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Dog attacks: Readers suggest ways to end them

By Gary Bogue
Friday, July 30th, 2010 at 1:04 pm in Dog attacks, dogs.

Photo by Flickr user cogdogblog used under a Creative Commons License
Another Dog Bites Man Story

In my Wednesday newspaper column, I wrote about ways to try and put an end to dog attacks (dog bites, maulings, killing other animals and humans). I was inspired to do this when a 2-year-old child died after being mauled by three pit bulls in a Concord, CA, garage on July 22 … and a 7-year-old girl who had a chunk bitten out of her cheek by a pit bull on July 24 in Oakland, CA.  You can read that column here:

I asked if there was anyone else out there in never-never land who had any answers to ending attacks on people by aggressive dogs. Below are four of the responses I received. I am curious how you feel about what they have to say. Please feel free to add your own comments to these letters in the space provided.

Photo by Flickr user cogdogblog used under a Creative Commons License
Another Dog Bites Man Story


Letter #1
As you know, people are bitten by dogs every day…and we as a culture seem to vilify different breeds in succession.

Growing up I can remember that other breeds were feared and vilified, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and now what we call pit bulls.
Dogs are never good or bad in and of themselves. They live well in our communities or don’t live well in our communities as a function of the humans who are responsible for them.

We as a culture are reactive and quick to make unenforceable rules when tragic events occur. The idea of ‘banning’ a breed or somehow controlling how people live with their animals is pretty unrealistic.  These ‘rules’ generally impact the people who are already living responsibly with their pets in the community.  These are the folks who already license their animals, vaccinate them, take them to the vet and make reasoned decisions about their animal’s reproductive lives.

These responsible dog owners are visible in the ‘system’ in ways that make them the only people impacted by such changes in legislation and by breed bans. By and large, these are NOT the people at the center of tragic animal focused stories.

With stretched budgets and lack of staff to enforce existing laws, the idea of additional regulation is unrealistic and misguided. We as communities need to provide better education about how to live with dogs … all dogs. We need to be clear about the need for ongoing socialization, daily exercise and proper handling and interaction with all dogs.  Dogs are a huge responsibility and not an accessory as they seem to have become.

Columns like yours, television programs, activities and classes at the local animal shelters, these are the stuff of improved community awareness, increased education and fewer tragic incidents involving dogs of any breed.

There will always be people who keep 3 large, powerful, unsocialized animals in their garage.  That is always an accident waiting to happen.  I’m guessing that a breed ban would have had little impact on the course of that tragic event.
Linda in Richmond

Letter #2
Pit bull attacks are like plane crashes: although they are relatively few and far between, the media is sure to report on every single incident that involves a pit bull. Therefore, the media has created an image that has doubly destroyed the breed. Sadly, several people who might be the perfect responsible home for a pit bull are turned off by the breed’s reputation. On the other hand, because of its macho dog stereotype the pit bull is often the breed of choice among a population of irresponsible individuals that should not own dogs at all, and then decide to get pit bulls.

Furthermore, to solve the “pit bull problem” focus needs to be more on the owner not the breed. People who do not obey leash laws, city ordinances, licensing requirements, and practice responsible dog husbandry should be harshly targeted for all breeds. On top of requiring dogs to be sterilized I think people need to step up and report incidences with dogs, and police should take these incidences more seriously. The fines should be harsher for irresponsible dog ownership for all breeds. If a person cannot afford a fine they receive they should be allowed to go to dog training classes instead much like traffic school. If this person is still deemed unfit, the dog should be removed.

In the end, if you must blame someone for attacks blame the person or the specific dog involved, not the breed. In a world where we are taught to judge people as individuals and not by the color of their skin, religion, orientation, etc., I find it disgusting people are so quick to judge the pit bull so severely. I know several pit bull owners and well-behaved pit bulls that do not deserve the label they have received from negligent dog owners and the media. As a professional dog trainer and pit bull foster mom I would rather stick my face in the face of a pit bull I didn’t know than a Chihuahua any day.
Catherine Arcangelo, cyberspace

Letter #3
I am not surprised that people (most especially children) are being bitten and killed by dogs in this country. I think that in the 21st century we have a dangerous view of dogs: we expect them to act like people, or at the very least, like the dogs on TV/movies. We expect dogs to be able to distinguish, at a glance, between good people and bad; to be immediately house trained; to not bark unless someone is breaking into the house; to treat all ‘good’ humans, no matter what size, with deference. And they should do all of this with no or minimum instruction. They should be able to do this even if they are chained out in the yard or kept in the garage, away from people.

I think you bring up good points: that there should be better ways to spot potential problems, and more solutions given. Why don’t owners spay and neuter, is it cost, machismo or they want to sell the puppies? All those reasons need a different approach. Many owners don’t see the point in socializing their pet. It is a lot of work. It would probably be very helpful if people were required to take a short pet ownership course before getting a pet (how to enforce this? A whole ‘nother issue)

You did a terrible disservice when you singled out pit bulls as a cause for maulings and killings. Well, yes, you did mention Rottweilers, but kept most of your focus on pit bulls. I won’t talk about all the wrongheadedness that can go with breed banning but I will say that you tarred thousands of good pit bulls and their responsible owners (many with children). Pit bulls are not for every pet owner, but there are many, many strong large breeds that can do a tremendous amount of damage. Remember, it was a Lab/Lab mix that mauled the woman who received the first facial transplant.
Lin Look, Alameda

Letter #4
In your column on Wednesday, you pose the question “How can we stop attacks by pit bulls”. As the owner of a very sweet pit bull, I was a little disappointed by this headline. The problem is not of pit bulls, but of dogs in general.

Any dog is capable of biting a child. The only way to ensure the safety of any human around any dog is by proper training, supervision and boundary management of the dog. This becomes even more crucial when dealing with a “working dog”. Whether it be a pit bull or a cattle dog, any dog that was bred to do a job will become frustrated and imbalanced if they are not given a job or an outlet for their tremendous physical and mental energy.

… The horrible attack resulting in the death of a 2 year old could have been prevented in many ways, but first and foremost, by supervising the child — at ALL times. My dog is incredibly well trained, socialized, loving and trustworthy. I can take food out of her mouth when she’s eating and pull on her tail or ears without her protesting. But I would NEVER leave her alone with a two year old. My neighbor across the street has a pit bull who is nanny to the 3 children (1, 3 & 5 years old) of the house. But again, they don’t play without adult supervision. The fact is, you never know what could happen, so some situations you just avoid.

The true nature of a pit bull is to be aggressive to other dogs and incredibly loyal and responsive to it’s human handler. This is by breeding design. Fight handlers needed to be able to pull their dogs out of the ring without getting bit. If a pit bull bites a human, it is most likely because the human didn’t take the time to understand the nature of this breed and train them with consistent boundaries and expectations of behavior. It is very rare that a dog is simply born bad. In the case that it is, putting it down is the only thing to do. But usually, a dog displaying inappropriate behavior needs to be taught that it is inappropriate at the first appearance of that behavior.

The Oakland SPCA does a lot to ensure that their pit bulls are only placed with people who understand the specifics of the breed. People who are willing to give them the structure they need to be happy well behaved dogs. Perhaps the Lake County shelter should learn how Oakland’s program is structured. At the end of the day, the dog doesn’t exist in a vacuum and the breed cannot be made to solely bear the blame of this tragedy

If you want to stop dog attacks, ensure that only people willing to put the time and energy into training and supervising their dogs have dogs.
Manisha Patel, cyberspace

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14 Responses to “Dog attacks: Readers suggest ways to end them”

  1. Nancy Schick Says:

    Gary, I couldn’t have said it better than the four responses above. It is really irresponsible owners that cause the problems and the dog always pays the price. Nancy

  2. NoelleR Says:

    Pit bull owners have been saying “its all how you raise them” since the 1860s! And for 150 years they’ve been defending unusually high attack and kill rate these dogs have. This was written in 1894: The terrier is a charming dog as a companion and if he is nicely brought up and trained, even the bull terrier, which has obtained a reputation as a fighting dog, will be found as faithful, cleanly, and quiet as the long-coated diminutive Yorkshire terrier…”(p.22)

    Just 5 pages later, he describes his bull terrier as a terrific dog that he had to get rid of after it became increasingly aggressive and had killed at least 2 dogs owing to the fighting blood in the dog. (p. 27)
    “A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland” (1894)

    This is the very same argument about the very same problem involving the very same pit fighting dogs.

    It is not difficult to understand. When the general public decides its cool, fun, exciting to own fighting dogs they put everyone else in unnecessary danger above the typical risk in owning most dogs.

    There were brief momentsin history when the other breeds have alarmed the public because they became faddish and lots of people who are not good with dogs got them and who didn’t really care about them. People have been arguing the same old argument for 150 years. Its time to stop, wake up, and heavily regulate this breed for as loon as necessary.

  3. Dog attacks: Readers suggest ways to end them | Gary Bogue | Dog Training Blog | Tips and Dog Training Resources Says:

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  4. Becca Says:

    Talk to the police or animal services. They will tell you of pit bull type dogs that have been shot 13 times and still being aggressive, pits that have been pepper sprayed, tazered, hit with shovels, tire irons, baseball bats, kicked, punched, even stabbed — and the dog is in such a frenzy that it will not stop — even with the owner sometimes being the one to do these things to the dog.

    The dogs should not be banned, but they need to be regulated. The government doesn’t want us to smoke so they tax the heck out of cigarettes. And apparently it’s working b/c fewer people are smoking. Do the same w/the dogs. Any of the top five dangerous breeds (or mixes) need to be strictly regulated. Mandatory sterilization, fully enclosed kennels that are to be annually inspected by animal services, muzzled in public, obedience training, letters from landlords saying they understand the liability w/this dog and proof that the owner is carrying liability insurance (liability insurance even if you are a homeowner), etc. Most people will simply not get this type of dog and eventually only the “good” (i.e. responsible) owners will have them.

  5. PitOwner Says:

    A Belgian Malinois doesn’t decide to become a police dog.
    A Labrador doesn’t decide to become a guide dog.
    A Pit Bull doesn’t decide to become a fighter.
    A Poodle doesn’t decide to be groomed.

    Legislation against dogs is complete lunacy.
    In order to minimize dog attacks and bites, legislation must be focused on the owners. The people that make decisions for the dog.

  6. Lola Says:

    It is NOT the owner who is biting and tearing flesh. It is the PIT BULL who is doing it. Ever watch as your own leashed animal is grabbed by the throat and torn to bits? NOT a pretty sight, I assure you! When I am afraid to take my leashed dog for a walk and also just going for a walk by myself in my neighborhood, something is very wrong. Attacks, predominantly by pit bulls or their mixes, are a serious public safety issue. State legislators need to be bombarded with phone calls, letters and visits and made to look at the present state law which interferes with a city’s right to take proper action to protects it’s residents.

  7. Taki and Buster Says:

    Wow! There are some really nice folks out there that understand both us pitties and the rotten apples in humandom. Education is the key to safe pet ownership. It can’t be said too many times. Put the money and the effort where is does the best. Get the word to pet owners that the consequences to irresponsible pet ownership can be tragic let alone affording the human miscreants jail time.

  8. jarrod Says:

    i agree completely with letter 3. i am the owner of 2 pit bulls. i exorcise them daily on along and regularly scheduled bike rides. sure, sometimes ive have to go out of my way to avoid possible unwanted and unaffordable incedents w other leashed dogs. no problem. its the irresponcible dog owners who refuse to leash their animals that leads to 99% of incedents and injured animals. Please leash your dogs! the life you save may be your dogs.

  9. Joan Davis Says:

    Recently there was a cat in my court killed by a pit bull dog which was not a pretty site. There were two dogs out unsupervised and not on a lease. The more aggressive male who was a pit bull was responsible for killing the cat. The more aggressive dog also was fighting with the other dog who was getting the worst end of it and was left with blood dripping everywhere and limping from his injuries, he was also loaded with old scares. After the owner was found he attempted to separate the more aggressive dog but ultimately they were both put down by the animal control/police. Neighbors had heard blood curdling screams coming from the yard as the pit attacked the other dog before. I think pit bull dog owners should be limited to only one dog and it should be fixed. Owners should be required to prove they have insurance before they can get a license and anyone found to have a pit bull dog without insurance should be charged large fines like $10,000 especially when they injury/kill anyone or another animal. If you love this breed you should be willing to put your money where your mouth is. In this case the owner of these dogs was a renter and the landlord had no idea they had the dogs and landlords can be held liable for issues like this as well. Most of the attacks that you hear about are usually done by more then one dog so limiting owners to only one MAY help. Also had another friend who had his pit kill his other dog a Saluki and went through chain link fence kennel wall to get to it and there was nothing but a pile of fur, broken bones and blood everywhere so I am not a fan of pit bulls. There have been way too many cases where families have had problems and many of them were family pets and the family thought they had done everything right only to end up with someone dead or injured by this so call loving animal. Pit bull dogs are a very powerful dog and they are not for everyone and shouldn’t be! If things don’t change the breed will face bigger problems then they have now!

  10. jarrod Says:

    just wanted 2 mention that perhaps increasing the fine for unleashed dogs should be abiout 5 grand.that would also cut down on the number of pet/people injuries. Lets have all dogowners put their money where there mouth is joan davis.

  11. Jillian_C Says:

    There are several things that can be done to reduce the rate of pit bull attacks.
    1.) Mandatory s/n of all pit bulls except for registered show dogs and licensed breeders. Limit breeders to the number of litters they can produce in a year. Pits are notoriously prolific, often bearing 8-15 pups per litter.
    2.) Enforcement of the law already in place that animals are not to be adopted from shelters without being spayed or neutered first. Whatever shelter gave this family the first pit broke the law by adopting the dog out pregnant. They ought to be sued. They were complicit in this child’s death.
    3.) Mandatory microchipping. This will make it harder to give known biters a new identity and pass them onto unsuspecting families willing to adopt.
    4.) Limit all households to no more than 2 pit bulls or pit mixes.
    5.) Mandatory muzzling in public for all pits and pit mixes and leashes no more than 4 feet in length. No one under the age of 18 or physically incapable of controlling the dog allowed to walk it in public.
    6.) Require at least a $100,000 insurance policy to own a pit bull.
    7.) Mandatory six sided housing requirements with a padlocked gate and concrete flooring. Pits are 15 times more likely to escape fencing than other dogs.
    8.) Outlaw chaining or tethering. It’s cruel for any dog and increases aggression.
    9.) Mandate reporting of dog attacks on other animals as well as humans. Make non-compliance a felony offense. Mandate euthanization for any dog on dog, cat, or livestock attack that ends in death for the other animal. The majority of pits that have killed human beings killed other animals first.
    10.) Make sure that the consequence of failure to comply with any of the above is the immediate confiscation and euthanization of the violator’s dog in addition to a stiff fine. Ban repeat offenders from owning any dog for at least 3 years. Ban for life after that, and jail them if they fail to comply. They keep saying blame the deed, not the breed, or hold owners responsible. Fine, yes, start holding these owners responsible, and how about murder charges when their dogs kill someone, because that’s what it is. Murder by canine weapon.

  12. Lynn P Says:

    In April 2009, my great nephew, Michael Blaise Landry age 4 was mauled to death in his own yard by the neighbors 3 boxers.His parents were in their yard and fought the dogs off their little boy.

    A ban on pit bulls would not have saved Blaise. People have to be responsible for their animals. It is not just pit bulls who are maiming and killing people. It will take larger fines or forfeiture of the animals to stop irresponsible people from letting their dogs loose. Any large dog is capable of hurting or killing a person.

    The legal system did not even slap the responsible parties on the wrist. These were breeding dogs, one male two female, who were let out of their kennels and left alone in an unfenced yard.

  13. MzTx Says:

    “Young girl recovering after dog attack ”
    – 2yr old Malina Reyes attacked by German Sheperd

    ” Fund set up for 5yr old victim of dog mauling . ”
    ( Video of child )
    – 5 yr old, Jason Stockdale- broken collar bone, numberous deep cuts & pucture wounds & 8 surgeries since last Sunday. Josh was attacked by 3 Rotts while sleeping ( 1 of the Rotts have already attacked 3 other times, prior .)
    Police & Medical staff said it was the worst attack they have ever seen .

    ” Attack dog is tasered ”
    – Crazed French Mastiff tore into her leg & foot, then dragged her around the floor . Family dog 2 yrs old

    Is that not Tragic enough for you Haters ?

    ” Blood was pouring out- Rott tears off shop worker’s lip ”
    ( if that does not work – just go to and type in Rottweiler, it will post the link .)
    Witnesses saying, ” He just latched on to her face- It was Horrible, blood was just pouring out ”
    1 of the girls said her lip was basically pulled off . Noone will be sued- it was a part of a ” Bring in your Rott’s “, Promotion .
    ” The GS came running up behind me & ripped Bassie’s underbelly Again, like a lion bringing down prey ”

    ” Boy, 5, Dead after apparent attack by wolf-dog mix ”,0,7867990.story
    – 5 yr old Kyle Holland killed in his room by family GS/ Husky fix . 7/12/10

    ” Rampaging Retriever attacks 81yr old in New Bedford, Mass. ”
    – Germaine Jorge said ” That dog had an ugly face & he was mean ” – ” It hurt so much, it was terrible ”
    14 yr old Retiever

    ” Child bitten by dog fears going outside ”
    – Great Dane attacked 7yr old Marcus Dorsey, he had multiple laceractions- broken leg/arm & foot

    ” Dog mauls baby ”
    June 9th, 2010 3 wk old baby mauled to death by a friend’s Husky

    Dog attacks happen by all breeds, not just by the ” Pit Bull Type ” dogs.

  14. MzTx Says:

    @Jillian , although I agree w/ a lot of what you say – some seem absolutely Pointless.

    1. Just because a Owner is Licensed doesn’t make that Owner a good Breeder .
    All ” Pit Bulls ” should be Fixed ( Only unless a Taxed & Reputable Breeder.) That way that Money can go to the shelter . Reputable Breeders are the Ones who take a dog back, if & when the new owners can’t care for them anymore. R/Bs are the ones who breed a Bitch only Once a Year and nomore than 3 times in her lifetime . Licensed doesn’t make them Reputable . Puppy Mill puppies come from a Licensed Breeder, they are the worst . Most Large dogs have from 8-15 Puppies .

    2.Most dogs in shelters ( around here anyways) are already S/N, if not, you have to have the dog fixed w/in 3 months , or the Shelter will take them back )

    3. I completely agree
    4. I completely agree
    5. I agree w/ the age of 18 , but the Muzzle during a walk is unfair for the people who have their dog trained , but I do understand.
    6. Sure
    7. Is ridiculous & unlikely. To have a yard that is 1/2 an acre Concreted is not only bad for a dogs paws, but cruel .
    I do agree w/ Fencing Requirements, 6ft tall wodden fences or taller – No more Chainlink fences
    – This should apply to all dogs, Pits are Not the Only strays and I hate to Pop your bubble, but a Husky is more likely to escape than any breed .
    8. I agree
    9.What ? The Majority of Pits don’t kill Humans – this remark is completely Ignorant & Bias . There are more than 6 Millions ” Pits” and less than 20 people a yr die from a Pit Bull Type dog. Do some Math !
    10. You are going about it all wrong, you wait till there is an attack to do something.

    My List :
    1. Nobody with a Violent/Drug or Criminal History should be allowed to own a Pit Bull.
    – If they Disobey, this should be a Felony for each dog.( this should apply to all dogs, they don’t just use pits to fight, they use anything they can get their hands on )
    2. Every Pit Bull Owner should go through Classes & Training & Licensed , Prior to owning.
    – This should apply to all dogs ( #1 reason dogs are in shelters are because of Simple Training Mishaps, dog pees on floor, bites furnitue, barks to much , won’t stop jumping )
    3. There should be limits on how many dogs a person can own – but why stop at Pits. While you want to stop them – that Puppy Mill is owning 500 puppies in 10 Kennels .
    4.( like I said above) All Pits should be Fixed
    – Only unless a Taxed & Reputable breeder) This should apply to all Pets. ( there isn’t just a Pit Overpopulation, there is a Pet overpopulation & Cats out number dogs easy )
    5.There should be a Fencing Requirement – 6ft or Taller wooden fences & if the owner does not obey – the dog will be taken away till the fence is fixed
    ( Most attacks that happened from a dog that ” just escaped” are from homes w/ Chain-Link Fences.No more ChainLink Fences.

    You can only attack Pits if you like with your Misinformation, but that doesn’t stop attacks . That only stops attacks by dog that look like a Pit Bull Type .
    That doesn’t stop that Husky that killed a 3wk old baby in June 2010, that doesn’t stop that GS/Husky Mix that killed a 5 yr old boy Kyle Holland 7/12/10 , it doesn’t stop that Boxer who killed karen Gillspie , or 5 yr old Josh Stockdale that was attacked by 3 Rotts . It doesn’t stop that Great Dane that attacked 7yr old Marcus Dorsey ( w/ multiple lacerations, a broken leg/arm & foot ) . Do they not Matter ?

    BTW –
    If it was Just the Breed, there would be Millions of attacks everyday .
    If it was just the breed, then No other dog would attack .
    but being that MOST Pit Bulls don’t attack or Harm someone & other dogs do attack – that Proves You Wrong !

    Please enlighten me & tell me 1 ” Pit Bull ” that has been through Obedience Training & has attacked someone.

    Just ONE !

    I won’t hold my breath …..

    National Geographic Bite Force Test between a GS/Rott & Pit guess who had the Highest Psi.
    Hint: It wasn’t the Pit actually the Rott was at 328 , while the Pit was at 235 & the GS @ 238 – but that is nothing compared to the Mastiff that won w/ a 556 PSI.
    LoL & it was the GS that made this man nervous, not the Pit .

    People who blame the Dog are the same people who let the Real Criminals walk Free- able to own more dogs & harrass more Humans .

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