Painful memories of his six-year-old daughter being mauled close to death by a pack of dogs come rushing back for Bruce Wicksteed every time he hears of another attack on a child.
The Perth dad rescued his daughter, Maya, from almost certain death after she was set upon by six dogs in 2012.
Now Mr Wicksteed is behind a push for dogs bred for hunting to be eradicated – in the hope of saving other children the pain and suffering Maya endured.
Each year in Australia, a staggering 13,000 dog attack victims are taken to hospital.
And earlier this month Kamillah Jones – a one-year-old girl from Inverell – was mauled to death by her family’s rottweiler.
Mr Wicksteed says something has to change – including restrictions on the number of dogs allowed in one place.
Maya was left with life-long scarring and a crippling fear of dogs after she was attacked by three bull Arab mastiffs, two kelpies and a German shepherd on her neighbour’s property.
Mr Wicksteed was just metres away from Maya and heard her screaming as she hit the ground and was dragged 40 metres across a gravel driveway by the hunting dogs.
He got her to the house and called for help – his quick actions saved her life.
Mr Wicksteed, who is a paramedic, was a nurse before his daughter was attacked and had cared for children with dog bites.
But it wasn’t until he watched his daughter being mauled by the pack that he really considered how dangerous dogs were – now every time he hears about a new attack by ‘dangerous breeds’ he is infuriated.
‘I believe these dogs should be eradicated – you see families who have these dangerous breeds, these dogs bred for hunting, and want to explain to them that they could kill their children with one bite,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
He also believes there should be a limit on the number of dogs allowed in one yard.
‘Three of the dogs which attacked Maya were domestic dogs, not hunting dogs, but they were still attacking her because they became a pack,’ he said.
The recent death of one-year-old Kamillah Jones has had a major impact on the Wicksteed family.
As did the recent mauling on Tom Higgins, who needed surgery to reattach an ear, and the attack of a 10-year-old girl which occurred in the same horror week.
‘I was pretty sad about that baby,’ Maya said. ‘It made me realise how lucky I was that dad heard me screaming.’
After the attack Maya couldn’t cope with ‘seeing a dog a hundred metres in the distance or hearing one bark’ but six years on she loves them again.
‘We took her to Bali, because we knew there would be a lot of stray dogs there. We taught her to understand the body language of dogs. At first she would cling to us but by the end of the trip she was fine with them,’ Mr Wicksteed said.
Maya still remembers the savage attack vividly – from being dragged across gravel by the hair to being bitten by the dogs.
‘They were on a lead, I walked up to the top of the hill to wave at them because I wanted to pat them. They ran at me and jumped on me. I was pretty relieved when dad helped me. But it didn’t hurt when it was happening,’ she said.
While her fear of dogs has disappeared over time, she hopes she ‘never has to go’ to the farm (where she was attacked) again.
She also has some ongoing problems like nightmares and nervous reactions when she is playing sport.
‘Sometimes when people run at me I just freeze and start screaming,’ she said.
Her dad has had to readjust as well.
‘If I am called to a house, as a paramedic, I will often ask for people to take any dogs outside before I can work,’ he said.
The father says with every attack the need for stronger rules around keeping dogs becomes more obvious.
The three hunting dogs were destroyed – but the domestic dogs were not – much to the Wicksteed’s dismay.
‘They protected the other three dogs, we had two dogs at the time and I wouldn’t have hesitated to put them down if they had attacked someone,’ he said.
Maya wears her scars with pride – knowing she escaped the initial attack and has been strong enough to beat her fears since.
Children are more likely to be victims of serious attacks, according to statistics.