Friday, August 20, 2010

Unleashed Dog Incident in East Sacramento

I am a Chako volunteer and owner of a pet sitting business. Of course,volunteering with Chako has made me ultra aware of being a responsible dog owner and the signs to look for when an owner is less than responsible.

While walking one of my doggie clients yesterday, we approached a corner house where a dog was laying out front with children playing in a tree house. The dog noticed our approach and lifted his head, stretched and laid back down. He gave no indication that he felt like moving anytime soon.

Before crossing the street, I yelled out to the kids to ask if their dog was tied up (I couldn't tell from the distance we were at).

One of the little girls called for her mother, who apparently was across the street, out of my line of vision.

The mother walked over and grabbed the dog's collar. After I had visual confirmation that the dog was contained, I walked by with my dog. At no point did the other dog bark, growl, or show any signs of distress that we were walking by.

We passed the house and were about halfway down the block when I heard paws pounding pavement and tags clanging together. I whipped my head around to see the dog was running at full speed, directly for the dog that I was walking.

Without hesitating, I jumped in front of my dog and reached for my Spray Shield (Spray Shield is a citronella-based animal deterrant) and sprayed the oncoming dog in the face from a distance of about 10 feet, while yelling "get back" in a firm voice. He slowed down with a confused look on his face for maybe a second and then continued toward us, but from the side this time which I reacted to by stepping forward and spraying him again,
this time covering his eyes with the white foam. His hesitation was long enough for the owner to finally come up behind him, grab him and walk off.

The owner said nothing to me.

This incident took place in Sacramento's famed Fabulous 40's neighborhood - not exactly the place where one would expect to find irresponsible owners. Just goes to show you that money can't buy common sense, I suppose.

Thankfully, I was prepared and had practiced this exact scenario in my head a million times before (and yes, I've practiced physically reaching for my equipment as well). I leave the safety off my Spray Shield and shake it before every walk. I was quite shaken up after the incident. I have no idea what the dog's intentions were and I wasn't about to give him a chance to show me.

Neither I nor the dog I was walking deserved to be put in this situation. Not everyone is as prepared or experienced with this kind of thing as I am; what if it had been a child or elderly person walking a dog passed this house? Would they have been able to protect their dog as quickly as easily? And if a fight had ocurred, would they have the knowledge, strength, or equipment to break it up?

Please, please, please - leash your dogs! And if you must have them out in an unfenced area with you, tether them securely. The Spray Shield worked like a charm this time, but I shouldn't have had to use it in the first place.

I think it's important to note that at no time did I feel personally threatened by this dog; the drives for aggression directed towards humans and those directed toward other dogs are unrelated, separate drives. It's very possible that because this dog does not show any ill-will towards his humans that his owner is under the mistaken impression that her dog is not a threat. Maybe she thinks that a dog that is great with humans could not possibly kill another dog. I'll reiterate that I do not know what he would have done had he been allowed to reach my dog, but clearly this owner needs to wake up to the possiblities of what could have happened. She should also consider that if her beloved family pet kills or seriously injures someone else's family pet that her dog may lose his life as well. Dog aggression, regardless of breed, can be properly managed in many instances but it should never be ignored.

~Rachele is the volunteer Social Media Coordinator for Chako and owner of Pawsitive Attention Pet Services.

Friday, August 6, 2010

$400,000 Insurance Claim from Daschund Bite

I was on the phone earlier with an insurance agent looking at a new policy. The agent owns a Pit Bull and specializes in offering coverage to breeds like German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Pit Bulls that other companies often blacklist, so the topic of dog breeds and insurance coverage naturally came up.

The agent said he's got policies for over 500 Pit Bull owners, but so far only one claim -- and it's the result of a Daschund's bite. Apparently, the dog ripped off the woman's lip. The dog had a bacterial infection in its mouth that transferred to the woman, so she ended up having serious health issues above and beyond the initial horrific injury.

The claim is now up to about $400,000. At least in this particular insurance agent's case, the Pit Bulls and Rottweilers have proven to be less of a liability than the Daschund.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Labrador and Cattle Dog Maul Three-Year Old in Alabama

I'm back on the press again. Take this story from Fox News. Madisyn Shelton is a three year old girl in Alabama. She was attacked by her neighbor's dogs and bitten more than 50 times.

The news article never mentions the breed of the dogs involved. One has to watch the video to see footage of the dogs in custody. It's only then that the viewer sees a Labrador Retriever and a Cattle Dog. Breed isn't mentioned in the headline. Breed isn't mentioned in the story.

Fortunately, Alabama has an ordinance that allows it to adequately target dangerous dogs, so the dogs will likely be euthanized. Hopefully, Madisyn Shelton makes a full recovery.

And while we're on the subject of dangerous dogs and breed, Coyotes attacked a Chihuaha in Littleton, Colorado, which is just outside of Denver. Denver, of course, has a ban on Pit Bulls. Fortunately, the little Chihuahua didn't live in Denver, else he wouldn't have had Pit Bull neighbors to come to his rescue. Yes, that's right. Buster, the Chihuahua, was saved by his neighbor's Pit Bulls. They ran the Coyota off and then stayed with the Chihuahua to protect him.

"They were circling him and sitting by him. Making sure he was all right," Buster's owner said.

Photos of Concord Dogs: Not Exactly Pit Bulls

I submitted a public information request to Contra Costa County Animal Services for photos of the dogs confiscated from Steven Hayashi that were reported to have fatally mauled Mr. Hayashi's 2-year old grandson.

In response to that public information request, I received the following photos that show questionable breed heritage and mixed breed dogs of undetermined origin. The photos clearly demonstrate the issues with breed identification.

The reason Chako is posting these photos is in response to debate about whether the dogs were, in fact, Pit Bulls. Apparently a cousin of Hayashi's has been on forums claiming the dogs were all mixes, not Pit Bulls. While I believe breed is irrelevant, I think it makes absolutely no sense to even comment on breed without photos.

I don't think it does any good one way or the other to distort the truth. If the dogs are purebred Pit Bulls, then denying that they are simply reduces one's credibility. If the dogs are not Pit Bulls, then labelling them as such is just another way of perpetrating a falsehood.

Unfortunately, the angle of the photos makes it difficult to tell for sure. One dog is only visible from the side, with its head turned away from the camera. At least one of the dogs is very noticeably un-Pit Bull like in its appearance and appears to be a labrador or possibly mastiff mix.

So, take a look at the photos, and if you think you can tell what breeds these dogs are, speak up in the comments section.

From my perspective (and having only the photos to go on), these dogs are mostly mixed breed dogs. One looks nothing like a Pit Bull. If I met the first dog on the street, I'd swear it had no Pit Bull in it whatsoever.

People have said that even the owner calls the dogs Pit Bulls. The owner procured his original dog from a shelter. The shelter apparently released the dog unsterilized, which is a huge "NO" in California. Anyone who has worked in rescue understands that shelters are not often accurate on identifying breed, and they tend to call anything that looks remotely like it could have some bull or terrier breeds in it a "Pit Bull" mix.

A shelter that releases a dog unsterilized is already suspect in its reputability to begin with. Therefore, it matters not what Hayashi thinks his dog may be. In actuality, he just doesn't know. He didn't see the parents, and he got his dog from a shelter that apparently called it a "Pit Bull mix." That's a designation applied to almost any dog of mixed breed origin with shorter hair in many shelter systems. It's come to mean nothing.

What is undeniable is that the media has labelled these dogs--all of them--as Pit Bulls. The San Francisco Chronicle reported, "The toddler was fatally mauled when he entered the home garage where the family kept...pit bulls."

I don't know about you, but I don't see Pit Bulls in the photos below.




One final point, just because I have to comment on it. Very few, if any, of these dogs would match San Francisco's breed checklist for a Pit Bull.

As an example, the second dog has a narrow muzzle, a narrow chest, and absolutely nothing that is well-muscled. San Francisco's checklist calls for a broad skull, strong underjaw, a heavy and muscular neck attached to muscular shoulders, a deep broad chest and wide front and muscular hindquarters. There's nothing broad, deep, wide or muscular on that dog. It matches almost nothing of San Francisco's checklist.

(NOTE THERE WERE FIVE Dogs in the household, two were outside at the time of the attack, and the photos submitted were not all high quality. One dog had its head completely turned away from the camera, on a side shot. The other dog was in poor condition and the photo was somewhat graphic so we opted not to publish it).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The cold, hard facts about the media and dog attacks

In yesterday's post, I looked at how two different media outlets reported the two most recent dog-bite related human fatalities in California. Still, one example doesn't make a rule. Today, I'm going to go with some cold, hard statistics, thanks to research done by Libby Sherrill for her documentary Beyond the Myth.

Libby interviewed Carl Friedman, the former Director of San Francisco Animal Care and Control. Hardly, an opponent of breed-specific-legislation (BSL), he wrote a canine response working group report that cited Denver, Colorado as a "best practice" for breed specific legislation. Denver, of course, has an outright ban on Pit Bulls and has euthanized thousands of innocent dogs.

However, even he recognizes that the media gives unequal coverage to dog bites. In an interview with Sherrill, he stated, "When a Pit Bull, let's say, mauls somebody or a Pit Bull bites somebody, chances are you're going to see that on the first or second page of the newspaper and probably on the five O'clock news or six O'clock news. If another dog bites somebody or a different breed bites somebody, chances are it won't even be reported."

Sherrill's documentary looked at how the media reported on two significant dog-related fatalities of children. The first was Kate-Lynn Logel, killed in 2005 by her family's Malamutes. A search containing the phrase "Kate-Lynn Logel" yielded 18 articles.

A search containing the phrase "Nicholas Faibish" yielded 292 articles.

The study showed that 68% of news articles reporting "pit bull" or "pit bull mix" attacks mentioned "pit bull" in the headline. Only 8% of news articles reporting on attacks by other breeds mentioned the breed in the headline.

This type of inequitable reporting is not limited to dog attacks. It's so common in the media, that it has a name: agenda-setting. What agenda setting boils down to is simple. The media decides what's important to report on, and in making that choice, the media tells people what's important, and how the media reports on those issues influences how people think about those issues.

So, next time you take in a news story about a dog attack (or, really, any other issue), before you form an opinion on the subject, it might be wise to do your own research based on sources outside the media (which can admittedly be hard to do, since even the Centers for Disease Control used the media as a source in its famous 1997 dog-bite related study).