Saturday, June 25, 2011

Put blame for dog tragedies where it belongs

By Sherry Davis, from The Bakersfield Californian

On June 19, a 75-year-old San Diego woman had a leg amputation, suffered a heart attack, and may still lose one of her arms and the other leg after two neighbor dogs broke through the fence and attacked her in her own backyard, according to a report from NBC's KNSD 7/39 San Diego.
On June 16, two next-door neighbor dogs escaped their yard and attacked a 74-year-old Florida man while he was working in his yard, according to a report at UPI.com.
They ripped off one arm, nearly detached the second one, and severely disfigured his face. Suffering brain damage from blood loss, he later died, UPI.com reported.
These dogs had allegedly attacked a man in 2010, but the owner was never charged, the report said.
In February 2010, three Fontana children were mauled by five dogs that attacked them while they were walking with their mother along the railroad tracks, another UPI.com report said.
A 5-year-old girl was hospitalized in critical condition with a crushed chest, her 6-year-old brother received more than 250 staples to close a wound in his leg, and her 7-year-old sister was treated for bite wounds and released.
The dogs' owners were sentenced to four years and four months each after prosecutors proved that the owners knew the aggressive nature of the dogs and showed that the dogs had escaped through what Animal Control officers described as "well-worn holes dug under the fence" where the dogs were kept as yard dogs and constantly charged passersby in barrier frustration, UPI.com stated.
While the first two occurrences were attacks by pit bulls, the five-dog attack was committed by a 91-pound mastiff, two pit bulls and two mixed-breeds.
All of the attacks were by multiple dogs.
And all of the dogs had escaped their yards.
Although attacks like these have caused some breeds to be labeled as "bad," I refuse to buy into that theory. I have trained many of the bully and mastiffs breeds and have certified quite a few as therapy dogs.
These so-called "power breeds" get their bad raps and sensationalistic headlines because of the damage they do when they bite. Not because they are more likely to bite.
When you don't socialize these breeds, yet confine them without sufficient exercise in inadequate and frustration-provoking enclosures, and don't provide training and mental stimulation for dogs that are high-prey and/or bred to work, you are laying the groundwork to create their aggression.
Add multiple dogs to a dynamic that builds over months or years, throw in a gate left unlatched or a loose board and you can see how these tragic attacks play out time and tine again in a perfect storm.
Once in a while I will run across a dog who by nature of its breeding is such a genetic mess that nothing can be done to change its aggressive nature, and that is no more likely to show up in one breed than another.
But the majority of the dogs involved in these attacks don't fall into that category; they weren't born that way. They were simply the products of ignorance and mismanagement by owners who gave no thought whatsoever to how their complete lack of responsible dog ownership would tragically alter other people's lives forever.
A study performed by the American Veterinary Medical Association, The Center For Disease Control and The Humane Society of The United States released in June 2010 analyzed dog bite statistics from the last 20 years and found "the statistics don't show that any breeds are inherently more dangerous than others." The study showed that the most popular large breed dogs at any one time were consistently on the list that bit fatally.
"There were a high number of fatal bites from Doberman Pinchers in the 1970s for example, because the Dobermans were very popular at that time, there were more Dobermans around, and because the Doberman's size makes their bite more dangerous. The number of fatal bites from pit bulls rose in the 1980s for the same reason, and the number of bites from Rottweilers in the 1990s," the study says.
The study also noted "there are no reliable statistics for non-fatal dog bites so there is no way to know how often smaller breeds bite."
It went on to say that "biting has more to do with the circumstances, behavior, training (or lack thereof), and ignorance on the part of human beings."
In 2001 a small Pomeranian killed a six-week old baby when the child was left unattended by its caretaker.
Let's put the blame for these tragedies where it belongs.

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