GMB star Charlotte Hawkins reveals dog attack horror as friend’s daughter, 8, bitten
Charlotte Hawkins has thrown her support behind Mirror drive and filmed new documentary after witnessing terrifying mauling of her friend’s daughter after dog broke through fence
As two massive snarling dogs jumped up at a garden fence, Charlotte Hawkins reassured her friend’s eight-year-old daughter, who was walking past them alongside her, that the beasts could not get out.
But the Good Morning Britain journalist was horrified when one out-of-control beast broke through the fence without warning, knocking the little girl to the ground and biting her. Charlotte was carrying her baby daughter in a sling at the time and so was unable to step in and fight the dog off the child.
Fortunately the youngster recovered after medical attention, but Charlotte says that moment a few years ago completely changed her view on how dangerous dogs can be. Charlotte, 48, who is now taking part in an ITV investigation into the growing problem, said: “The experience shook me deeply. It’s a problem we must tackle. Seeing my friend’s daughter being attacked by a big dog was shocking and scary. It showed me how quickly something like that can happen.
“The two big dogs were barking aggressively. I was saying, ‘Don’t worry, they won’t be able to get out’. But one of the dogs did get out. I felt particularly vulnerable because I had my baby in a child carrier, so I was holding her and I knew I couldn’t step in and help. My friend’s daughter was knocked to the ground and it was so scary. It’s definitely made me more alert to the potential dangers.”
The ITV investigation comes after the Mirror launched a Dangerous Dogs Campaign to crack down on out-of-control pets killing or seriously injuring people in vicious attacks. Our campaign aims to overhaul the Dangerous Dogs Act, with demands for training, tougher penalties, and the enforcement of rules on breeding and selling.
Dog-related injuries led to a record 10 fatalities last year in England and Wales, and so far this year there have been five already, including a four-year-old girl attacked in a garden. Charlotte, a supporter of the Dogs Trust charity, says attacks are not something anyone expects, especially when dogs are often treasured members of the family, with around 13 million across the UK.
She is tearful as she reveals her 16-year-old rescue dog Bailey, a terrier cross she adopted at four months old, sadly died just last week. She says: “It’s very upsetting for us, Bailey was a much-loved member of the family. It’s very hard and it’s going to take me a long time to get over it.
Consultant plastic surgeon Christian Duncan in the show
“She’s been with us through a lot. That’s the thing, for anybody who’s got a dog they can bring so much joy. It’s all just about owners being responsible. Every dog has the potential to bite and dog owners need to be really confident that they can keep their dog under control.”
Charlotte is fronting the ITV Tonight investigation Dangerous Dogs: What’s The Truth?, reporting on what is being done to tackle the problem as hospital figures show dog bites have more than doubled since 1998. Appearing on the ITV1 show tonight is mum Carrie-Ann Goulding, from Merseyside, whose little boy had half his face ripped away by a French bulldog this year.
Three-year-old Harry was attacked by a family pet at someone’s home, losing 60% of his top lip. Carrie-Ann says in the show: “I received a phone call to say we needed to go to hospital, so I thought Harry fell or hurt himself.
“Then I got to the car, Harry was in the back. I took the cloth off his face, and half of Harry’s face was missing. I felt physically sick and the fact that Harry couldn’t communicate with me, he was just making a murmuring sound, it was just heartbreaking.”
Consultant plastic surgeon Christian Duncan was on call at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool that day. He and his colleagues see on average two such injuries every three days, with Merseyside having the most dog-bite hospital admissions in England. He says: “It was a major injury that was hugely challenging. I moved some skin from his cheek and dropped that down on to his lip. Then he had a nasal injury that needed to be reconstructed with a graft.
“The commonest areas bitten on a child are the face because the dog’s face and the child’s face will be really close together. So nose, ears, lips, usually punctures, sometimes lacerations, sometimes tissue missing. And then occasionally we have really, really serious injuries that are life-threatening – near-decapitations, loss of major components of soft tissue above the limbs.”
Carrie-Ann says: “It’s really knocked Harry’s confidence. He wouldn’t look at his face in the mirror for a good couple of weeks after it happened. After the stitches came out, even then he’d say, ‘That’s not my face, that’s not my face’. It’s taken him a long time to get back to the outgoing boy he is. You can never fully trust a dog. You’ve got to be extra vigilant around dogs and children.”
Children are at higher risk of dog-bite injuries. Charlotte, whose daughter Ella Rose is now eight, adds: “I’ve talked to Ella about dog safety and explained that just because you’re comfortable with our dog, it doesn’t mean that every dog is the same. You have to be cautious. Don’t eat food around it, don’t assume you can go up to it. People need to be vigilant. It’s not fair on the dogs getting the blame. Owners need to take responsibility. Training should be mandatory.”
Emma Whitfield lost her 10-year-old son Jack Lis in 2021 when he was attacked after being invited to meet a dog in a house while he was playing nearby. There were no adults around at the time, and the XL Bully dog had been bought just days earlier via social media, having been advertised as aggressive. CCTV footage shows the dog had already previously lunged at people, including a child. Emma, who is campaigning for changes in the law, adds: “There should be a lot more regulation. No child should be losing their life because a dog owner can’t control their dog.”