Sunday, November 27, 2005

Analysis of Fatal Texas Dog Attack

“Texas Woman Mauled to Death by Six Dogs
Nov 27 2:52 PM US/Eastern
A pack of six dogs mauled a 76-year-old woman to death as she worked in her yard, authorities said. Lillian Loraine Stiles was riding on a lawn mower in her front yard Saturday when she was confronted by the dogs, described as pit bull- Rottweiler mixed breeds, said Milam County Sheriff Charlie West. Investigators think Stiles was attacked when she got off the mower and headed into her house. Stiles had severe bites over her entire body, and a man who tried to help her was bitten on one leg, authorities said.”


Ok, let’s assume that this story is complete and accurately tells what happened in this dog bite case. How should this kind of incident be evaluated? I have a questionnaire for evaluating such cases:

1.) Was this legitimate self defense? No. The dogs were not being threatened by this woman, though the dogs might have felt threatened by the sounds and motion of her lawn mower. I do not feel that socialized and well adjusted dogs feel threatened by the sounds of a lawn mower. A police dog, which is a dog that has been bred and trained to attack, has to work around all sorts of machinery. A police dog that became aggressive at the sound of machinery would be removed from the K9 patrol. Such behavior would be considered the result of faulty temperament, regardless of the breed or mix of breeds.

2.) Was this defense of territory? Yes. The dogs were owned by a neighbor. What we consider our property, and what dogs consider their territory, don’t always match up. Dogs typically guard a much larger territory than just our property boundaries. It is normal dog behavior to confront, and sometimes attack, territorial intruders.

3.) Was this defense of pack (including family and family pets)? No. There is no indication that any dog of this pack or the owner were being threatened by the victim.

4.) Was this a result of the establishment of a reasonable pack order within the home? No. This woman was not part of the household.

5.) Was this puppy mouthing (which is not the same as being aggressive)? No. This was an attack.

6.) Did the victim assume the risk of being bitten while training these dogs? No. She was not training, grooming, or professionally handling/ managing the dogs.

7.) Was this an attack for legitimate police, sport protection (like Schutzhund, French Ring Sport, IPO, KNPV, etc.), and personal security work? No.

8.) Was this biting incident part of a legitimate hunting purpose? No.

9.) Was this an accidental bite? No. The dogs didn’t accidentally maul this woman. The attacking dogs bit with aggression.

10.) Were these dogs in pain and injured, or ill? No. We have no evidence of these dogs being sick or injured.

11.) Is this a false claim (not an attack by the dogs at all)? No. The dogs are implicated in this woman’s death.

12.) Had the victim previously abused these dogs? No. We have no evidence of this.

13.) Was the victim provoking the dog to bite? No. We have no evidence of this.

14.) Was the victim interacting with the dogs without the permission of the owner? No. No evidence of this.

15.) Was the owner present when the attack occurred? No.

16.) Was the victim committing a violent crime when she was attacked? No.

17.) Did someone let these dogs loose to run the neighborhood without the owner’s permission? No. We have no evidence of this. But this needs to be investigated further.

18.) Did the owner take reasonable precautions to contain his dogs when he couldn’t supervise them? We don’t know. We have no evidence of this.

19.) Was this the result of a neighbor dispute gone bad? No. We have no evidence of this.

20.) Have there been previous incidents with these dogs and this owner? No. We have no evidence of this.


1.) Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. The purpose of this article isn’t to point fingers and judge other people without the facts. Instead, this is a philosophical discussion, using a case study to make a point. We are assuming that the story tells all the known facts of the case. We can be sure that more facts will come out over time which could exonerate both the owner and the dogs. That being said, if the story is 100% accurate as to the circumstances, these are my opinions (in fact, everything written in this blog is my opinion, and stated from these same assumptions). If the story changes, then my opinions might change. However, my philosophy on dog behavior and what constitutes responsible dog ownership remain constant.

2.) The dogs are probably normal dogs, when alone. However, when you let a pack of dogs run loose, they will do things that they would never do individually. This is why we require owner supervision of dogs when off leash, and kennels / fences / crates / closed doors when dogs are unsupervised. Good dogs, in the hands of irresponsible dog owners shouldn’t be put down. Good dogs should be removed from the home and placed with responsible dog owners… even if they attacked someone. If a dog is put in a bad situation, then it is just going to be a dog.

3.) Each dog should be evaluated for viciousness. A vicious dog is an unstable dog that has dangerous and aggressive temperament flaws. Such dogs are often fear biters, not good with children and puppies, and will bite in circumstances that would indicate the dog is unpredictable and dangerous. All vicious dogs should be put down (put to death).

4.) It should be determined how the dogs got loose. If a malicious person let the dogs loose without the owner’s knowledge or consent, then the owner should not be held liable. That malicious person should be punished for the harm caused. If the owner was negligent in managing and containing his dogs, then he should be the one punished. If the person who let the dogs loose was a minor, then the parents of that minor should be held liable.

5.) We might just have one dog that was responsible for this attack, and the other dogs just happened to be there at the wrong time. It is important to identify any vicious dogs and put them down, and not blame the good dogs that just happened to be present at the time of the attack. What if one of the dogs turns out to be a friendly Chihuahua? Should that dog be put down? Of course not.

6.) If the owner is found to have had negligent supervision and containment of these dogs, and no one else is implicated, then this attack should be deemed a crime and the appropriate punishment should be given to the owner.

7.) It is irrelevant what breeds were involved. This could just as easily been a pack of mixed Golden Retrievers, Australian Cattle Dogs, and four Greyhounds. Dogs act differently in a pack than they will alone.

Just because we are pro-dog advocates doesn’t mean we should excuse all dogs and dog owners when an attack happens.

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