Eight XL Bullies seized by Northamptonshire Police already this year as pet owners call for greater scrutiny on dog-on-dog attacks

There’ve been 1,660 dog attacks in the county in less than five years – and police say the issue is getting worse
A court ordered two XL Bully dogs be put down after a woman was injured in Sheffield in March 2023. Image: Luxorpics - stock.adobe.comA court ordered two XL Bully dogs be put down after a woman was injured in Sheffield in March 2023. Image: Luxorpics - stock.adobe.com
A court ordered two XL Bully dogs be put down after a woman was injured in Sheffield in March 2023. Image: Luxorpics - stock.adobe.com

The number of dog attacks is Northamptonshire is on the rise – with 320 recorded by police already this year.

New figures show officers have seized eight XL bullies already in our county in 2023 ahead of a forthcoming ban on the breed in the UK after a number of high-profile attacks.

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Statistics released to this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act show that there has been a sharp incline in the number of dog-related incidents recorded by police during the past four-and-a-half years.

Since 2019 there have been 1,660 dog attacks. In 2019, there were 268 attacks; in 2020 there were 300; in 2021 there were 362; in 2022 there were 410 and in the first eight months of 2023 there were 320 attacks.

By contrast, out of all the attacks recorded since the beginning of 2019, only 64 ever ended up in court. The number of people charged or summonsed to court in relation to dog incidents is falling steadily – with 22 prosecutions in 2019 but only ten last year.

Instead, a community resolution is often preferred. This allows incidents to be dispose of by way of apology or and offer of compensation by the perpetrator.

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In many of the incidents the victims withdrew their support for a prosecution.

Data released this summer showed there had been 105 people hospitalised after dog bites in the preceeding 12 months.

Last week a Wellingborough man appeared at Northampton Crown Court for an interim hearing after his XL Bully severed the arm of a local woman. A judge told him he faces a jail term when he is sentenced.

What breeds are responsible?

In 2022, the first year that breed figures were accurately recorded, 46 dogs were seized and so far in 2023 34 dogs had already been seized by the authorities.

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Last year the force seized dogs across 15 breeds including French bull dogs, Dobermans, German shepherds, miniature pinscher and Staffordshire bull terriers. The most seized breed in 2022 was the Yorkshire terrier – with six of them removed from owners. Police also seized three banned pit bull terriers last year, as well as two pocket XL bullies and four XL bullies.

In 2023 so far officers have seen a big uptick in the number of XL bullies seized, with eight taken from their owners. There have been 19 different breeds seized already this year, including two Rottweilers, two Dobermans, two presa Canarios, a shih tzu, a banned pitbull, a Dutch herder and a husky.

What about dog-on-dog attacks?

Many people have contacted this newspaper in recent months about their dogs being attacked by others.

Northamptonshire Police do not record dog-on-dog attacks in their own right, so it has not been possible for them to tell this newspaper how many such incidents there have been in recent years.

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They will record an offence where a dog is believed to be dangerously out of control or where an injury has occurred.

One owner contacted our reporter to express her concerns that dog attacks on other animals were not recorded, and so the scale of the problem remains unkown.

The woman, who asked to use only her first name Laura, said: “My dog was attacked outside Morrisons in Corby by another dog. She was in the care of my parents at the time. On the lead with my mum when a “pit bull-type” dog attacked her. Witnesses report that the attack was unprovoked.

“The owners of the other dog left as soon as their animal released my dog. My mum was very distressed as were, it seems, several of the other witnesses. I can only imagine how this may have been if a small child had been there to see or if they had been the victim.

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“Both the police and the local dog warden said that they don’t investigate dog-on-dog attacks. And as the dog was on a lead it was ‘not out of control’ - though it reportedly took 4-5 people kicking the other dog before it released mine.

"I tried to make the case that to have left the scene demonstrated irresponsible dog ownership and that, had my dog caused equivalent monetary damage to someone’s property I would have been held responsible. But the police closed the report instantly and refused to investigate to locate the owners or to determine if they might have small children who could be at risk.

“There should be discussion on whether such a distinction should be made when it comes to animal vs person victims, as I would suggest that if they knew their dog might attack another dog it should be muzzled, and if they didn’t know it would then how do we know it wouldn’t have attacked a child.

“Morrisons said that they had footage of the incident but as the police wouldn’t investigate it looks like people can continue to get away with having untrained and dangerous dogs.”

What do the police say?

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Back in August police issued an alert after an alarming rise in dog attacks. They said 30 percent of the incidents they had recorded in the previous 12 months have involved children under the age of ten.

A police spokesperson told this newspaper: “We treat all incidents involving dogs very seriously, and under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 have the powers to prosecute any owners who fail to control their dog in either a public or private setting or whose pet has caused injury. This includes attacks on other dogs or animals and of course, people.

“We have seen an increase in the number of incidents reported to us over the past five years and between 2019 and August of this year, the Force has conducted thorough investigations into 1,660 allegations. Of which, only two were unresolved in 2022 and 98 so far this year, which may be down to ongoing live investigations.

“Not all investigations lead to charges for various reasons, and where appropriate other out of court disposals will be utilised such as educational course and community resolutions. Whilst other cases may not lead to criminal proceedings because a suspect has not been identified, insufficient evidence or a victim does not support a prosecution.

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“However, even if a prosecution is not appropriate or possible, every recorded Dangerous Dogs Act offence is reviewed by the Force’s dedicated Dog Legislation Officer. This is to ensure a consistent approach to each investigation and where appropriate our powers to seize dogs are used, no matter what breed is involved.”