Opinion: Everyone in the Community is Concerned about Aggressive Dogs and Stopping Dog Bites

Published : Thursday, January 30, 2014 | 9:59 AM

Dear Editor,

re: Councilmember Madison mandatory spay and neuter

Everyone in the community is concerned about aggressive dogs and stopping dog bites. No one wants their dog to be killed or shot by police who are trying to deal with the problem of dogs roaming the streets. The mandatory spaying and neutering proposal will NOT solve the problem since breed is NOT a factor when it comes to dog bites and attacks. Councilmember Madison says that breed is the problem but bites by pit bulls are overeported by the media. He is focusing on breeds instead of focusing on the real reasons for dog bites.

It is important to know the factors that lead to dog bites so that REAL solutions can be implemented.

My next door neighbor’s dog is the perfect example of a dog who is potentially dangerous because of all of the red flag factors. Red flags: He is not neutered. He is left alone and isolated in the yard 24/7 rain, cold, sunshine/heat, and he is not socialized, not trained on how to act towards people and other dogs. This is a powerful dog with a lot of energy who is never walked nor exercised. He is frustrated, crying, whining and often heard howling. He is miserable. And if and when he ever escapes his captors yard, he may hurt someone since he does NOT know how to behave. This is not his fault. It is the fault of his guardians who refuse to neuter him, train, exercise and/or take him inside. Their dog is a powerful Siberian Husky who weighs about 150 pounds. It is not how this dog looks that will cause him to hurt someone, it is how he is being mistreated.

Other factors that lead to dog bites include dogs that roam the streets in packs, dogs who are chained up in a yard who can become territorial, leaving a dog outside 24/7, female dogs with babies who protect their offspring, dogs who have been abused, neglected and/or terrorized by humans, sick dogs, starved dogs and dogs who are trained to attack humans and/or other dogs.

In a 2008 study published in Applied Animal Behavior Science, dog breeds were ranked based on their propensity for aggression toward owners, strangers and other dogs. The breeds with the highest likelihood of directing aggression toward strangers were dachshunds and Chihuahuas, with 20 percent of the sample attempting to bite or biting humans, compared with 7 percent for pit bulls.

Other breeds rated highest for aggression toward strangers included Doberman pinschers, rottweilers, Yorkshire terriers and poodles. The study states that “scores for stranger-directed aggression found among pit bull terriers were inconsistent with their universal reputation as a ‘dangerous breed’ and their reported involvement in dog bite-related fatalities.” The high aggression breeds identified in the study send people to the emergency room and, even when they don’t, they can instill a lifelong paralyzing fear of dogs in children who constitute the majority of dog bite victims.

It is also important to learn canine body language. Dogs exhibit body postures that forecast how they are responding. In other words, dog give warning signals before they bite. If a dog is staring intently, tail stiff up, and /or growling, it is best to back away slowly from the dog.

And just because a dog (like my neighbor’s) has red flags does not necessarily mean that they WILL bite, only that the likelihood goes up for each factor. And even then, some dogs will NOT bite. Take, for example, the former Michael Vick dogs. Despite the fact that they were chained 24/7, were unsocialized, untrained and had been terrorized, abused and traumatized at Bad Newz Kennels, none of these pit bulls showed any aggression. Eight of them have become therapy dogs. Many are living in homes with children, other dogs, cats and other pets.

History and statistics tells us that solving the wrong problem will not bring an end to dog bites. Breed is not a factor when it comes to dog bites so to demand mandatory spaying and neutering of any particular breed of dog will not end the problem.
Thank you.

CeliaSue Hecht

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