Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hmmmm... Guilty or Not Guilty, That Is The Question

An assistant Los Angeles County fire chief who allegedly beat a neighbor's 6-month-old dog so severely it had to be euthanized said Monday he was acting in self-defense. Glynn D. Johnson and his attorney, John E. Sweeney, said the incident was being unfairly characterized by the media and protesters as an unprovoked attack on a timid puppy. "The dog had my thumb in a viselike grip in his jaws when it became necessary to defend myself," Johnson said in the lawyer's office, where enlarged photos of his stitched-up thumb were displayed for reporters. Johnson, 54, of Riverside, is accused of beating the shepherd mix with his fist and a 12-pound rock Nov. 3. The injured dog was taken by its owner to a veterinarian, where it was euthanized. Johnson was charged last week by Riverside County prosecutors with felony animal cruelty and other counts and freed on $10,000 bail. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

Two sides to this story, from my experience.

I encountered a vicious 12 week old Australian Shepherd pup many years ago. The dog was a born fear biter. The dog was dangerous even at that age. Breeders will tell you, if they've been breeding dogs long enough, that sometimes a pup will be born that isn't right in the head. And the breeder will cull the pup (meaning put the pup to death). The article says the pup was "timid", usually meaning fearful. A true fear biter can't be fixed. The dog is mentally ill, and no amount of training, love, or behavior modification will change that. A dog that bites will often not let go, and dogs have incredibly strong jaws, even as puppies.

Then again, I have met wackos that would provoke dogs. They would tease, or even harm a puppy, to the point that even a very mild mannered pup will eventually become a biter. Saw this once with an Italian Greyhound. Mild mannered dog that was treated way too roughly, and the dog eventually became a serious biter. The dog needed some serious work, a lot of patience and love, and we could have gotten the dog over it. The owners refused to spend the money and let us get the dog out of this predicament. Ham handed, home brewed training is just as bad as outright abuse.

So, what happened here? You can't tell from the article, so we really don't know. There are more clues, however... A second article states: "A Woodcrest man accused of savagely beating a dog that strayed onto his property is a dedicated firefighter and animal lover who simply tried to defend himself when the dog attacked, his lawyer said Monday."

Again, from experience...

Some people get manic when dogs enter their yards. They get aggressive to the dog to run it off, or to punish it for pooping in their yard, or such like.

Or, some dogs, when loose from their homes, feel very afraid when a stranger corners them and tries to catch them. The second article states: "Karley turned on Johnson as he tried to return her to her yard, biting him on the right thumb so severely that she nearly severed it, Sweeney said. He said Johnson, who is right-handed, defended himself as best he could with his free hand." Did he grab the dog? And how did he do it? Regardless, the type of bite and the location of the bite leads me to believe it was a fear bite... but was it provoked or not?

Again, we can't tell from these stories if the man is guilty or not. So, unless there is more evidence showing abuse leading up to the bite, I'd acquit the guy.

What do you do in these circumstances? First, try to get the owners to get their own dog. Second, if that fails, and you are going to try and get the dog yourself, use a leash or rope to lasso the dog. Don't grab the dog. Third, once a dog locks its jaw on your body, it is probably not going to let go... and then you have to defend yourself. That's the cruel truth.

Here is a clearer example of the kind of detail that would lead me to convict someone of animal abuse: "A Sandy man will serve jail time for strangling and beating two dogs, killing one of them. William McKnight, 29, was sentenced Monday in 3rd District Court to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for two misdemeanor counts of aggravated cruelty to an animal. According to the charges, McKnight told a separate witness "that he had tortured (the woman's) dogs by grabbing their necks and throwing them against the walls and floor."

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