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 Dogsbite.org 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.