Sunday, June 11, 2006

Dog Attack Evaluated

A woman in her mid-70s was attacked and bitten repeatedly by a neighbor's dog as she walked near her Fairwood home.

Neighbors said the dog is usually kept in the back yard, but on Sunday, two young girls in the family took the dog out on a leash. Animal control Sgt. David Morris said that was clearly a mistake.

"This dog is probably 65-70 pounds, probably outweighed the young girl that was walking the dog. There's no way a 5, 6, 7, 8 10-year-old child is going to be able to control a dog 50, 60, 70 pounds," he said.

As I have said before… kids and dogs should be supervised. The interesting question here is whether the dog should be put down. If this is the complete story, these kids did something very wrong. They shouldn’t have been out with the dog unsupervised. Some dogs will try to protect children, and children are not capable of restraining dogs that are just as big, or bigger, than they are. With an adult, it is quite possible this dog might never have bitten anyone off leash. In addition, some dogs are much more wary of the elderly, and more likely to growl at, or attack, them. I have seen dogs that were otherwise sociable in public, act differently around some people. One trigger for growling or attacking is if the victim acts or feels fearful around dogs. This type of demeanor puts many dogs on the defensive. In the wild, a fearful animal either runs away or makes a full blown attack. When dogs sense fear in someone, their natural programming puts them on guard, since they perceive their lives are in danger. Add to this, if a dog is with puppies or young children, in other words, anyone the dog feels responsible for protecting, the risk of the dog attacking can increase. This phenomenon might very well have played a factor here. I'm also not pleased with the part about the dog being "usually kept in the back yard." Social isolation isn't good for dogs, and if this dog spends most of its life in the back yard, such a dog will become more and more wary of strangers, and more likely to bite, especially around the dog's territory.

THE DOG: This dog needs a behavioral evaluation by a professional. If the dog is a normal dog, physically and mentally healthy, and if the parents can be determined to be criminally negligent, then I would place the dog in another home, and this incident shouldn’t be held against the dog, either legally or socially.

THE KIDS: In a few cases, I do support spanking kids for doing wrong. If these kids knew they were not to take the dog out for a walk on their own, if I was the parent, I would sit them down, remind them of the house rules, tell them what happened as a result of their breaking the rules, and then administer a spanking and have them do some kind of community service related to dog bite incidents. If the kids weren’t told to not take the dog for a walk, then I would not administer punishment to the kids.

THE PARENTS: Regarding the parents, they will have headaches enough as a result of this. They will most likely be sued by the victim, their insurance company will pay the damages and then cancel their homeowner’s insurance, and their dog will probably be put to death. If the dog is to be kept, if found to be a well adjusted dog, then better fencing should be installed and a new supervision and socialization program implemented.

ANIMAL CONTROL: An investigation should be pursued concerning the circumstances surrounding this incident, and the law enforced. However, as I have stated before, there are justified bites and unjustified bites. This is a tough case, which requires good judgment, not just going by the letter of the law, to determine whether this should be prosecuted. Not every dog bite case should require that the dog be put down or the owners punished.

THE VICTIM: The victim should be compensated for all medical bills by the parents. The children and parents should be made to apologize to her for what happened. Law abiding people deserve to be safe when walking in public.

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