A baby boy died after he was mauled by two dogs in the early hours of yesterday morning while his parents were on a night out.
Three-month-old Jayden Joseph Mack was being looked after by his grandmother, Denise Wilson, at her home in Ystrad Mynach, South Wales, when he was attacked just after midnight by the family pets, a Staffordshire bull terrier named Tyson and a Jack Russell called Lucy.
Ms Wilson was babysitting for her daughter and son-in-law, Alexandra and Chris Mack, who are believed to have been married for about a year. Jayden was their only child.
The dog attack is the fourth of its kind in less than three years. Jayden; Ellie Lawrenson, aged five, of Liverpool; Archie-Lee Hirst, aged one, of Wakefield, and Cadey-Lee Deacon, aged five months, of Leicester have all been savaged by dogs. As with the other attacks, the latest has prompted calls for changes in the law.
Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, who has campaigned on the issue, said yesterday that Parliament should now consider changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act. He said the law was flawed because it identified certain species as being problematic, giving the "mistaken impression" that others were safe.
Ms Wilson's neighbours on Commercial Street said they heard the 54-year-old woman screaming hysterically shortly after the attacks and several people went to help her. Accompanied by the two dogs, she came out of the house crying: "The baby is dead! He is dead!" Neighbour Heather Organ, 47, who picked up the smaller dog to stop it from running around and also ushered the bull terrier off the road, said: "When I entered the room, the baby was obviously dead. The baby had a severe injury to his neck. It was dreadful. There was blood on the floor. There was no blood on the Jack Russell, but I couldn't tell with the black one."
Another neighbour, Gail Jones, 45, said she was walking back from a night out when she also heard Ms Wilson's screams. "She was more than crying – she was absolutely hysterical. The poor woman. It was terrible," she said. "I know one neighbour tried to give the baby the kiss of life. You can imagine what state he is in now. Your heart goes out to the family. It is just tragic."
The baby was taken to the Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil where he was pronounced dead. Ms Wilson also received treatment for shock at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.
A post-mortem examination was being carried out to establish the exact cause of death, but police said it appeared one or both of the animals had been responsible. Chief Inspector Jim Baker said: "This is a tragic incident for the family and the community.
"Gwent police family liaison officers are currently supporting and assisting the family through this difficult time. The family do wish to be left alone to grieve. Although the exact circumstances of the baby's death are yet to be established, we would like to reiterate the advice given to dog owners that dogs should never be left unsupervised with young children."
Officers were yesterday carrying out house-to-house inquiries in the street and the area was cordoned off for a forensic examination of the scene. However, it is not thought likely that anyone will be charged in relation to Jayden's death.
After the attack, the two dogs were taken to Ystrad Mynach Veterinary Surgery, and both animals have now been put down.
As he called for Parliament to change the Dangerous Dogs Act, Mr Baker said it was a tragedy when any child was killed by a dog. The Act outlawed the American pitbull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero, along with two other species not found in the UK. It has not banned the Jack Russell or the Staffordshire bull terrier.
The MP added that microchipping dogs was one possible reform. While it would not prevent attacks, Mr Baker said, it would help to "give the owner a greater sense of responsibility, which would help".
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has also argued against the banning of certain species. A spokeswoman said yesterday: "Any dog has the propensity to attack or bite humans, just as any dog has the propensity to be a good pet. All dogs can be unpredictable."
Stressing that she was not commenting on the circumstances of Jayden's death, the spokeswoman said it was important to ensure dogs were trained and socialised properly, introducing them to people in a controlled way: "If you are introducing them to other people, be they children or adults, or other dogs, this should be done in a gradual manner and in a controlled way.
"There are so many reasons a dog might attack humans," she added. "Some are obviously trained guard dogs, but any dog has a potential to defend its territory. With two or more dogs together, pack instinct might kick in; if a dog is surprised, frightened or tormented, it could react. Children and other dogs can be seen as threats if a dog is not used to them."
Five-month-old Cadey-Lee Deacon was killed after being savagely attacked by two Rottweiler guard dogs in 2006. Her parents were in charge of the Rocket pub in Leicester while the landlord was on holiday. Two of the pub's guard dogs snatched the baby from her Moses basket, mauled her and left her dead on a roof terrace.
Archie-Lee Hirst was staying with his grandparents in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, when he was attacked by a 10-stone Rottweiler in 2007. The 13month-old was snatched from the arms of his seven-year-old aunt and savaged to death in front of her in the backyard of their terraced home. The animal was later destroyed by police.
Five-year-old Ellie Lawrenson from Liverpool was killed after being bitten 72 times by her uncle's pitbull terrier. She had been staying with her grandmother, Jacqueline Simpson, on New Year's Day in 2007 when the incident occurred. Simpson had refused to get rid of the dog even though it had already attacked one of her daughters just six weeks earlier.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies