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'Pets pose greater risk of attacking than foxes'

A CULL of foxes in Dublin is not necessary, despite an attack in London in which a baby boy's finger was severed, a Trinity zoology professor has said.

The incident involving the four-week-old baby has highlighted the issue of urban foxes, but Prof John Rochford has cautioned against a hysterical reaction.

He said attacks by the animals are extremely rare, with children far more likely to be injured by a pet dog or cat.

HYSTERIA

The TCD associate professor told the Herald: "If your next door neighbour has a dog or a cat, there is a risk (of an attack). I wouldn't see the risk of an attack by a fox as being any greater. In fact, I would consider it's likely to be far less."

He said: "You might have people being opposed to one or two breeds of dog, but they're not going to turn around and say all dogs must be culled because a child has been bitten. Yet with foxes, suddenly there will be mass hysteria."

There has been a stark rise in numbers of foxes in Dublin and other cities as a result of urban sprawl which saw their natural habitat diminished.

Foxes have been spotted at night roaming Grafton Street and O'Connell Street, and are also known to have dens near the Dail.

Just last summer the issue of urban foxes was raised in the Dail and Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney stated that he was aware that the numbers of urban foxes is rising.

Around 30,000 foxes are killed every year in Ireland by hunters and farmers.

Following the fox incident involving baby Denny Dolan in London, Mayor Boris Johnson subsequently called for more to be done about urban foxes.

The injured baby was said to be "recovering well" after being attacked by a fox in his south-east London home and has been treated for a hand and facial injuries after the attack on February 6.

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