Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Musings on dog bite related fatalities

This month, we've had five US fatalities and one in New South Wales...all a variety of different breeds.

Chained mixed breed dog kills girl left alone in backyard with dogs.
Husky drags infant off bed and bites multiple times, killing child.
3-yr-old climbs into the pen of a 17-yr-old Rottweiler and is tragically killed.
Child alone with three dogs in backyard is killed by one Rottweiler (all three dogs are killed).
A New South Wales girl is mauled to death by four large mixed-breed dogs.
A girl left alone with three resident pit bulls (normally chained) is mauled to death

So here we have six deaths and in every single case we have children who are left alone with dogs. With the exception of the Husky, all of these dogs were resident, backyard dogs. They were not house pets nor were they treated as such.

You can't draw any conclusions from these deaths, so far as dog breeds are concerned. And, to be frightfully honest, five deaths in the United States from dog bites pales in comparison to a far more deadly recreational device - the swimming pool. There are only 8 million swimming pools in this country, yet 4,000 people drown every year in them. Six people a day drown in swimming pools.

Yet there are 80 million dogs, maybe 8 million bites (most not requiring hospitalization) and a piddly 12-30 deaths. We interact with dogs on a daily basis, yet most of us will never be seriously harmed by one.

This is not meant to diminish the tragedy of these violent deaths, especially considering the victims are children (no one ever wants to see that child-sized coffin lowered into a grave). But being killed by a dog is exceedingly unlikely, extremely rare, and legislating based on dog bite related fatalities is like trying to stop the levee from breaking with a finger in a hole. There's too many holes, too many spouts of water jettisoning forth for such a band-aid "solution".

Yes, we should continue to educate, educate, educate. We should advocate on behalf of the chained, neglected, and isolated dogs. We should encourage dogs as companions, not as yard ornaments. But we should not buy into the fear that there is a problem that needs fixing. Dogs have done notoriously well around us humans, so much so that for 10,000-100,000 years, they have been by our sides. They have teeth and claws, we have nothing, yet for all that we do to them, they seem staunch in their support of and devotion to us. It's amazing, really, that more people in this country aren't killed or harmed by dogs. But we aren't. And we should not legislate like we are.

1 comment:

The Christian Man said...

Fatal dog bites are rare, but that doesn't mean they can be ignored. Los Angeles dog bite attorneys suggest that dozens happen in the southern California area every year.