Fatal dog attack prompts council to review licensing scheme

A week after the horrific death of a dog walker at a beauty spot near Caterham, the police are yet to name the victim, or to release any of the eight dogs that they seized following what was reported to be a “frenzied” attack on the 28-year-old woman.

In custody: Shiva, the leonberger that weighs 11st and was seized by Surrey Police last week

The dead woman is understood to have worked as a professional dog walker, and was from South Croydon.

Now Tandridge Council, where the incident took place, has held an emergency meeting of its community services committee to discuss the implications of the tragic dogs attack on Caterham’s Gravelly Hill.

The family of the victim have asked for their privacy to be respected at “an extremely difficult time”.

One of the dogs involved in the incident has been identified as a leonberger, a giant breed which can weigh-in at around 11st – something close to 70kg

The particular dog that has been in police custody for the past week is called Shiva, and was featured in a BBC television series when a puppy.

It is owned by telephone psychic Delia Lewis and was filmed for the series when she lived in a small flat off the Brighton Road in South Croydon. Last week, Lewis identified herself and her dog through an appeal posted on social media when news first broke about the attack.

Among the other dogs seized were two dachshunds. The police say that they have located and been in contact with all the dogs’ owners.

In their latest update, Surrey Police say a veterinary pathologist has been drafted in with a forensic pathologist to ascertain what happened.

“The eight dogs seized by officers at the scene remain in the custody of police and their owners are being kept updated,” the police said.

Detective Inspector Josephine Horner, the senior investigating officer, said on Tuesday: “We know this incident has caused real concern in the local community and neighbourhood officers have been out in the area speaking to local residents over the past few days.

“We continue to ask people not to speculate on the circumstances whilst enquiries are underway.”

Week-long inquiry: Surrey Police has yet to name the victim of the dog attack, which occurred at a beauty spot close to the North Downs Way

The investigation “will take some time to complete”, Surrey Police said.

At their meeting earlier this week, Tandridge councillors acknowledged that the situation is “extremely sensitive”, but that the “level of correspondence” from their residents prompted the urgent focus and need “to acknowledge people’s concerns”.

David Lee, Whyteleafe’s Liberal Democrat councillor, proposed a statement, which was adopted with cross-party agreement.

After the completion of the police’s investigation, Tandridge’s councillors will look at ways of enhancing public safety while still protecting dog-walking businesses.

That includes considering reducing the limit on the number of dogs anyone walking pets may supervise, from the current six. The council also wants to consider the financial viability for professional dog walkers of reducing that number and looking at limits on differing dog sizes to be walked at the same time. Publicising Tandridge’s dog walker licensing scheme will also be considered.

Tandridge’s web page on dog licensing was unavailable earlier this week.

Some other south London councils such as Sutton, Bromley, Lambeth and Wandsworth have dog walking licences for people who charge for looking after others’ pets. Bromley licences those professional walkers with five or six dogs at one time. The Bromley licence has to “be displayed in the fluorescent armband provided” and is dependent on a walker having a £1million public liability insurance.

In Sutton’s parks and open spaces, notices are prominent which state that individuals may walk only four dogs at any one time.

A dog walking licence scheme is not readily locatable on Croydon Council’s website.

The number of injuries from dog bites has been increasing. Between 1998 and 2018, hospital admissions for dog-related injuries doubled in England, with about 8,000 people admitted each year.

There have been a spate of dog attacks in and around Croydon in recent times, including a neighbour’s dog causing life-changing injuries to a five-year-old child in New Addington last year.

A woman from Wallington died after being mauled by a dog owned by a man from Croydon.

Change of restrictions: Tandridge Council has already discussed altering its dog licensing scheme following last week’s fatal incident

And there have been a series of dog-on-dog attacks reported, sometimes resulting in animal fatalities.

One incident in Selsdon Woods last year saw a dog savage a deer to death, while another in the same area resulted in a dog walker having to go to A&E while their own dog was taken to the vets.

In Coulsdon and on Riddlesdown, where City Commons graze livestock as part of a programme of habitat improvements, there are regular reports of sheep worrying by dogs, maulings and, last year, the death of a goat that was attacked by an off-lead dog. Conservation officials in Sutton had admitted that they choose not to graze sheep in their open spaces because of the constant threat of attacks by dogs that are not under control.

One reader has told Inside Croydon that they now will not use Lloyd Park because of harrying by dogs.”It’s a dog park these days and too much of a trial to go there with the constant hassle from running dogs.

“I know of a resident who was knocked down in a neighbouring garden by a large dog on the loose.”

A Nottingham Trent University academic report into dog attacks found “7,000 people are admitted to UK hospitals annually as a result of dog bites or strikes”. The report suggested better recording of dog attacks would aid good public policy.

They also suggested that information for owners on how to be alert to “situations where dog attacks were likely to occur” and how “to deal with these incidents when they happened” would help.

Other considerations included interaction “between larger and smaller dogs in public places”, “trigger incidents including a dog experiencing fear or excitement, predatory behaviour from other dogs, being in unfamiliar settings, provocation by humans and understanding the individual dog’s needs and characteristics”.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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4 Responses to Fatal dog attack prompts council to review licensing scheme

  1. Limiting the number of dogs per walker is a start, but also there needs to be a balance. So walking six small dogs may well be possible, although not easy should there be a problem, but if you have large dogs then two is really a maximum. A mix of sizes is problematic in itself.

  2. Davey says:

    Memory unlocked from childhood being chased by an off lead dog at age 5. Subsequently berated by owner for not knowing running would mean the dog chases.

    This was in Lloyd park in the 90s. Hindsight: he was totally in the wrong having an out-of-control off-lead dog in the park on a sunny day

  3. Lewis White says:

    When it comes to one responsible dog-walker keeping an eye on where the dogs poo, and bagging it, it has to be nigh-on impossible to do that while supervising 4 or 5 other dogs, some of which will be off-lead. If a strange dog comes on to the scene, the results can be unpredictable, so control by the walker then becomes more difficult, or even impossible.

    I think that the ratio should be more like one person to 2 bigger dogs, as suggested by Stephen B above, or maybe 4 smaller ones.

    The idea of professional dog walkers having to wear identifying clothing and badges seems a good one.

    If their “place of work” is actually public open space, used at the same tme by the public, and also use the dog waste bins, it must be right that they pay an annual fee to the council, and are not only fully insured with public liability insurance, but are subject to an annual and occasional random inspection(s).

    Some dog walking firms have bought or are renting areas of farmand or woodland to give them a private space in which to exercise their canine charges.

    That sounds a good way of providing space for someone’s canine loved one to run free..

  4. Tom Tannion says:

    I understand that so far, the dog walker’s dog (an American Bull XL) has been put down, two small dogs have been returned to their owners.

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