Saturday, January 1, 2011

Breed Bias in Similar Dog Attacks

Spina bifida is a spinal birth defect that affects 7 out of every 10,000 births. There are two forms of spina bifida, one that causes paralysis to varying degrees. Children with spina bifida can develop sores on their feet they cannot feel.

Dogs have a sensitive olfactory ability. They are used to sniff out bombs and bodies. Research is being done into their abilities to scent out cancers. That they would be capable of sniffing out a wound on the foot of a child is not in question.

Puppies like to chew. When not told otherwise, they will chew anything. This includes body parts.

A child with spina bifida must be constantly monitored and supervised when living with a dog...especially during bedtime.

In 2007, a Pit Bull puppy was left alone with a 4-yr-old child with spina bifida. The puppy chewed off one foot. The mother was prosecuted for child endangerment. She was sentenced to four years in prison. In August of 2010, she was released early. She is not permitted to have dogs. To be clear, Martina Jennings - the mother - was an abusive parent. The father of the child sued child protective services after they refused to heed his and doctor concerns over abuse in the mother's home. The child lives with his father.

In nearly every article, the breed of dog was included in the title. Sensationalistic words like "maul" were also found. The puppy did not merely "chew" on toes, he was said to have "eaten the baby's toes". The story made national news.

The puppy was four months old and was immediately killed after the attack. No one defended the dog. Most discussions surrounded the issues of Pit Bulls.

Flash forward to December of 2010. On December 31st, a 10-yr-old girl was attacked by her family's 2-yr-old Labrador Retriever. The dog chewed off several toes. The girl had sores on her feet that physicians have been treating for over a year.

The dog will not be killed. In fact, unnamed "experts" are letting us all know that this is perfectly normal behavior for dogs. Charges are unlikely to be filed.

So here we have two very similar dog attacks. One involving a teething puppy, one involving a young adult dog. One involved a 4-yr-old child, the other a 10-yr-old child, both with spina bifida. Both children were left alone with dogs, even though both children suffer from paralysis and lack of lower limb sensation.

And yet, only one attack - by the teething puppy - warrants loaded language, the mention of the breed in the title, and sensationalistic reporting. Only one attack warranted killing the dog. Only one attack resulted in child endangerment charges being issued for that particular incident. Only one attack required discussion of breed-related problems.

No bias, indeed.

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