Comment Of The Day: “At Least This Time They Didn’t Blame Pitbulls…”

Happy Boxing Day, for those of you who have servants, butler and and the like! Do make sure your underlings enjoy a Christmas-like experience a day late, after caring for you and your family yesterday!

Ethics Alarms will kick off its Boxing Day festivities with another terrific Comment of the Day by Mrs, Q. I’m hopping it over two other COTD in waiting, in part because I feel guilty: her post was stuck in moderation because I was “making a bit merry yesterday” (Source?) and neglected the blog comments. I apologize to Mrs.Q and my readers. Her comment was stuck because it included many invaluable links to additional information.

She addressed the horrible incident discussed in yesterday’s commentary regarding a fatal dog attack last week that took the life of a couple’s newborn child. Mrs. Q concentrates her ethics marksmanship on an aspect of the story that I mentioned, but only broadly: the parents’ accountability for the tragedy.

Here is Mrs. Q’s Comment of the Day on the post, At Least This Time They Didn’t Blame Pitbulls…

***

Perhaps I’m being harsh, but I do think the parents and every parent or guardian this happens to, should be charged.

We have an incredibly irresponsible ethos going on in the world of dog ownership. People who willingly choose to have a dog, of any size dog, around small children, without educating themselves on danger behavior signals, is complicit in spreading such violence.

The killings of children is just a part of it. 50% of kids under 12 have been bitten by dogs. Most dog bites children experience happen over 70% of the time on the face and neck.

Part of the problem is the cuteness factor of dogs and a culture that values cute photos of kids with their arms around a dog’s neck (terribly dangerous in some circumstances) more than being able to discern if the dog is tolerating it well.

Another problem is loneliness. Many use their dogs as comfort tools rather than focus on the dog’s enrichment. This can lead to poor physical boundaries which can lead to bites. Just recently, I had a client who undid all our training because of admitted loneliness. I see this a lot.

Then there’s just boundaries in general that dog owners should learn. I had a client whose small dog wouldn’t let her leave the house without biting her feet. Another one kept letting his large dog jump up on him. I gave both clients the tools. One took my advice and could finally leave the house in peace. The other had an additional bruise and broken stitch on his belly after a surgery.

  • If your dog jumps on you constantly, and if it tries to do the same with passers by for *any* reason, then you don’t have enough control for safety.
  • If your dog has nipped at a hand, especially a child’s, you don’t have enough control for safety.
  • If your dog gets loose, growls, has their ears back a lot, has separation anxiety, barks all the time, or is skittish, your dog may not be safe.

If any of the above resonates, please consider training your dog. Find a trainer who focuses on safety.

If you live in a city, even a small one, find a program that focuses on urban safety. I recommend Cis Frankel’s book “Urban Dog.”

If you have a kid, find a program that focuses on kids’ safe dog interaction practices, including learning to read dog body language.

There are excellent resources online. Look here for free downloads on basic dog behavior. The AKC Good Citizen Test is a good way to see where your dog is at on a functional level in general society.  Family Paws has some helpful free info sheets for new parents with babies. If you work with kids, consider learning and teaching the Be a Tree dog bite prevention program.

If you really love dogs and wish to see them kept out of rescue shelters (where often behavior issues worsen, leading to euthanasia, even in no kill shelters), consider learning more about how dogs use their bodies to speak, and take the knowledge out into your community. From greeting dogs to preparing your dog for emergencies like severe weather, riots, and even war – it can never hurt to show others how to be a responsible and safe dog friend. These are more useful links:

https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/first-aid/cat-dog-first-aid

https://www.ready.gov/pets

https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/pet-disaster-preparedness

Until people face the consequences of their choices, we will continue to see babies killed, kids scarred, and parents traumatized by the natural result of reckless dog ownership. If there are better ways of encouraging more mindful dog guardianship, I’d be happy to listen. Even in the most skilled hands, a dog can attack. I live with them every day as a guardian and professional. It’s my honor to be a voice for canine safety and ethics in the community. But I can’t force people to make the optimal choices. They have to be willing to transcend a fantasy and treat their dogs like wonderful companions who may have the capacity to kill.

8 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “At Least This Time They Didn’t Blame Pitbulls…”

  1. Excellent post. As an adult I evaluate the posture of dogs I meet. I always ask the owner if I can engage with the dog before doing so. And, any engagement begins with merely offering a hand the dog can sniff first. Trying to pet a dog first can be viewed as a threatening gesture.

  2. Perhaps I’m being harsh, but I do think the parents and every parent or guardian this happens to, should be charged.

    Quite rational, considering that we are charging parents for merely leaving their children alone for a few minutes. Seems to me yet another double-standard going on here.

    Great comment, and excellent information about proper management of dogs, and the signs that dogs may be unsafe in certain circumstances.

  3. I forgot to mention something in my comment. My vet and I chat professionally, and she told me the #1 reason dogs are put down is because of behavior issues. Reckless dog ownership not only harms people but the animals we love as well.

    As always, thanks Jack! Hope you had a wonderful holiday.

  4. This was great reading, Mrs. Q. I very much appreciate all your contributions.

    Our dog Bailey, before we had her, exhibited serious skittishness and separation anxiety. She went through extensive training and made great strides, but we still were very careful with her around small children. We checked with parents first before their children could approach or pet, and we instructed children in how best to approach her. And Bailey was never aggressive, but we understood that she could be…she was an animal without any moral code who could act on instinct and without compunction.

    The victim in this case was four days old…DAYS. So the child was unable to step on the dog, pinch it, poke it in the eye, or in any other way antagonize it. So the parents placed a newborn – whose tiny cries could mimic wounded prey – in a place that was accessible to an animal without conscience.

    You are right…dogs are not children, and owners are not “pet parents”. The faster we put those notions away, the safer our real, actual children will be.

  5. Ordinarily, putting “like” for “life” would be an immaterial typo, like “open birder” in another post, but I think it is material here.

    Also, that statistic of “50% of kids under 12 have been bitten by dogs” looks very odd. If true, it would mean that at least half of all adults have been bitten by dogs by the time they grew up. Even if the universe of discourse is only the U.S.A., that looks like something that would have been better known. Did it really mean to assert that, or just something like “50% of kids who have been bitten by dogs were under 12 at the time it happened”? That would make much more sense, even though it does not indicate how large the problem is – but better that than a spurious sense of the size of the problem.

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