A surge in the popularity of so-called status pets has left Sussex facing its toughest fight against dangerous dogs.
Sussex Police’s dog unit has already seized 48 potentially deadly animals in 2012 – up from 16 in 2011 and 29 in 2010.
The rise is largely being put down a rise in the popularity of status dogs such as pit bulls and Staffordshire bull terriers.
Police dog handler PC Will Durant said: “It’s the worst it has ever been – the last year or so has been terrible.
“People having these status dogs appears to be the main problem but there is also a great deal of ignorance on behalf of many owners.”
Dangerous dogs in Sussex have made the national news twice this year following devastating attacks.
Ten people were injured when two dogs escaped from a home in Marline Road, St Leonards, in July.
Barman Robert Glisson was one of those hurt, suffering bite wounds as he defended a pensioner from the animals.
One of the first on the scene in St Leonards was dog handler PC Steve Williams.
He said: “We get a call and turn up and everyone thinks ‘Phew, well at least the dog unit is here now’.
“But it’s very scary. If an animal goes for you, you’ve just got to do the best you can to defend yourself.”
In May police were called to Brighton beach after a Staffordshire bull terrier and a mastiff savaged a man.
One of the officers who was first on the scene has only recently returned to work due to the severity of his injuries.
The force’s handlers are equipped with a variety of tools including catcher poles and electric shields but can call in armed officers if they are needed.
Inspector Diane Lewis, the force’s senior dog officer, said: “Some of the dogs we get called to deal with are crazed.
“People need to think about the type of dog they are getting and be sure that the breed is suitable.
“We would encourage people to go to puppy training and socialise their dog as much as possible.
“It is important to make sure dogs are treated like dogs.
“Some people like to treat them like children but they have to know that they are bottom of the pecking order.
“The ones which are dangerous are often the ones who know they can control the family.”
Should more be done to regulate dog ownerships? What could solve this issue? The return of the dog licence or compulsory microchipping?
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