The number of patients visiting Welsh AE departments to be treated for dog attack injuries has risen two thirds in a decade.
According to the latest figures, emergency hospital visits due to dangerous dogs were up by 66% in the 10 years to 2011-12.
The figures show the extent of dangerous dog attacks in Wales as Westminster looks to impose tougher sentences on irresponsible dog owners.
Proposals launched for consultation yesterday set out plans to increase the sentence for owners of dogs that kill from two years to life in prison.
The vast majority of AE admissions went on for further treatment in other hospital departments. Between 2011 and 2012, 403 out of 410 patients were admitted for further treatment.
In the same year, a total of 1,120 bed days was spent in Welsh hospitals due to dog attacks.
The dog attack hospitalisation rate for the area covered by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health board is more than double the Welsh average. At 30.3 per 100,000, compared to 13.2 per 100,000 average for Wales, it is also one of the highest rates in the country.
Cardiff AM Julie Morgan, who has campaigned for the past two years for tougher legislation to deal with irresponsible ownership of dangerous dogs, said the figures were “shocking” and showed the need for action.
“Just to hear these shocking figures is so upsetting because I know something like this can cause major trauma for the victim of a dog attack, particularly the children involved,” she said.
“It’s not just physical, it’s also something which affects their emotional wellbeing.
“It’s also not as though these are just little nips.
“If they’re being taken to AE, they’re clearly a lot more serious than that.”
But Mrs Morgan claimed the UK Government’s plans for stricter sentences will not be enough to prevent repeated attacks across Wales.
Before Westminster began its consultation, the Welsh Government had its own plans to introduce a Control of Dogs (Wales) Bill in May.
Plans were shelved in favour of working with Westminster on its consultations.
“The important thing to stress here is that dogs are important as well – people love dogs and they provide companionship for many responsible dog owners across Wales,” she said.
“I’m grateful to the Westminster Government for what they are doing to help this problem, but the proposals aren’t currently doing enough to tackle the problem before it gets to the stage represented in these figures.
“Essentially, it’s coming in after the event. The Welsh Government was campaigning for Dog Control Notices, which would give the power to make owners look after dogs properly.
“We want to get in before any damage is done.”
Her comments were echoed by Cardiff councillor Dilwar Ali, whose son Erfan was viciously attacked by a Rhodesian ridgeback in 2011. Six-year-old Erfan was scarred for life after the attack and will undergo further surgery this year for his injuries.
“In general, we’re pleased with what the UK Government are planning to do and we do welcome their proposals,” said Mr Ali.
“But a big part of what we’d like to see is education in the community, turning irresponsible dog owners into responsible dog owners.
“The small things will make the biggest difference. I’m happy with stricter punishments but we have to think about how we can prevent this sort of thing from happening.
“It’s good news, but we need more work in the community to stop this kind of thing from happening.”
Mr Ali said his son has been doing well since the attack but that, in addition to the physical scars, he still bears the emotional scars after the dog leapt over the garden fence of their family home in Gabalfa and savaged the young boy as he was helping his mother bring in the washing.
“He’s recovering well physically, but mentally it’s still very tough for him,” he said.
“Whenever he sees a dog, he does get quite upset and scared, understandably.”