Linda Colling: Lucky to be alive

Karl Morson, aged 5, in Sunderland Royal Hospital, after being attacked near his Sulgrave, Washington, home by a Rottweiler dog.
Karl Morson, aged 5, in Sunderland Royal Hospital, after being attacked near his Sulgrave, Washington, home by a Rottweiler dog.
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HOW many more dangerous dogs are there roaming our streets?

Seeing the most horrific injuries – some too terrible to show in this paper – suffered by five-year-old Karl “Mitch” Morson who was this week mauled by a Rottweiler, he’s lucky to be alive.

That’s what his mam Lisa, 30, and grandad Dave, 70, know as they look at the scarring to his face he will live with for the rest of his life.

Lisa is still in shock, traumatised and having flashbacks of the horror that will live with her, seeing blood streaming from her son’s ravaged face.

She went into such shock, she couldn’t do anything after pals he had been playing with raced to their Sulgrave home telling her that a dog had attacked him.

Dave took the little fella, who had tried to fight off the dog which had pinned him to the ground, straight to Sunderland Royal.

Looking at his terrifying injuries, it is amazing how skillfully Mitch has been repaired.

What expertise this took by surgeons in a two-hour op. Now Mitch is home recovering physically and emotionally, Dave tells me: “He could have lost his life, The dog’s been destroyed but they shouldn’t be allowed to roam freely.”

Dangerous dogs in this country are on the increase and serious attacks on young children by savage dogs rose by 14 per cent in 2009. The dogs mauled 1,942 under-10s so badly they needed hospital treatment.

And the majority of these savage attacks on children, including many babies and toddlers are by “family pets”.

Now little Mitch is another statistic, another child who had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So too was a young mother, who this week suffered severe hand injuries, saving her two children in another dog attack.

Karen Greaves, 31, fended off a bull mastiff that had killed their King Charles spaniel puppy, then leapt at her four-month-old daughter’s buggy as she picnicked in a Manchester Park with baby Amelia and Dylan, five.

She said: “I thought the worst. I feared for them so I lay across the back of it and put my hands in its mouth.”

Every day the danger of attack is heightened and not from wild dogs hunting in a pack but by irresponsible owners throwing unwanted pets out onto the street.

Here some are tied to fences, benches and gates, picked up by the dog warden and taken to Cleadon Kennels.

It’s a massive and growing problem and June was a nightmare month with 127 dogs brought to the kennels.

“We have never had a year as bad as this one. I have been here for 12 years and it’s getting worse,” says Sarah Wilkinson, 34, kennel manager.

She places the blame firmly on owners who can’t be bothered to look after their dogs, lose interest, keep them fastened up while they’re out all day and then throw them out when the fluffy, little puppy grows and starts to chew the house to bits because it’s bored.

Some, even after their animal has bitten someone, dare to take the dog to the kennels to be re-homed.

And when Sarah tells them they’ll have to have it put down they look at her as if she’s mad. She knows: “They are wanting to pass on the problem. They haven’t got the balls to do anything themselves and they just can’t be bothered. Nobody takes any responsibility for their actions.”

There’s a lack of responsibility in general in homes where people don’t take responsibility for their children, never mind their dogs.

And if you can’t get them to look after their kids you won’t get them looking after anything on four legs.

Then there’s those breeding with unregistered animals to cash in on a litter of pups that will sell for £150 a piece. But so many don’t know what they are taking on.

And if dogs aren’t trained and exercised, the nicest can turn nasty and even turn on someone.

Many of the dogs taken to the kennels at Cleadon, the staff can’t get near. And that’s all down to their owners. And if they turn on anyone there, they are destroyed.

It’s all too easy to give a dog a bad name and the Rottweilers, Staffis and German Shepherds all too often get a bad reputation.

But smaller breeds like West Highland terriers, Yorkies and Jack Russells can be equally dangerous. It’s not the size or even the breed but how they have been trained, taken out, socialised and given stimulation that counts.

Neglect can and does drive dogs mad. We’d go crazy if we were stuck in the same place day in and day out.

Like children, dogs are what you make them. And sometimes there is no rhyme or reason why a dog turns. That’s why no dog should roam free without an owner.

l Diary Date: A fun day for dogs and their owners at Cleadon Kennels on Sunday, September 4, from 12.30pm will raise vital funds to pay for treatment of injured and neglected animals brought there.

With 32 dogs waiting to be re-homed, Sarah stresses: “This year has been horrendous. Ninety nine per cent of the dogs in these kennels are lovely and just desperate for someone to love them, give them a chance and some attention.“

Any dog rehomed is on one months approval.