Bicycle attack sparks dangerous dog debate

Dogs are dangerous. Photo: Gareth Weeks

Conservative councillor Caroline Kerswell was knocked from her bike. Photo: Gareth Weeks

A Conservative council candidate attacked by a rottweiler on Monday has revived the debate over Tower Hamlets’ animal warden service.

Two weeks after concerned councillors issued recommendations to the service regarding the number of dangerous dogs in the borough, Caroline Kerswell, who is standing for election as a councillor, was knocked off her bike by an aggressive dog in King Edward Memorial Park, Mile End.

Dog attacks have increased by 79 per cent in London in the past five years, and officials believe this figure to be higher in the East End.

Yet when Ms Kerswell spoke to one of the borough’s four dog wardens, she found very little could be done. The wardens offer no protection against rottweilers, which are not considered dangerous.

King Edward Memorial Park, she was told, is “a legal black hole where it is not even patrolled. Dogs can do what they want and owners will not be pursued.”

Ms Kerswell’s allegation that these officers are “toothless tigers” in the face of irresponsible dog owners is echoed by councillor Tim O’Flaherty, one of three councillors and 75 residents who contributed to the Dangerous Dogs Report issued a fortnight ago.

“Every time a resident comes to me about an aggressive dog I inform the council. But I am not helped by their processes,” said Cllr O’Flaherty. “I can only file a complaint if I have been to the area and spoken to the victim, and this can take a few days.

“I don’t give up – I must complain about five times a year but it does feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall sometimes.”

In the report the officers defended their service, which they say does not have enough resources to patrol all parks and open spaces in the borough.

Cllr O’Flaherty agrees that the principal officer Dawn Sammons has been “as efficient as possible” at dealing with complaints, but insists more could be done.

He said: “There is one patrol officer in my ward. Why not increase it to two, just for the short term? Maybe the report will have an effect in the future.”

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