How many more kids need to die before we do something about Britain's dangerous dogs?

The nation has been rightly horrified at the tragic death of 9-year old Frankie Macritchie, who was killed by an out-of-control bulldog at the weekend in a Cornish caravan park.

But sadly he’s far from being the only one as figures from the NHS show a massive 81 per cent increase in the number of people taken to hospital for dog bites between 2005 and 2017.

It’s clear that we haven’t got a handle on worsening canine aggression and our laws aren’t fit for purpose.

Inevitably in the wake of the latest tragedies, there have been calls for a reform of the Dangerous Dogs Act.

This was the measure introduced by the Tories in 1991, which banned ownership of Pit Bull terriers, Japanese Tosas, Dogos Argentinos  and the huge Filas Brasilieros, bred in South America to hunt wild animals.

But this law only doesn't go nearly far enough – less than a third of dogs involved in attacks over the last 15 months belonged to the officially banned types.

But concentrating on the breed is a distraction – any large dog can be dangerous.

The answer isn't to ban more breeds but to impose harsher jail terms on feckless or malicious owners.

You only need to look at the 2017 case of three-year-old Dexter Neal who was mauled to death by an American bulldog in Essex to see how lenient penalties are.

Despite little Dexter’s fate, owner Jade Dunne received only a suspended sentence.

Tougher sentences on feckless owners

It is time to get tough. We would not allow children to play unaccompanied in a busy street or to handle dangerous objects, like fireworks or knives, unsupervised.

Yet, despite the mounting roll-call of serious and fatal injuries, there is still a great deal of complacency about the potential risks of dogs.

We’re a nation of dog-lovers and often see them as our babies but for all their qualities of loyalty and generosity, some of these animals – especially the larger ones – can present a real danger to humans.

A Labrador’s jaws and teeth can exert enough force to break any bone in the human body.

The heaviness of dogs also helps them to pack a punch. Staffies weigh on average between 25 and 37 pounds, more than the average human three year old.

American pit bulls, the most muscle bound of all dogs, can reach 85 pounds, and the colossal English Mastiff often has a bulk beyond 200 pounds.

With all that power behind their paws, many dogs should be treated with caution.

The bulldog that mauled nine-year-old Frankie had allegedly been involved in four previous attacks –one just a few weeks ago.

Its owner is said to be ‘distraught’ by the tragedy – but not half as distraught as his mum who returned home to find the bloodbath.

'The most dangerous dog I've ever seen'

The maximum term for people convicted of dangerous dog offences – including ownership of an animal either banned or out of control – is 14 years were the victim is killed and five years where someone is injured, according to the latest advice from the Sentencing Guidelines.

The problem is that, as with other crimes, such rigour is rarely applied by the courts.

Lethal assaults by beasts like this are all too common.

Never was a dog more appropriately named than Bruiser, a snarling American pit bull terrier kept in a cage at his family home in Daventry, Northampton despite the legal ban on the breed.

So ferocious was he that the local vet described him as “the most dangerous dog I have ever seen” and, one night in October 2014, Bruiser escaped from his cage and launched a fatal attack on six-month old Molly Mae Wotherspoon.

The infant suffered appalling injuries, including severe bites to every limb, a fractured skull and four puncture wounds to her brain. She died swiftly from loss of blood.

Molly Mae’s mother Claire Riley and grandmother Susan Aucott were later given two-year jail sentences for keeping an illegal dog, while Bruiser himself was put down.

Last November, two-week-old baby Reuben McNulty suffered “catastrophic injuries” at his home near Peterborough when he was savaged to death by the family’s two Staffordshire bull terriers, owned by his parents Daniel McNulty and Amy Litchfield. They were arrested on suspicion of child neglect at the time of the attack but have been released.

Bring back dog licences

Animals can’t be held responsible for their actions but reckless owners should be.

One way to do that might be a return to the dog licensing system that existed in Britain until it was abolished in 1987.

The scheme required owners to register their dogs with the authorities and pay a small licence fee – just 37p at the time of abolition.

But there was widespread non-compliance, partly because minuscule fee made it uneconomic for councils to chase up registration.

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Yet the system still exists in Northern Ireland and works well there.  It may be time to bring it back in Great Britain.

Larger fees would give authorities an incentive to enforce the law, while modern microchip technology would make the task easier.

After all, we have to hold a licence to drive a car or own a television. Why not the same requirement for the responsibility of caring for a dog?

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