Skip to main content

Police investigate UK girl's fatal mauling by dogs

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
March 27, 2013 -- Updated 2140 GMT (0540 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Animal psychologist says dog owners must take action if they spot warning signs
  • Jade Anderson, 14, is apparently killed by a pack of dogs in a house in northwest England
  • Four dogs were shot by armed police officers and a fifth was secured
  • Media reports say they were an American bulldog, bull mastiff and Staffordshire bull terriers

London (CNN) -- The death of a 14-year-old girl who was apparently fatally savaged by a pack of dogs at a friend's home has prompted horror in Britain.

Greater Manchester Police formally identified the girl Wednesday as Jade Anderson.

She was found dead at a house in Atherton, near Wigan in northwest England, on Tuesday afternoon after police were called about reports of an unconscious girl and "out-of-control" dogs.

Armed officers were confronted by a pack of dogs, described as "aggressive." Four were killed, and a fifth, which was shut up elsewhere in the house, was contained.

More clues about what sparked the attack on Jade may be revealed by an autopsy Wednesday, police said.

The schoolgirl was alone at the house, which she was visiting, when she was apparently mauled, police said.

Dog attacks 4-year-old girl
Dramatic dog attack caught on video

The dogs' remains will be examined as part of the investigation, which will also look at the breeds involved, police said.

UK newspaper reports suggest that an American bulldog, two Staffordshire bull terriers and a bull mastiff attacked the teenager. None of those breeds are banned in Britain.

Police Superintendent Mark Kenny said it was "a deeply distressing incident for everyone involved" and expressed condolences to Jade's family.

"They are understandably devastated by what has happened, as are Jade's circle of friends," he said in a police statement.

He told reporters later Wednesday that reports of the dogs attacking after Jade brought a meat pie into the house were speculation, but acknowledged that the attack came at lunchtime, after she'd left and returned.

"This afternoon we sadly lost one of our students, Jade Anderson. Our thoughts are with her parents and family," the Twitter account for her high school said.

Dealing with dangerous dogs

A report by the UK parliament's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee last month said seven people, five of them children, had been killed by dogs in homes in Britain since 2007.

The cost to the National Health Service of treating severe dog attack injuries is more than 3 million pounds ($4.5 million) a year, it said.

"Current dangerous dogs laws have comprehensively failed to tackle irresponsible dog ownership," the report said, adding that the latest government proposals are "woefully inadequate."

Kenny, the police superintendent, said he was not aware that any formal complaints had been made against the dogs involved in Tuesday's attack.

Humane societies point out that it is often the actions of owners, rather than the particular breed, that make a dog dangerous.

Animal psychologist Roger Mugford, who founded the UK-based Training and Behaviour Centre, which works with problem dogs, echoes that view.

"Everything is down to the owner," he told CNN. "Owners know if their dog is a hazard or is not friendly."

In a home with several dogs, the animals could be expected to behave as a group in a territorial way, he said. "So a stranger going into a home with five dogs would be seen as a threat, someone to be challenged or even attacked."

Once one dog attacks, the others are likely to join in, and self-defense becomes almost impossible, he added.

Assuming the worst

Some breeds are banned in Britain under the Dangerous Dogs Act. They include the pit bull terrier, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Braziliero, as well as dogs that may be crossbreeds but share the characteristics of these breeds.

But it's not the breed involved, but how the animal has been trained that counts, Mugford said, although bigger dogs can inflict more harm if they become aggressive.

"It's a fallacy that one breed is more dangerous than another," he said. "Everyone has prejudices ... but the willingness to bite is probably the same, on average, in a bichon frise as in a Great Dane."

Mugford recommends that owners take action as soon as they spot any warning signs -- by going to a dog trainer or qualified behaviorist, asking a veterinarian for advice or investing in a muzzle.

"If you have a big dog, or several big dogs, it's pretty obvious that you must take it very seriously indeed," he said. "Assume that the worst can or might happen."

The laws in Britain are sufficient to protect people if they are enforced, he said. "But more than anything, we need common sense -- punishment after the act is not the solution, we need behavior that anticipates problems."

Pit bull issue

The debate over dangerous dogs is also heated in the United States, where the Humane Society has been campaigning against a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling in August that pit bull terriers are "inherently dangerous."

Under the ruling, dog owners and their landlords are responsible for any injuries caused by pit bulls.

The Humane Society says it's wrong to discriminate by breed.

"Singling out a particular breed or type of dog has repeatedly been proven to be ineffective at curbing dog bites because breed alone is not predictive of whether a dog may pose a danger," its website says.

"A dog's propensity to bite is a product of several factors primarily under the owner's control, including early socialization, whether the dog is spayed or neutered and whether the dog is isolated or chained."

READ RELATED: A pit bull perception problem: What's a dog owner to do?

CNN's Hazel Pfeifer contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1521 GMT (2321 HKT)
The first human trial of an experimental Ebola vaccine has produced promising results, U.S. scientists said.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT)
Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teen in August abandoned home after address made public.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2236 GMT (0636 HKT)
HBO -- backing a documentary based on "Going Clear," a book about Scientology and Hollywood -- isn't taking any chances with legal side.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1935 GMT (0335 HKT)
Grandmaster Nguyen Van Chieu has devoted his adult life to spreading the word about Vietnames martial art, Vovinam.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
England cricketer Nick Compton shares insight into "drive and courage" it takes to face fears as top batsman.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 0059 GMT (0859 HKT)
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2318 GMT (0718 HKT)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2106 GMT (0506 HKT)
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1703 GMT (0103 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT