DOG attacks have caused more than 600 people to be admitted to hospital in the last five years.
Shocking figures, released by NHS Lothian, show one-in-six admissions for dog bite and strike injuries involved a child aged under the age of ten.
The statistics also revealed a surge in recent months – which has seen attacks nearly double to 111 from April to September last year – compared with a previous six-monthly average of 59.
Victims of dog attacks said the rise was “terrifying”. Josephine Thomson, whose 11-year-old grandson, Aidan Lockie, was left scarred for life following a ferocious assault by a Staffordshire cross, said the situation was “getting worse, not better”.
She said: “It’s absolutely dreadful. I don’t want to live in a country that puts the life of a dog before a child and that’s what we’ve got at the moment. It has snowballed with some horrific injuries and horrific deaths. Somebody has to be take responsibility.”
Aidan, of Penicuik, had gone to a friend’s house when the dog, which has since been destroyed, escaped from a bedroom and launched at his face in February last year.
Grandmother-of-five Josephine, 67, added: “My laddie has these scars on his face and on his throat for life. The nightmares are ongoing for him but we need to stop it from happening to other kids. These terrible figures just show it’s getting worse.”
She has written to First Minister Alex Salmond, demanding changes to the law including annual licence fees and dogs to be kept on leads. A decision on whether to chip and license Scotland’s 640,000 dogs is expected later this month. It follows the move by the UK Government to introduce compulsory microchipping from April 2016 onwards.
The NHS report, which dates from January 2009 to the end of September 2013, showed dogs carried out 64 attacks on nursery-age youngsters and 15 on pensioners aged 80-plus.
Dr Dave Caesar, clinical director of emergency medicine, NHS Lothian, said the extent of injuries to patients varied.
He said: “A minority of these cases can be very serious and can go on to require surgical procedures, while others will require less medical attention and may be discharged after care and monitoring.”
Green councillor Steve Burgess said he was concerned by the spike with the final figure this year expected to surpass previous levels.
He said: “The rise in dog-related injuries is alarming. The vast majority of dog owners take the responsibility as well as the privilege of ownership seriously. However, a small minority seem unable to control their pets.”
Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman Dr Nanette Milne said: “Instances of attacks by dangerous dogs appear to be increasing, and across the Lothians it is clearly a problem.”
Last month an Alaskan Malamute killed a newborn baby in Camarthenshire.
Responding to the NHS Lothian figures, a Police Scotland spokesman said they “will not hesitate to prosecute”.