'Government action plan needed to stop more fatal dog attacks', says expert
An animal behaviour expert who previously warned of an imminent fatal dog attack has urged a re-think on Ireland's attitude towards canine pets.
Nanci Creedon warned in 2015 it was "a miracle" there had not been a fatal dog attack here like in the US or UK.
Now - in the wake of the death of Teresa McDonagh in Co Galway on Sunday - Ms Creedon has called for the Government to implement an action plan to help prevent future tragedies.
This includes creating a special National Dog Bite Prevention Association, introducing dog awareness sessions in schools and creating a theory test for anyone applying for a dog licence.
Ms Creedon said it was "a miracle" Ireland had avoided a fatal incident for so long.
"We were just very, very lucky we didn't have a fatal attack before now," she said.
Ms Creedon urged that the debate over dog bite prevention be "respectful and kind" in light of the attack in Galway.
Ms McDonagh (63) died when she was mauled by two Bullmastiff dogs at a property she was visiting in Moycullen.
She was pronounced dead at the scene after suffering horrific injuries. The two dogs were shot.
Last year, Paola Sahovic (22) was attacked by a pet Staffordshire dog. The incident, in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, saw seven gardai required to get the dog off the shocked woman.
She survived despite suffering severe injuries to her arm.
Over the past three years, serious dog attacks have also occurred in Dublin, Limerick and Tipperary.
The breeds involved have included collies, Akitas (similar to a Husky) and Bull Terriers.
In both the UK and US, the numbers dying or being maimed in such attacks have spiralled in recent years.
Twenty-three people have been mauled to death in the UK since 2005.
In Ireland, An Post said an average of two of its postal delivery workers are bitten by dogs each week.
There were 38 attacks on Irish postmen between January 1 and April 28, 2015.
Ms Creedon argued that the problem has been a total transformation in dog treatment in Ireland over the past 20 years.
"Up until the past 15 years or so, we had a lot less contact with dogs - they were out roaming and this meant they had a lot more socialisation and mental stimulation," she said.
"We are now taking better care by keeping dogs secure, but we're expecting dogs to just understand how to fit into our lifestyles without us understanding the dog, their needs and their communication."
Ms Creedon urged parents to educate their children about not approaching or hugging dogs, especially strange dogs they come across, as it can be interpreted by the dog as a threat.