Between 1989 and 2013 there have been 15 fatalities as a result of dog attacks. Of course this is 15 too many, although until politicians and dog owners in general recognise the need for education in respect of humans and dogs living together then I guarantee there will be more in the future. Picture this, 3 dogs living in a home that have had little or no training especially in relation to food and feeding times. The adults are out and a person who does not live at the home walks in eating a bag of crisps. At first the dogs sit in front of this person hoping for some scraps. The first dog gets thrown a crisp. This dog is not the leader of this pack. It gets told off severely by the leader of the pack. The young person starts screaming and maybe tries to separate them. When dogs fight they generally do it with their eyes closed for protection. The young person gets bitten and due to the size of the dogs and the confined space in the room then gets knocked over. The rest is easy to imagine without going further. I am certainly not placing blame at anyone's door. BUT, when oh when will we learn that children should NOT be left alone with dogs, ever!
I was listening to James O'Brien on LBC (Londons Big Conversation 97.3Fm) recently and the discussion was mainly surrounding 'Bull' breeds. Mr O'Brien is quite forthright in suggesting that no family with children should have a Bull breed of dog. Of course Mr O'Brien does have quite a sensationalist style to his program, as do other presenters on LBC which generally encourages passionate debate. Having said this, to a degree I would tentatively agree with him! Yes, I did say I would agree with him. Why I hear you say. Well to be quite frank with you there are many, many owners who should never be allowed near a dog let alone be allowed to have one in the home! Figures for the amount of dogs taken into rescue homes, or euthanized would back up this assertion. All prospective new owners should be thoroughly vetted by the breeders. Before I was considered as a prospective Bloodhound owner, I was vetted by three separate people including the breeder himself. Some would say this is over the top, quite frankly we have a problem which it appears no-one has the courage to tackle and so I would advocate that ALL prospective owners be vetted in such a way. In terms of rescued dogs we appear to have an even bigger problem as the rescue homes are so inundated with unwanted dogs the experience or otherwise of those who want to rescue a dog is not even a consideration. I have met people who are so badly mismatched to their rescue dogs as to at best be laughable and at worst be dangerous! I would also encourage behaviour courses so that new owners at least start to understand what their dog is trying to convey by their body language. I really think that this is as important as basic puppy training classes. Any experienced owner will tell you that they never stop learning about the dogs they have. Different breeds have very different characteristics and of course each individual dog has its own character and personality. So we should never just say that one theory fits all in respect of training or behaviour, any more than we could about humans.
Part of Mr O'Brien's argument was (I am paraphrasing), why would we allow children to be in the presence of such deadly creatures, as they are effectively more dangerous than having a firearm in the home, as no firearm ever attacked a person, and so a dog without 100% control over it, is effectively far more dangerous than any firearm. Interesting argument however misleading and argumentative. Using this argument, we should not allow humans to be in the presence of other humans, as we are not in control of them! As the figures show, there is a strong argument that we are not in control of ourselves and so should not live as pack animals but more that of solitary lives such as Polar Bears who generally only meet when it comes to breeding time. Yes of course I know this is a ridiculous argument, but when just short of 700 children are killed as a result of homicide in this country over the last decade whereas in a similar period of time about 9 children will have lost their lives to the family pet! There is always a violent outpouring of emotive language when there is a death resulting from a dog attack as opposed to the child which loses their life at the hands of say a family member. I can only surmise that this is due to its rarity and that it is truly shocking and somehow we have become de-sensitised to our own violent behaviour towards each other. The same argument can also be made for those children killed in road traffic accidents. 55 deaths in 2010 alone! Should we therefore ban motor vehicles, because they killed 55 times more children than dogs! Logic says we should, if we value our children's lives as much as we profess!
Do you remember your life as a child? I do, and yes I pulled the tail of our dog (and was told off by my parents for doing so), I teased our Border collie to distraction. I would suggest it was our dogs restraint that saved me from serious injury. How many times do you see these cute pictures on Face Book?
Yes, we've all seen them. Should we allow our children to climb all over the family dog? Could we act fast enough to prevent an attack if it occurred? The answer to both questions is categorically 'NO'.
Let's examine why we humans have over the millennia formed such a bond with a wild animal, and conversely how many human lives are saved that wouldn't otherwise have been the case if we didn't have this enduring relationship with this highly intelligent species. Search and rescue which is a highly valued resource in this country and have saved hundreds possibly thousands of lives in the last hundred or more years that we have utilised dogs. More recently we are starting to use dogs to sniff out cancers in humans and so although this is still in its early stages of use it is beginning to be an interesting and possibly very early warning of a deadly disease. Dogs used for searching out illegal drugs. How many people have inadvertently been saved as a result of fewer drugs on our streets? As companions for the elderly, who many would profess that their lives have been extended due to the love they receive from their canine companions. The dogs that our bomb disposal soldiers use, I would guarantee without even having spoken to these soldiers, would give many illustrations how their dogs have saved them and their comrades in arms many times. Then of course we have the weird and wonderful ways in which untrained family pets have intervened in such strange and marvellous ways, whether it is warning that the gas has been left on, warning of a house fire, or dragging a child to safety having nearly drowned in a garden pond, to save the lives of their charges. Of course I sympathise greatly with those who have lost loved ones to a dog attack, and there will never be any point of view I can express which will assuage their anguish. I know this sounds like counter argument from a dog lover, but just take a moment to consider how differently our lives would be without these wonderful creatures to share their existence with us.
In the decade 1998 - 2008, 696 children were killed as a result of homicide. http://www.straightstatistics.org/article/how-many-children-are-murdered-britain-every-year
And in the same document a figure of 210 died as a result of neglect and other causes for the year of 2007 and it is believed this figure more accurately reflects the yearly figures.
Children aged 16 and under killed in road traffic accidents in 2010 alone are 55. http://makingthelink.net/child-deaths-road-traffic-accidents
Fatalities as a result of dog attacks since 1989. http://www.cwu.org/news/archive/dog-attack-fatality-shows-dangers-persist.html