Too many dogs – when is enough, enough?

Rupert Evershed's dog Max is recovering from his injuries.

Rupert Evershed's dog Max is recovering from his injuries. - Credit: Rupert Evershed

On the evening of Wednesday December 1 I was nearing the end of my walk around Frogmore Lakes near St Albans with my dog Max, when he was suddenly attacked by seven other dogs.

The attack has left us devastated as a family and Max severely wounded with the likelihood of life-long problems, both mental and physical. It has also left me absolutely adamant that a change in the law is needed surrounding dog ownership and in particular the number of dogs allowed to walk together on public paths.

I had noticed the dog walker earlier several hundred yards behind me but not really given it much thought. I was pleased to see him divert off another path thereby avoiding the experience akin to walking through a group of drunken youths hoping one of them won’t ‘jump you’.

However, he turned back towards me and as he approached, two dogs off the lead and five straining at the lead he gave me the heads-up that “the little brown one is a nasty piece of work”. Hearing this I kept Max at my heel off the path to let them past.

At that point they all went for him, dragging the man with them. Max yelped as he felt their teeth and it took me a few moments to realise this was not just a playful nip but a serious attack.

In a blind panic the owner shouted, ‘No, no!’ desperately trying to drag them off and rolling around on the ground in the middle of his dogs as he did so. I too in utter desperation tried to free Max, at first pulling and then hitting the greyhound in the head hoping to release its jaw clamp but to no avail.

The only other thing I could think of to do was to place a foot on two of the dogs' throats, forcing them to release Max long enough to gather him up into my arms, but not before I had registered the horrible reality that Max was half-skinned, literally torn apart.

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Even then the dogs continued to jump at me trying to get at Max in my arms. Shaking uncontrollably and with both arms holding Max I had to run from the site, prioritising getting Max to the vet over getting details of the walker and his dogs.

As other dog owners will tell you, dogs become part of the family – like another child or another sibling. This is something I never appreciated until I (initially reluctantly) owned a dog. But to say Max is loved is an understatement. Aside from the anger and continuing trauma of witnessing the event, I am left with question of why is there still no law or enforcement to prevent such scenarios happening?

Rupert Evershed's dog Max.

Rupert Evershed's dog Max. - Credit: Ben Hayes

The massive increase in dog ownership since lockdown and the rise of commercial dog walking has meant that groups of up to 10 dogs are everywhere, and their impact is increasingly felt.

Talking to the vets they believe that more dogs than ever are ‘unsocialised’ after a year of restrictions, unused to other dogs and people and more likely to be aggressive.

There is a simple truth that shouts loud and clear to anyone who knows dogs and goes out walking: multiple dogs are NEVER under control. This is not because the handler hasn’t tried or hasn’t trained them it is a simple fact that once you get past three or maybe four dogs, you are no longer in control.

You might appear to be while they submit to your will but if something gives them cause to disobey, they can turn in an instance. I have seen it time and time again.

So, when is enough enough? For me, Wednesday night’s attack was enough. I am past the point of biting my tongue and smiling cordially at those who kid themselves into thinking that walking a large number of dogs is sensible or safe.

It is wholly anti-social and, potentially, very dangerous. I hope by sharing this I will alert others to the dangers and perhaps give anyone thinking of taking more than three or four dogs out cause to think again.