Police described yesterday how a Rottweiler killed baby Archie-Lee Hirst after tearing him from the arms of a seven-year-old girl, dragging him into his grandparents' back garden and savaging him. The baby's 16-year-old aunt tried to rescue the child but could not stop the animal, police said.
Archie-Lee, who celebrated his first birthday on 4 November, died in hospital, hours after the attack in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. The dog, estimated to weigh between seven and 10 stone, was shot dead at the scene by police.
His mother, 18-year-old Rebecca Hirst and his father, 20-year-old Damien Williamson, though said to be separated, spent yesterday comforting each other. According to police, both parents were at a neighbour's house at the time of the incident.
Detective Superintendent Steve Payne, paying tribute to the baby's aunt, who had not been named at the time of going to press, said: "She tried to rescue the baby. She struck the dog several times but the dog would not let go of Archie. It must have been a horrific incident for the children to witness. [The aunt] has tried to give some account of what happened and has spoken to specially trained officers."
Dog experts said yesterday that incidents involving Rott-weilers were rare, but warned that children should never be left unsupervised with dogs.
Police said the tragedy could not have been predicted, although neighbours suggested the dog was aggressive.
"This was unexpected. This was no one's fault. It is such a tragic set of circumstances. Lots of families around the country will have similar dogs that don't cause any problems," Det Supt Payne said.
On a web page dedicated to Archie-Lee, his mother recently wrote: "Archie is my son, he is one year old. I love it when he does his little giggle it makes me happy to know he is smiling. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have him."
According to the website, today is Ms Hirst's birthday.
Archie-Lee had been staying at his grandparents for Christmas and was due to return to the family home in the new year, Det Supt Payne said.
Paramedics rescued the baby's body from the back garden before armed police decided to shoot the dog. "We clearly had a dangerous dog on the loose," said Det Supt Payne. "We had to take a decision quickly and the decision was made by armed officers to destroy the dog. The dog had interacted with members of the family, including children and another dog and cat at the house, and had showed no previous signs of any aggression."
Detectives were seeking to trace the animal's history after revealing that the family, who had owned it for six months, got it when it was already two years old. Neighbours described the animal as "aggressive".
Andy Foster, 28, who lives a few doors away, said he had been afraid of the dog, which seemed "mad": "Ever since that dog arrived, I've been wary of it. It [was] absolutely massive considering it [was] only two years old. She [came] up to my waist almost."
Rottweilers have been involved in a number of attacks involving children and adults in recent years, but are not banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
Chris Window, of the Rottweiler Club, said: "The vast majority of Rottweilers never get involved in any incidents. It doesn't matter whether it's a Rottweiler or any other dog; you have to be really careful about leaving young kids and dogs together."
The Government said it currently had no plans to amend dangerous dogs legislation or to add Rottweilers to the list of banned breeds.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "We have not received any representations from the police that such dogs should be added to the list. We do not believe there is any need to alter the current legislation, which we believe has had a dramatic effect in protecting people from dog attacks."
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