Pit bull owner allegedly threatened to kill attack witnesses
DUBLIN, Ireland––The total population of the Republic of Ireland, a little more than five million people, is fewer than that of the tenth largest U.S. metropolitan area, distributed across an area roughly equal to that of the state of Indiana.
That tends to make whatever happens in Ireland local and personal to much of the nation.
Alejandro Miszan, nine, of Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland, was on November 27, 2022 permanently facially disfigured, also suffered severe injuries to his legs and stomach, and was very nearly killed by a pit bull.
Brother of victim won world boxing title
Though Alejandro Miszan’s parents emigrated to Ireland a decade ago from Romania, his elder brother Raul, 21, brought honor to Ireland by winning the world amateur 60-kilogram boxing championship in 2020.
That alone would make what happened to Alejandro Miszan a topic of national concern, even if parents throughout Ireland could not vividly imagine and fear the same thing happening to their children.
Alejandro Miszan was playing soccer with other boys on the Old Forge Road Estate athletic field when a 27-year-old man named Niall Byrne allegedly allowed a pit bull to run free without a muzzle, four days after the same pit bull allegedly attacked another boy in the same vicinity.
Earlier attack by same pit bull could have been as bad
Wrote Brendan Keane and Amy Moloy of the Enniscorthy Guardian, concerning the November 23, 2022 attack, “The father of the young boy [attacked in that incident] said had he not been wearing a big puffy hood on his jacket, pulled over his head, the attack could have resulted in much worse injuries.
“He was very lucky,” the father said. “He has some marks on his face and his neck.”
The Gardai, the Irish national police force, confirmed having responded to the previous incident as well as to the attack on Alejandro Miszan.
Pit bull owner charged
Niall Byrne, arrested on November 29, 2022, “was brought before a late sitting of Gorey District Court in Wexford,” reported the Irish Mirror, “driven from Enniscorthy Garda Station in a blacked out marked garda van, which went into the underground car park before he was brought into the building.
“Byrne is charged with two counts of threatening to kill unnamed persons,” believed to be witnesses, following the pit bull attack on Alejandro Miszan, the Irish Mirror continued.
Also charged with dangerous driving
“Byrne, with an address of Forgelands, Enniscorthy, Wexford, is also charged with dangerous driving, having no tax [license] and no insurance on November 4, 2022,” the Irish Mirror added.
Out of work, Byrne was granted legal aid by the court.
Byrne has not yet been charged with offenses in connection with the pit bull attack itself.
“Garda Siochana is continuing to investigate all the circumstances,” a Gardai spokesperson said. “The child remains in Children’s Health Ireland at Crumlin receiving treatment,” after having been evacuated from the scene of the pit bull attack by helicopter.
“What has happened is one child too many”
“I don’t understand why there is a need to own such breeds, such dangerous breeds. I think we should go back to the drawing board,” Fianna Fáil party leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil, or Irish parliament, on November 30, 2022.
“What has happened is one child too many,” Martin continued. “We all have pets. But there is no need for this, in my view, and it needs to be seriously examined.”
Martin pledged to investigate “whatever cross-Departmental approach we can take,” adding, “The first thing is enforcement.”
Last call as Taoiseach
Martin is preparing to leave office as the Taoiseach, or political leader of the Republic of Ireland, on December 17, 2022. The Fianna Fáil party, however, is to remain part of the governing coalition within the Dáil.
James Browne, who represents Wexford in the Dail, and is like Martin a member of the Fianna Fáil party, “pointed out that there has been a significant rise in the number of dog attacks on humans in the last five years [around the Republic of Ireland], with over 1,700 reported from 2016 to 2021,” summarized Senan Molony of The Independent.
During that time the number of dog attacks rose annually, from 250 in 2016 to 329 in 2021, continuing a trend of almost annual increases from 172 in 1998.
Pit bulls must be muzzled
“Current law allows the ownership of pit bulls and similar breeds,” explained Molony, “but they must be muzzled when out of doors. The current rules were brought in by former minister Pádraig Flynn [in 1998] following a spate of dog attacks in the early 1990s.”
The full list of restricted breeds in the Republic of Ireland, as identified by law. includes the American Pit Bull Terrier, English Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier [correctly recognized in Ireland as a pit bull, unlike in the United Kingdom], Bull Mastiff, Dobermann Pinscher, Rottweiler, German Shepherd (also known as Alsatian), Rhodesian Ridgeback, Japanese Akita, Japanese Tosa, and “Ban dog” meaning any cross or variation of any of the other dogs restricted by breed.
Muzzling has held injuries down
According to the official numbers, logged at the county level, the muzzling requirement has since 2018 helped to hold injurious attacks on humans by the restricted breeds down to 10 by American pit bulls, five by bull mastiffs, and eight by German shepherds.
Dogs not identified by breed have injured 57 people, small terriers have injured 12, Jack Russell terriers have injured six, and collies have injured five, with lurchers, springer spaniels, and huskies also accounting for several injurious attacks each.
Not all counties keep the data in a breed-specific manner, and the official numbers do not differentiate among reported attacks by level of severity.
Attacks on animals
However, most Irish counties track dog attacks on other animals, unlike law enforcement at any level in most other nations.
For example, of 273 total dog attacks recorded by the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council in Dublin from 2016 through 2021, 138 were on animals.
Of 676 reported dog attacks in County Cork, 2017-2021, 288 were on humans and 388 on animals.
ANIMALS 24-7 Irish attack log
ANIMALS 24-7 has logged fatal and disfiguring dog attacks in the Republic of Ireland since 2015, using the same criteria that ANIMALS 24-7 uses to log fatal and disfiguring dog attacks in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, and South Africa.
The ANIMALS 24-7 logs count only attacks rating a high level four, five, or six (fatal) on the Ian Dunbar scale of severity.
At least 33 such attacks have been reported in Ireland since 2015. Among them were 12 by pit bulls, six by dogs never identified, five by dogs identified as Presa Canarios or Cane Corsos, three by huskies, two each by Akitas, German shepherds, and Rottweilers, and one by a “sheepdog” of unspecified variety.
Among them, these 32 dogs injured 31 people, among them 15 children and 16 adults, disfiguring 21 people, killing four.
Calls for stronger legislation similar to those heard in the Dail on November 30, 2022 also echoed through the Dail after three Presa Canarios on June 4, 2017 killed Teresa McDonagh, 64, of Knockarasser, Moycullen, Connemara, Galway, stripping her legs to the bone and nearly amputating her arms.
The Presa Canarios, belonging to McDonagh’s son, were identified as bullmastiffs preliminary to a coroner’s inquest that established their identity.
Two of the Presa Canarios had been in the family for years; the third was an eight-month-old puppy.
The adult dogs had repeatedly punctured the tires of vehicles and had terrorized the local mail carrier on multiple occasions before killing McDonagh, witnesses testified to the inquest.
Peter Byrne, Glen Murphy, & Mia O’Connell
The next recorded dog attack death in the Republic of Ireland was Peter Byrne, 52, a farmer and father of four from Ballymaconey, Rathdangan, County Wicklow.
Peter Byrne died on April 16, 2019, five days after his dog of unspecified breed startled a cow who bolted, crushing Byrne, breaking a gate, and knocking equipment down on top of him.
Why the cow was that afraid of the dog was not established.
Glen Murphy, seven, was on March 22, 2020 killed by two Rottweilers in the Tallaght district of south Dublin.
Mia O’Connell, three months, was fatally mauled in her cot at Clashmore, County Waterford, at about two a.m. on June 7, 2021. Media reports initially identified the dog who killed her by crushing her head as a “terrier” and a “Labrador/terrier mix,” but eventually settled on “cross-breed terrier,” a common euphemism for pit bull.
Irish Farmers Association
Lending some political momentum to the calls from within the Dáil for reinforced dangerous dog legislation, Irish Farmers Association national sheep chair Kevin Comiskey has since February 2021 campaigned for stronger laws to deal with dogs who kill animals.
“The level of sanctions that can be applied do not reflect the savagery and trauma these uncontrolled dogs are causing,” Comiskey told media on February 8, 2022.
Comiskey called for “A single national database for all dogs in the country that identifies the person responsible for the dog, tougher sanctions for those found in non-compliance of the microchipping obligations of dog owners, more appropriate sanctions for those who fail to have their dog under their control at all times and for those whose dogs are identified worrying or attacking livestock, and additional resources to ensure compliance with the obligations of dog owners.”
Comiskey demanded that such legislation be in effect before the end of 2022.
Police inaction appealed to High Court
If the Dáil fails to act, there is a possibility that the Irish High Court might.
On June 20, 2022, the parents of a boy who was severely facially injured by a pit bull at a house he was visiting filed a High Court challenge to both the authorities’ refusal to investigate the incident and to the existing Irish dangerous dog law, the 1986 Control of Dogs Act.
The plaintiffs, who may not be identified by High Court order, reportedly were told by both the local gardaí and the local council’s dog warden that they had no jurisdiction to investigate because the attack occurred on private property.
The plaintiffs contend that the attack constituted a criminal offense under both the 1986 Control of Dogs Act and 1997 Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, and therefore should have been promptly investigated.
The plaintiffs further seek a declaration that sections of the 1986 Control of Dogs Act that protect dog owners violate both the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland and the European Convention on Human Rights.