Sunday, February 21, 2010

3 Dead From Dog Attacks This Weekend

In the grand scheme of things, three people being killed in a weekend by dogs is hardly statistically significant. But the idea of our dogs killing us hits a nerve, wounds us deeply and thus it is News.

Marion County, Florida - A 3-yr-old girl became entangled in the chain of the family's resident dog. For whatever reason, the commotion attracted the attention of the chained dog and ended in the child's death. There were three other dogs nearby, all with apparent access to the child, and none of them attacked. The dog was an American Bulldog. The first reports called the dogs Pit Bulls (American Bulldogs are not, under any circumstance, to be confused with American Pit Bull Terriers) and blamed all four dogs for the attack. Recent reports have corrected the breed and indicated that 1/4 of the dogs engaged in the actual attack. When the news articles mention breed in the title, it is only to mention Pit Bull. All the news articles with the correct breed do not mention that breed in the title. About 60% of the news articles call the dogs Pit Bulls.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: An adult woman who was arguing with her mother fell backwards and, while she was falling, physically grabbed her mother. At that point, one of the mother's dogs grabbed the woman by the throat. There were five dogs in the house and none of the other dogs engaged in the attack. The Philadelphia Inquirer chooses to refer to a as their source of information on Pit Bulls. Anyone who claims Pit Bull type dogs comprise five percent of the dog population is a little on the silly side. Pit Bulls are hugely popular dogs and, in many urban shelters, make up 30-40% of the shelter population. They definitely make up more than 5% of the total dog population - that's simply logical. The woman was possibly high and acting abnormally - the dog reacted appropriately, for a dog, and inappropriately for a human. Of course, *our* reaction is entirely situational - and this is where I think we fail our dogs - had this woman been trying to kill or illegally invade the woman's home, this dog would be a hero. We hold dogs to human standards or morality and this is incredibly unfair and dangerous to ourselves and dogs.

Independence, Minnesota- An 10-11-day old baby was bitten in the head and killed by the family's Husky. The child was in a car seat on the bed. The dog got on the bed and, at some point, bit the child in the head, possibly numerous times. The child was alone with the dog at the time. The dog does not have a history of any type of human aggression, but I wager no one bothered to prepare the dog for a tiny infant, either.

Now, I'm of the mindset that dog bite fatalities are incredibly rare, considering how many of us have dogs and how many dogs there are in this country. They are sad and tragic.

More than that, I think people feel a greater sense of betrayal. We have stopped treating dogs like dogs and started to treat them as if they have the capacity for moral and immoral behavior. Or, more specifically, as if they have the cognitive abilities to know when and when not to bite a human being. They don't, they never will. Their world is far different than our own, and to ignore their canine nature is to ask for a bite or worse.

As I will always maintain, it's amazing more of us aren't killed or severely wounded by dogs. We do a lot of stupid and mean (intentionally or otherwise) things to dogs and yet they show incredible restraint. We tether them and yet most chained dogs don't bite people, even though we have created incredibly frustrated, bored dogs. We leave dogs alone with annoying infants and children, setting both up for failure, yet millions of us can recall happy stories of our nanny dog NOT eating us. We keep dogs in homes and apartments, with little room to truly run free, and fight in front of them, get the energy all convoluted...yet, most of us can recall a heated debate or perhaps even a physical altercation in which our dogs did nothing. We do so much to and around our dogs that wouldn't fly in a group of dogs.

So while these are tragic occurrences, they are rare. They are not normal. And, for all the horror they embody, for all the supposed betrayal they reflect, dogs have remained constant companions who have, for thousands of years, endured much from humans without batting an eyelash.


Anonymous said...

FYI, the one in Independence was Independence, MN, not Independence, MO. Easy mistake.

And yes, major dog attacks are very rare.

Jennie Ruff said...

The facts on the Philly case were MANGLED in earlier reports too. What you have there is the most detailed (and according to what I know about the remaining dogs, who are described by the ACCT staff as wiggle-bums, most accurate) accounting I've seen so far. The first several reports described the now defunct organization PACCA as responding, and didn't even mention the other dogs who didn't do anything, and also didn't mention that there was some kind of domestic dispute going on. Worst reporting ever. Yesterday I repeatedly saw Pit Bull friendly fellow rescue workers saying that yes, the Pit that committed the attack should be put down without even realizing two had been shot on scene.

Isn't it amazing that in a city where Pit Bulls and Pit mixes are the #1 dog population-wise, that there hasn't been a fatal attack in so long? Sarcasm, of course, but this is getting blown way out of proportion here.