The breed of dog that fatally mauled a newborn boy in the family home on the NSW Central Coast — the American Staffordshire terrier — ranks the highest in the state for attacks, with almost 900 cases reported within 15 months.
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- A five-week-old baby boy was was killed by the family’s pet American Staffordshire terrier near Gosford on Sunday
- Some 881 attacks by that breed were recorded in NSW between January 2020 and March 2021
- A veterinary behaviourist says “deed not breed” needs to be the focus, and that supervision of children with all dogs is essential
However, a respected veterinary behavourist says the focus should be on “deed not breed” and says the data does not reflect the reality.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, the five-week-old boy was killed by the family’s pet American Staffordshire terrier at Kariong near Gosford, an attack that has shocked the community.
The latest data from the NSW Office of Local Government reveals that the breed consistently tops the state for the highest number of dog attacks, with 881 attacks recorded between January 2020 and March 2021.
Details about the nature of the attacks in the data remain unclear, but it is believed they include attacks on both humans and animals.
In a separate incident, police said, the same animal responsible for killing the baby had attacked and killed a neighbour’s dog four weeks ago.
Central Coast Council confirmed that last month’s attack had been registered, and said “the family was undertaking a breed and temperament assessment” at council’s request.
‘Deed not breed’ should be focus
Sydney-based veterinary specialist in animal behaviour Doctor Kersti Seksel said she always took “statistics like that with a grain of salt”.
“We’re very focused on breed, but the Australian Veterinary Association — for well over a decade — has been talking about we should be looking at ‘deed not breed.’
“Obviously, the more popular the breed, the more likely the statistics are going to look like that breed is over-represented and, if you’re not of a breed that that’s popular, you’re going to be under-represented.
“But the bigger the size of the dog, the stronger the jaws, the more potential for damage. It’s very simple.”
Doctor Seksel described most of the staffys she sees as “generally nervous and anxious dogs” but warned “they’re probably over-bred and people aren’t looking at their temperament as much as they should”.
So what is her advice to parents with dogs and young children?
“That means one adult for the child and one adult for the dog — always.”
She insists banning breeds is not the answer.
“We need to breed the right dogs for the right temperament. We [need to] socialise them properly, teach them manners at a young age and with children — supervision.”
Central Coast tops state in attacks
Meanwhile, Central Coast Council has confirmed the dog responsible for the weekend attack has been euthanased.
The region has the highest number of registered dogs in NSW, with in excess of 100,000, and also continues to register the highest number of dog attacks annually.
There were a total of 321 recorded attacks on the Central Coast between January 2020 to March 2021, with 41 considered serious attacks on people.
A council spokeswoman said that, while attack rates had declined in recent years, it remained a serious issue.
She said council was developing a Responsible Pet Ownership Policy to “set clear community expectations of pet owners on the Central Coast”, which was expected to include a zero-tolerance approach for dog attacks, with mandatory penalties.