply in recent months following the death of 14-year-old Jade Anderson in Wigan in March who was mauled by four dogs, including a "mastiff-type".
In May a retired hospital porter died after being attacked by a bull-mastiff. Ten of those that have died in the past decade are children, according to the Communication Workers Union.
Last week Environment Secretary Owen Paterson announced that owners of dangerous dogs could face up to 14 years in prison and unlimited fines. New laws will also make it illegal to possess a violent dog in a private home.
The Kennel Club has backed the Government’s stance arguing it is important to target the “deed not the breed” and that it would send the wrong message that only certain types were dangerous.
Opponents of increasing the number of proscribed breeds have argued that the policy has failed in Denmark where 13 breeds were banned in 2010 with plans to outlaw a further 12.
It is claimed that dog bites on humans increased by 60 per cent in the wake of the ban with animal welfare groups suggesting up to 400,000 animals face being destroyed.
Angela McGlynn, whose four-year-old son -Paul Massey, was killed by his uncle’s dog in Liverpool in 2009 is campaigning for all animals to be muzzled around children under 12. "The Government are putting some steps in place ... but we can't just rely on the Government - parents and adults have to take steps too," she said.