More dangerous dogs destroyed by South Yorkshire Police last year than over previous three years combined

More dangerous dogs destroyed by South Yorkshire Police last year than over previous three years (Photo: Submit)
More dangerous dogs destroyed by South Yorkshire Police last year than over previous three years (Photo: Submit)

A total of 148 dogs had to be put down by the force in 2022.

In the years 2021, 2020 and 2019 the annual numbers totalled only 58, 56 and 32 - and the previous 10-year high was in 2016 when 96 dogs across the county were seized and destroyed by police.

And, while figures are not yet available this year for the numbers of dogs put down, a baby under the age of one has already been logged as the victim of a dog dangerously out of control in South Yorkshire during the first six months of 2023.

A further 28 small children aged five and under have also been victims of '008/21' crimes in the county this year. The code is a Home Office classification for offences involving a dog that is dangerously out of control.

But the figures, which span only until June, do not paint the full picture.

Just this month police revealed four children - the youngest aged two - had been attacked over the space of one weekend in September by their 'family dogs' in South Yorkshire.

And last week, a man walking his dog in Handsworth was mauled by a loose dog. He suffered serious arm and chest injuries.

The figures were revealed in a Freedom of Information request lodged with the force asking for the numbers of dogs seized and destroyed, the numbers of dog attacks in the last decade, and the numbers of people killed by dogs in South Yorkshire.

Last year the oldest victims of dangerous dogs, recorded in the database, were 86 and 85 years old. The oldest victims so far this year were aged 82 and 81.

The breeds of the dogs destroyed by police were not recorded in the data saved by the force, nor was the specific reason for any dog's destruction.

Last year, 449 dogs were seized by police - almost double the number seized in 2021.

Of those - 300 of which were not put to sleep - reasons for seizure included 'dangerous dog by its actions', 'dangerous dog by breed', or both, as well as welfare, stray, or 'other', for example when the dog was the property of a criminal sent to prison, or a dog's owner had suddenly died.

Five people so far this year, up to June 20, 2023, have been charged or summonsed to appear in court in relation to having a dog dangerously out of control.

Last year 23 people were charged, and a further 215 people dealt with by way of a community resolution such as restorative justice.

Dog Legislation Officer PC Paul Jameson, of South Yorkshire Police, said: “Nationally the country has seen an increase of two million dogs since the Covid-19 pandemic, and sadly within South Yorkshire, we’re now seeing the reality of unsocialised, poorly bred dogs with complex needs posing a risk to the public.

“On average we receive 150-185 reports of dogs out of control or causing fear each month, and we cannot shy away from the horrifying capabilities of these dogs’ causing fatalities and serious injuries.

“Tackling the threat these dogs pose remains our priority and I urge anyone with concerns about a dog on your street, in your neighbourhood to get in touch.

“As a force, we are leading the way and sharing our best practice around early intervention to reduce the risk and act on concerns when they are reported.

“Our efforts are stronger with your help. If we know a dog poses a risk, or is causing fear, we can step in. We don’t destroy all dogs reported to us, we can step in, and in cases work alongside the owner for a resolution and work with national partners to educate owners, but ultimately, we can safeguard children and vulnerable people living with or near to the dog.

“Anyone with concerns about an owner, or dog in the community is asked to report online, via live chat or by calling 101.”

What are the reasons for the increase in dog destructions ?

Police: “The country has seen an increase in dog ownership since the Covid-19 pandemic. The demand for dogs was met by breeders, including back street breeders and puppy farms.

“Rescue centres are seeing an unprecedented number of dogs surrendered due to behavioural or social issues, as strays, or being handed over as the owners can no longer care for them. This has been accelerated by the cost of living crisis where the cost of caring for a dog has increased significantly. This obviously has an impact on our ability to seek rescue and rehabilitation kennels for dogs which do not pose a risk to the public.

“The number of dogs euthanised is in line with our increase in demand and also the increase in the popularity of large breed dogs owned by people who do not always understand the breed and act in a responsible way. This is not the norm and acknowledge there are many owners of large breed dogs in South Yorkshire who manage their dogs in a responsible and safe way.”

What criteria do you use to decide when a dog should, and shouldn't, be destroyed?

Police: “An owner can disclaim a dog and sign it over to the police. If the owner does not wish to do this and we have concerns around the risk it poses if it was returned, we can seek a forfeiture order, granted from the courts.

“The decision to destroy a dog is based on several factors. We take into consideration the reason why it has been brought to our attention, it’s socialisation, whether it has complex needs and if it could be rehomed or rehabilitated, would it lead a healthy, happy life, where it couldn’t cause harm or fear. We do, where possible work with charities and rehoming centres but demand it at a high.”

What breeds are destroyed most commonly and has there been a rise in any particular breed?

Police: “25 per cent of the dogs we seize are XL Bullys, others include larger protective breeds, including mastiffs, German shepherds, Malinois, huskies etc. However, we do see a variety of breeds and small dogs.”

Is there a warning you can give to owners of dogs?

Police: “We are seeing an increase in line with other forces nationally. Sadly many of the serious incidents we see can be prevented by responsible dog ownership. We urge all dog owners to consider their dogs behaviour and put in simple measures sure as muzzle/lead walking, installation of external letterboxes, securing fencing, and not leaving children unsupervised with dogs.

“Owners interested in learning more can voluntary refer to the Blue Cross Responsible Dog Ownership Course which we are proud to be one of the first forces to adopt in part of our focus on preventing these horrific incidents and protecting the public.”