Rufus, a 1 one year old Beagle in Orange Co, FL was surrendered by his owner to AC after he bit a kid in the face. The owner, Nicole West, was reportedly filling the dog’s food bowl when her 4 year old son came up behind the dog and accidentally startled him. Rufus bit the kid’s lip and sutures were required.
West says she was told the beagle would be “tested for aggression,” and if he was found not to be aggressive, Rufus would be put up for adoption. But last week, West learned that her former pet was scheduled to be euthanized because of the severity of the bite.
The West family never believed there was any chance that Rufus would be killed and when they learned otherwise, they retained a lawyer to fight for his right to live. The attorney has filed an injunction to stop the killing temporarily and the family has utilized social media to spread awareness of the dog’s plight. Not only is the local news following the story now, but the mayor is involved as well. She has issued a statement saying that the dog will be well cared for by the pound while the legal case proceeds.
One of the most troubling aspects to this case is the pound’s position that Rufus must be killed because FL state law says so:
Orange County Animal Services has gone on record, saying because of the severity of the injury, state statute says they must euthanize Rufus even if the dog is not found to be aggressive.
Read the FL statutes about dogs who bite for yourself. I am not a lawyer but what I see is an outline for a legal process to determine whether a dog is dangerous after his first bite. I see nothing that indicates the pound is required to kill any dog after his first bite, regardless of the severity.
The pound’s position makes me concerned not only for Rufus but for all the other dogs who may have bitten a person or animal in Orange Co. How long has the pound been misrepresenting the law with regard to killing dogs who bite? How many dogs have they killed already and how many are they going to kill under this false representation that the state law requires it? Many dogs don’t have an owner with an attorney to protect them from Orange Co Animal Services. Is the mayor concerned about that?
(Thank you to everyone who sent me links about Rufus.)
Dr. Stanley Coren writes in Psychology Today that we tend to explain away what he describes as “a disproportionate number of dog bite related injuries and deaths [by Pitbull type dogs]” because we love them as family members. Does his thinking ring true to you?
(Thanks Christine for the link.)
Truffles is a 2 1/2 year old spayed female mixed breed dog at the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby Co, a private shelter in TN. There is a video of her posted on YouTube which promotes her as an adoptable dog. I am neither a behaviorist nor an expert but in my layman’s opinion, Truffles looks uncomfortable in this video, especially when she has her personal face-space invaded, which is often. It’s obvious the people doing the invading love her and are trying to help her get adopted but don’t seem to read her in the same way I am. The thing that most impressed me about Truffles was the continued restraint she exhibited every time she felt uncomfortable. She never bares her teeth, nips or bites. And certainly a dog with less restraint would have done so in my opinion. Watch the video for yourself and see what you think:
Truffles was reportedly adopted and returned recently after a child kissed her on the head while the dog was asleep. Truffles apparently bit the child in the face. Based upon what I saw in the video, this does not surprise me. Awake Truffles will choose again and again to exercise restraint when someone gets in her face-space. Sleeping Truffles does not have that luxury. When she was startled awake by a kid in her face, she reacted with a bite. I am sorry for the child who was bitten and for the family who adopted Truffles. I do not know what sort of counseling they were given by the HS when they adopted Truffles. Nor do I know whether the child was given appropriate instructions on interacting with the dog. Sometimes children don’t follow directions. That happens. The results of which account for many dog bites involving children unfortunately.
At any rate, I have been contacted by several individuals who are concerned because the HS of Memphis and Shelby Co is reportedly going to kill Truffles on Tuesday. The HS has apparently refused all offers to save Truffles’ life, including signing any waiver of their choosing and placing her with a rescue group or sanctuary. I have reached out to the HS several times but have not received a response. There may be more to Truffles’ story but if there is, the HS is not telling it.
The bottom line is this: Truffles has a right to live. There is no court order requiring the HS to kill Truffles. She has not been given any chance at long term behavioral modification by a qualified behaviorist or group. She reportedly failed to exercise restraint once out of countless opportunities. She made a mistake. People around her may have made mistakes too. She should not be killed for it. As I said, I am just a layman but it seems obvious to me from the video that this dog could be safely placed in an appropriate environment and represent no threat to the public. Why is the HS of Memphis and Shelby Co refusing to advocate for Truffles’ right to live? Worse still, why is the HS of Memphis and Shelby Co determined to kill Truffles in the face of reasonable alternatives?
On the FAQ page of the HS website, it says:
I would like to report animal cruelty. How do I do that?
Please call our cruelty investigator at 901-937-3910 with the address of the animal, as well as the potential violations.
But who do citizens call if the cruelty is happening at the HS? Killing a healthy/treatable pet, which is what Truffles appears to be, is the ultimate form of cruelty. Is there anyone who will advocate for Truffles?
October 4, 2012
An 83 year old man in AL, Donald Thomas, was killed while checking his mail when 2 of his neighbor’s dogs attacked him on September 20. Another neighbor, Justin Wallace, expressed his shock to the local TV news:
“I would have never thought in the world they would have done that. My dog has chased them out of this yard. They have never acted vicious to anybody,” Wallace said.
The 2 dogs responsible for the killing were shot to death by police at the scene when they behaved in a manner a police officer deemed threatening. The owners’ other 33 dogs were hauled away on chokepoles by Birmingham Jefferson County Animal Control.
“We are in the process of evaluation of all 33 of the dogs. We have to do a mental and physical evaluation for the court system. We will have determination for each dog for investigators,” Richard Burgess with BJCAC said.
Burgess says the dogs are mostly Rottweilers or Rottweiler mixes. The evaluations will determine if the dogs are a threat to a community.
“We are looking for things as far as aggression goes. If the dogs remaining are aggressive if they are shutdown or socialized things of that sort,” Burgess said.
Burgess says some of the dogs appear to be socialized but a few appear to be aggressive. The evaluations will be turned over to Leeds investigators.
Fair enough. Except I could find no reporting indicating that the evaluations, assuming they were conducted, were offered at the hearing to determine disposition of the 33 dogs on Tuesday. The dogs’ owners did not attend the proceeding and have signed over the dogs to the county. The only witness at the hearing was a local police detective named A.R. Holman who testified about the behavior of the dogs during the seizure:
“The dogs were constantly barking, lunging at the bars and trying to get out of the cages,” Holman said. She said they growled, snarled and bit at catch poles during the seizure, which she said took a total of about three hours.
Based upon the testimony of the sole witness, who is not a canine behaviorist, the judge agreed with the prosecutor’s request to have all 33 dogs killed.
Every dog deserves a fair evaluation, conducted by at least one qualified individual. The judge was satisfied in this case to order that every dog be killed, despite any presentation of evidence that any of the dogs had ever bitten a person and apparently without consideration of individual behavioral evaluations.
The killing of 33 dogs not involved in the attack on Mr. Thomas seems like a knee-jerk reaction in the face of tragedy. We’ve seen this scenario played out many times. These dogs had no one advocating for their right to live or to be treated as individuals. None of the 33 are accused of biting any person or animal, even when strangers came onto their property and spent 3 hours dragging them to cages with chokepoles. The county says it spent $4000 caring for the dogs and there is no mention of anyone providing that care being bitten.
Is the community truly safer by putting all 33 of these dogs into the landfill? With the owners, county animal control, police and the prosecutor all refusing to advocate for the dogs’ right to live, should that job have fallen to someone else? Or do we need to clearly define within the law that every pet has a right to live, to be judged as an individual and not to be condemned solely by association with pets determined to be dangerous?
(Thanks Samantha for alerting me to this story.)
June 15, 2012
A 13 year old girl was left at home in Glendora, CA with her brothers, ages 10 and 1, and two dogs, described as Pitbulls. Neighbors called police this week when they heard the girl screaming in the middle of the night. She had apparently been bitten by one of the dogs.
When police entered the home, the dogs approached them and an officer shot one of the dogs in the head. The injured dog fled and the officer chased him in his police vehicle, running him over then standing by the dog’s body as he eventually died.
The article states:
Monrovia Animal Control provided the aid to Glendora Police as part of a mutual aid service call, police said, when no other agency was available in time.
It is unclear to me from the story what aid the ACOs provided here. Certainly a trained animal handler’s skills could have been used in this situation. Or at least someone whose dog handling techniques rise above “shoot in head, run over with car”.
It is unknown which dog actually bit the girl. Her injuries were not life threatening.
(Thank you again to Clarice for the link. You’ve been on a roll this week.)
April 30, 2012
Upon a plaintiff’s sufficient proof that a dog involved in an attack is a pit bull or a pit bull cross, and that the owner, or other person(s) who has the right to control the pit bull’s presence on the subject premises (including a landlord who has a right to prohibit such dogs on leased premises) knows, or has reason to know, that the dog is a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull, that person is liable for the damages caused to a plaintiff who is attacked by the dog on or from the owner’s or lessor’s premises. In that case a plaintiff has established a prima facie case of negligence. When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous.
The case is based on a Pitbull who escaped his pen and bit two children in 2007. The family of one of the victims sued the landlord who rented to the Pitbull’s owner. Under the new ruling, everyone who keeps a Pitbull or allows one to be kept on his rental property is liable for harboring a dangerous dog should any attack occur. Landlords and shelters are now in the position of considering whether any dog who might have Pitbull in his family tree, regardless of temperament, is an insurance risk.
This arbitrary declaration of certain dogs as inherently dangerous will protect no one in MD from being bitten by a dog. Here’s why:
- Pitbull is not a dog breed. It is a common term for mixed bully breed type dogs.
- There is no breed of dog proven to be inherently dangerous.
- There is no reliable method for determining what dogs qualify as Pitbulls or Pitbull mixes.
- Landlords who tell their tenants they must either give up their Pitbull or Pitbull mix or move will be relying on visual characteristics/shape to identify dogs.
- Shelters which refuse to adopt out Pitbulls and Pitbull mixes will be relying on visual characteristics/shape to identify dogs.
- Using a dog’s shape to determine breed is highly unreliable.
- Other types of dogs can and do bite people. Dog bites are rare in comparison to the number of non-biting dogs but when they happen, the breeds involved vary greatly and include all shapes and sizes.
While the court’s decision does not constitute a breed ban, there are already reports that both landlords and shelters in MD have begun discriminating against certain dogs based on shape. When breed discrimination occurs, needless dog killing results. In addition, some dog owners will feel obligated to “go underground” for fear of losing their pets. These owners may not seek out services such as rabies vaccination and dog licensing in an effort to keep their pets under the radar. This makes for an even less safe community.
I don’t know what the future may hold for MD Pitbulls but this ruling is decidedly a step back for all dogs and people in the state.
February 9, 2012
Watch a dog in a TV studio get increasingly stressed as he gives signals and attempts to avoid while the news anchor ignores all signals and escalates the situation to its entirely preventable conclusion.
The Poodle and Dog Blog has the backstory.
August 16, 2011
An interesting case in MI: A couple engaged to be married, who between them owned three dogs, kept the dogs in their fenced yard with warning signs posted. A 6 year old neighbor girl and her friend wanted to come in the yard one day while the man’s niece (also a resident) was home. The niece told them no, don’t come in the yard. The 6 year old, apparently without adult supervision, opened the gate to the fence anyway and went into the yard. The dogs mauled her. The man and the woman who owned the dogs were charged with keeping dangerous animals and agreed to have the dogs killed.
Michigan law dictates that an animal can not be declared dangerous for attacking a trespasser. In the case against the male owner, prosecutors argued that a 6 year old can not be a trespasser since the child would be unable to make such a distinction. The jury convicted the man and sentencing is scheduled for next month. The trial against the fiancee is set to begin next week.
Here are my questions:
Do parents/caregivers have the right to expect their 6 year old children to be safe in the neighborhood, even when not supervised by an adult, and even when the child is trespassing on to someone else’s property? (Regardless of whether you believe the child could knowingly trespass or not.)
If state law says a dog can’t be declared dangerous for attacking a trespasser (which is a reason some people have dogs – for protection) and the argument is made in court that the child is too young to knowingly trespass, are we not then making the assumption that dogs must be somehow capable of discerning trespassers of sufficient mental maturity to understand that trespassing is illegal vs. trespassers who are not capable of this understanding? Does the law need to be re-written?
If the couple had left a jug of bleach on the porch, and the kid unlocked the gate, walked up to the porch and drank the bleach, would the couple have been charged with a crime?
Are charges against the girl’s parents/caregivers appropriate?
July 1, 2010
For the average person in the U.S., how likely are you to die from:
Car accident? 1 in 6700
Murder? 1 in 18,000
On-the-job accident? 1 in 48,000
Bathtub drowning? 1 in 840,000
Lightning? 1 in 3 million
Hornet, wasp or bee sting? 1 in 6.1 million
Shark attack? 1 in 280 million
Where do dogs fit in?
Janis Bradley, dog bite researcher and the author of ‘Dogs Bite: But Balloons and Slippers Are More Dangerous,’ states, “Dogs can be dangerous. And they are more dangerous to children than adults. Not as dangerous, of course, as kitchen utensils, drapery cords, five-gallon buckets, horses or cows. Not nearly as dangerous as playground equipment, swimming pools, skateboards, or bikes. And not remotely as dangerous as family, friends, guns, or cars.
A child is more likely to die choking on a marble or balloon, and an adult is more likely to die in a bedroom slipper related accident. Your chances of being killed by a dog are roughly one in 18 million. [emphasis added]
By contrast, if we estimate that 3 – 4 million pets are killed by shelters every year, that works out to one pet being killed every 9 seconds. The 2366 pets unfortunate enough to cross the threshold at PETA’s so-called shelter in VA last year had a 97% chance of being killed. I’d hate to face those odds. I think I’d rather stand in a slippery bathtub with a murderer and wait for a shark to swim up the drain.
May 21, 2010
If a dog bites you, I expect you to do whatever needs to be done in order to prevent the dog from doing any further damage. Depending on the circumstances, this might include putting a leash on the dog to get control or placing the dog in another room. Once the bite is over and you have control of the situation, there is no point in fetching your air gun, calling your dog over to you, holding him upside down by the tail and shooting him repeatedly in the face and testicles while he screams and you film the whole thing:
At the prompting of prosecuting attorney Barbara Lachmar. [Judge Thomas] Willmore viewed two videos before the sentencing and called the abuse terrible, noting the dog screeched and squealed while it was tortured repeatedly.
“It comes and sits right down at your feet and you pick it up again and shoot it in its testicles. It wasn’t even doing anything,” Willmore said. “You ought to be ashamed the way you treated that animal.”
Ought to be, but isn’t:
[The owner, Emilio Deshun] Hoy told Willmore on Tuesday that he was sorry but that he still questioned whether his behavior constituted animal cruelty. Hoy said he was only punishing the dog for aggressive behavior after he worked a 12-hour day at his job. [emphasis added]
Mr. Hoy will get a break from his 12 hour shifts at work while he’s in the pokey:
On April 7, Hoy pleaded guilty to torture of a companion animal, a third-degree felony. He was sentenced Tuesday by Logan 1st District Court Judge Thomas Willmore to six months in jail and three years of probation. Hoy must also pay $1,000 to the state and another $1,000 to the Cache Humane Society.
The dog, Bean, has recovered from the physical injuries but is apparently still dealing with some emotional trauma:
Michael Bishop, director of the Cache Humane Society, said Bean was returned recently to the shelter in Logan because he is “showing some post-traumatic-type symptoms and characteristics.” In his sleep, Bean is whimpering and growling, and he sometimes awakens aggressively with a startle, he said.
What have those of you who have dealt with biting dogs done to get control of the situation in the heat of the moment? What about dealing with the dog afterward?