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UPDATE: When Dogs Attack

April 19th, 2007 by josh farley

A pit bull that attacked a 59-year-old woman in Poulsbo last week may spur local police to propose changes to its city council.

As you might have seen from a Sunday’sfollow-up story from the incident, there are a number of penalties already in place for dogs who attack.

UPDATE: In this current instance, Diane M. Law, the woman who owned the pit bull, has been charged by county prosecutors with “Unlawful aggressive dog,” a class C felony. A trainer who’d worked with the pit bull told police she’d recommended to Law that the dog be euthanized, according to court papers.

But Poulsbo Police administrators want to go beyond just this case. An outright ban of certain animals – perhaps including pit bulls like the 3-year-old who mauled the woman last week – could be forthcoming.

How far should these laws go?

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23 Responses to “UPDATE: When Dogs Attack”

  1. Laura Says:

    Before Poulsbo issues a ban on “Pit Bulls” I think that they should review all the facts, including what a pit bull is and how uncommon a true pit is. Here is an artical describing some issues.

    The Washington Animal Foundation did a survey on human fatalities by dogs in 2001 and came up with these figures, Rottweiler (6); Labrador (2);
    Pomeranian (1); German Shepherd (2); Chow (1); Wolf-Hybrid (1); Akita (1); Doberman (1); Beagle (1); Presa Canario (2); Pit Bull (1); mixed breeds (6). When comparing these figures with the human fatalities from 1975-80 by Pickney & Kennedy, Traumatic Deaths from Dog Attacks in the United States, the report identified the following as responsible for human fatalities during the study period from May, 1975 to April, 1980: German Shepherd (16); Husky (9); St. Bernard (8); Bull Terrier (6); Great Dane (6); Malamute(5); Golden Retriever (3); Boxer (2); Dachshund (2); Doberman Pinscher (2); Collie (2); Rottweiler(1); Basenji (1); Chow-Chow (1); Labrador Retriever (1); Yorkshire Terrier (1); mixed and unknown breeds (15). One would question the accuracy of human fatalities by dogs from current reports and especially the statistics on the Pit Bull. When looked at from a more realistic point of view one would find Shepherds and other working dogs rate higher in fatalities. However, given the increasing population of dog breeds at any given time, it is impossible to compare one breed to another.

    20% of deaths involve unrestrained dogs off the owner’s property, 70% involve
    unrestrained dogs on the owner’s property, and 10% involve restrained dogs
    on the owner’s property. Unrestrained dogs are responsible for a high number
    of dog bite reports and attacks to other animals. Over 30 breeds of dogs
    have been involved in 400 human deaths in a 30 year period.

  2. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    Laura is right. No breed should be ‘banned…stats clearly show no one breed is ‘bad’ and deserves banishment.

    The irresponsible, careless owners of all dogs could be ‘banned’ as far I’m concerned. The owners should be held accountable for any actions of their dogs.

    That said, any person trespassing onto the closed dog area must accept responsibility for whatever happens.
    Parents must be held responsible for their children. Children must be taught to respect a dog’s space.

    There are bad owners, not dogs.
    Sharon O’Hara

  3. JMS Says:

    Breed doesn’t matter … 1 attack and the dog should be gone … period!

  4. Lori Says:

    Laura, you are on target.

    Bad laws are enacted in a knee-jerk fashion when we aren’t disciplined enough to do the work necessary to make good decisions.

    According to legitimate statistical data, banning a specific breed or breeds would not only be difficult to enforce, it would NOT solve the problem that we aim to solve, which should be protecting people from dog attacks.

    If we really considered the available data, we would either have to ban dogs altogether, or at least ban all unaltered male dogs. Of the many different breeds of dogs that have attacked humans, the unaltered male dogs of these different breeds account for the highest percentage of attacks.

    A few will argue that only the larger and/or stronger breeds should be banned because they are capable of doing the most damage. However, any breed of dog can attack, and many attack victims are children. The Centers for Disease Control reports that “each year, 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites; half of these are children” (http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/duip/biteprevention.htm). A dog does not have to be large or strong to do serious damage to a child.

    If you think the “All-American Standard” for the perfect pet, the Golden Retriever, would never attack a human, you would be wrong. Do some research. Ask your vet or a professional dog trainer if it is safe to leave any dog unrestrained or alone with a child.

    If anyone is interested in the data I compiled, I would be happy to send it to you.

  5. ShannonC Says:

    I agree that any breed of dog shouldn’t be banned. I don’t agree that all of these owners are irresponsible or bad owners, but just uninformed. When my dog attacked another dog (although she was defending herself from the other dog) the other dog had to have 12 stitches. We paid for the stitches and I picked up a book about aggressive behavior in dogs. Besides keeping these two dogs apart, there were numerous things I could do as an owner to make my dog less aggressive. I followed these and it worked. However, I never left my child alone with my dog AND I taught my child how to respect and be around a dog whether it be ours or anothers. Children (and adults) need to learn how to be around a dog and how to defend themselves from a dog attack. Perhaps what the law should really require is that all dogs are trained through a licensed dog school. Have there been any statistics on trained vs untrained dogs and attacks?

  6. Michael Says:

    Laura is being selective in her use of statistics and not telling the whole story. After all, the victim did not die; why cite death statistics? How about injuries? When you do that you come up with a much different picture. Pit bulls are bad unpredictable and bad news. If you have one you darn well better have a good insurance policy.

    “Merritt Clifton, editor of Animal People, has conducted an unusually detailed study of dog bites from 1982 to the present. (Clifton, Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, September 1982 to November 13, 2006) The Clifton study show the number of serious canine-inflicted injuries by breed. The author’s observations about the breeds and generally how to deal with the dangerous dog problem are enlightening.

    According to the Clifton study, pit bulls, Rottweilers, Presa Canarios and their mixes are responsible for 74% of attacks that were included in the study, 68% of the attacks upon children, 82% of the attacks upon adults, 65% of the deaths, and 68% of the maimings. In more than two-thirds of the cases included in the study, the life-threatening or fatal attack was apparently the first known dangerous behavior by the animal in question. Clifton states:

    If almost any other dog has a bad moment, someone may get bitten, but will not be maimed for life or killed, and the actuarial risk is accordingly reasonable. If a pit bull terrier or a Rottweiler has a bad moment, often someone is maimed or killed–and that has now created off-the-chart actuarial risk, for which the dogs as well as their victims are paying the price.

    Clifton’s opinions are as interesting as his statistics. For example, he says, “Pit bulls and Rottweilers are accordingly dogs who not only must be handled with special precautions, but also must be regulated with special requirements appropriate to the risk they may pose to the public and other animals, if they are to be kept at all.” Quote from http://www.dogbite.com

    I havbe noticed that when walking my dog, a cocker spaniel, we are ‘yelled at’ by 25 dogs per walk. Most of this is not serious. Two or three of these dogs do not understand that their territory does not extend to the public street. That’s why when I walk my dog, I am armed.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Sharon,
    Dogs are territorial…someone stepping into that territory is provocation to a dog. To completely and utterly blame all dog owners whose dogs bite is unfair. Many people take their dogs to training and the dog still has the instinctive urge to protect its owner or property.

    We must remember that dogs are dogs…not humans and thus we should treat them with respect and a little bit of hesitation when we are unfamiliar with them.

    Nothing rakes by butt more than when some parent sues a poor dog owner because their kid got mauled by the dog when it was the parent who wasn’t keeping an eye on the kid and let him wonder into the neighbor’s yard.

    My dog bit a kid when he was in the back yard on a run. (No he didn’t even break the skin) but, the kid was trying to come from the greenbelt behind my house. This kid lied to the police and said that my dog didn’t even growl…WRONG! He barks at everything when he is out back. The police officer went out back to see where my dog was and my dog barked at him. The police officer knew the kid was lying and that he shouldn’t have been in my back yard.

    The parents had the NERVE to be angry about my dog nipping him, but never once considered that they weren’t keeping tabs on their 9 year old who wondering into MY private property. Where was their responsibility in all of this?

    If my dog had done more damage than that, we would have probably had to have him put down. But as it were, there was no damage or medical bills.

    The bottom line here is, you cannot blame the owners all of the time. I am very good to my dog and very responsible when it comes to the welfare of other people around him. I am extremely cautious.

    We had a guest stay a week at our home this past Christmas who was terrified of dogs. My dog spent a week behind a gate in my master bedroom. When we left the house, we would let him out. He never once growled at her or barked…but, to avoid any incident, I just kept him away from my guest.

    I had a friend who had a cocker spaniel. I was over their house one night when they had another friend over with a small daughter. ALL night long this kid was pulling the dog’s ears…ALL NIGHT LONG this dog put up with the torture.
    Finally, the poor dog bit the little girl. I was telling the little girl to quit pulling the dog’s ears. I told her that the dog could bite her. Well, he did. Finally. Heck, I would have bitten her.

    Of course, the mother was watching her do this and never said a word the whole time. Probably because I was watching out for her all night. But when the dog finally bit the kid, the mother went into hysterics.
    (She received a puncture wound on the cheek next to the eye which required stitches. This dog was PROVOKED beyond what most dogs would have tolerated.
    No one said anything to the little girl, how she was provoking the dog all night, but the poor dog got punished for protecting itself.

    Bottom line is, I do everything in my power to keep people safe from being bitten. No dog is immune. Some of the sweetest dogs will bite…for whatever reason. You can’t blame all owners.

  8. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    Where does the ‘Clifton Magazine’ get their information?
    How do they gather their ‘facts’?
    I couldn’t find much – nothing – on their website beyond CM requesting donations be sent to a post office box number.
    Who are the people behind the organization?
    If, as stated, they are not affiliated with any other organization … neither they, nor their ‘study’ seem credible.

    Ask the Humane Society if certain breeds are more dangerous than others… the Humane Society is credible and should know first hand what they are talking about.
    Sharon O’Hara

  9. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    …and the reason you didn’t put yourself between the child and the dog?
    Sharon O’Hara

  10. Kris Says:

    No one has considered that maybe the only news REPORTED incidents are about Pitbulls and Rotts. There are many more that are not that have nothing to do with either breed.

  11. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    Anonymous, you are right, of course…our dogs are territorial and most will protect their property if invaded by non family members.

    I believe we have an obligation to protect our dogs from aggressive or unthinking people – adult and children.

    It is simple to lock the dog’s gate to keep neighbors from trespassing… if they are the type to trespass.

    We must look after them, as they look after us.
    Sharon O’Hara

  12. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    If a highly regarded, professional dog trainer told the owner the dog should be euthanized, she had warning the dog was dangerous.
    The owner should have padlocked the dogs gate on the inside.
    We can feel lucky the person attacked was an adult, not a child…

    That said, no one breed should be banned…any dog, properly motivated, can bite.
    It should be stressed though, that owners of ANY BREED should be held responsible for actions of their dog/s.
    Sharon O’Hara

  13. P. Smythe Says:

    We own a lovely almost two years old pit bull who is wonderful. He’s always on leash or in a fenced back yard, with the gates locked. We treat him the same way we treated our other dogs (various breeds) and we’ve never had a problem with any of our dogs. States and communities have already tried to ban pit bulls and it’s been found unconstitutional to single out one breed.

  14. Cean Says:

    P. Smythe,
    Many communities across the US have banned one or more breeds. It has not been found unconstitutional. (What part of the constitution would give us the right to own certain kinds of animals? “Pursuit of happiness?”) What has happened is that some states (Florida, for instance) have passed laws forbidding breed specific laws.
    What is interesting to me is that communities which have banned specific breeds have not had fewer dog bites after the ban was imposed. People who would buy a pit bull and not train it properly must just buy another type of large dog and do the same.

    Some officials believe that people who are inclined to own “attack” dogs are buying dogs and deliberately training them to fight. Pit bulls can be good working dogs, in that they do not quit when they are tired or in pain. They feel the fatigue and the pain, but they just keep right on doing what they’ve been trained or socialized to do. There are other breeds of working dogs that can be trained the same way.

  15. Dr Monica E Berninghaus Says:

    As the owner of two wonderful pits – both of whom received obedience training and both of whom received “temperament testing” at an early age….

    My dogs sleep with my kids and have NEVER displayed ANY form of aggression. Blame the deed (and the irresponsible owner in this case)NOT the breed!

    ANY dog displaying ANY aggression should be evaluated and put down if necessary!

    We may never know the “other side” of the story, but if a dog got loose I surely would not be in its yard and throwing dog biscuits around.

    Best advice would have been to call the owner of animal control and have them deal w/ it.

    I also find it very odd that this lady was a close-by neighbor and the dog did not know her?

    ALL of my neighbors know my dogs VERY well!

  16. Lynne weber Says:

    That said, no one breed should be banned…any dog, properly motivated, can bite.
    It should be stressed though, that owners of ANY BREED should be held responsible for actions of their dog/s.

    here! Here! The only dog to bitten me in a long career in animal care was a cute little cocker. And yes, larger dogs have the ability to do more damage. That said, we own a pitX and a prue-bred Bernese Mountain Dog. The gentle nature of the BMD is why I love the breed, but my boy’s temperment is closer to the discription many would use for a pit or a rottie (ie territorial,guard dog,protective). While he is kind to the faimly he is a large dog and frightening to many outsiders. But that I should be allowed to keep him but not the pitx(who is mellow and sweet) because of what breed he is is wrong! Both dogs have merit as do both breeds. I am responsible for the actions of both and they are neither out of the back fenced yard or without a leash and have been trained with a trainer and worked with at home. It’s a on going responsibility just as a child is. Do we blame the whole human male population for the deeds of the sick or evil amoungst us? Please! The State and Poulsbo should ban and punish the doer NOT THE BREED!
    L. Weber

  17. Kathy Says:

    It dismays me to see these posts filled up with defenses for dogs, but few for people.

    I recently flew on an airplane where a woman was carrying on a small dog who was whimpering. EVERY nearby passenger was concerned and sympathetic to the dog. A few feet away, a two year old child was crying…and the mother got a LOT of dirtly looks and angry mutterings, some from the very same people so loving toward the dog. I guess you don’t have to love your fellow man when you have your very own puppy or kitty!! This strikes me as pretty egoistic.

    I for one am fed up paying (in my own home) the consequences of the decisions of others. My neighbor got a dog and lets it run loose, so I have to pick up dog feces in my yard. My neighbor got four dogs and ignores them outside 24/7, so I have to listen to barking EVERY day and EVERY night. My neighbor doesn’t contain her scary dog in her yard, so I can’t walk on the street in front of my house any more.

    Your right to own a dog SHOULD end at my yard, my ears and the public sidewalk, but thanks to lax enforcement of animal control laws…it doesn’t work that way at all. Until an incident occurs like the recent attack in Poulsbo, the topic of animal control doesn’t get much attention.

    A growing number of us are fed up with irresponsible dog owners and tire of all the dog apologists who purportedly are such loving, caring people. If only some of that could be directed at human beings.

  18. Desari Says:

    I am sorry to hear about this attack, but people have to realize that a pitbull can be loving and a lap dog just as well as a small dog, i have had pure bred pitts and never once did i have any problems with them around children or adults, Most of their behavior is all about how they are raised, i have seen much smaller dogs be aggressive. Hence the labeling of ankle biters, and here is a question for all you that think some dog breeds should be banned, what breed of dog do the cops use for their K-9 units? yah real role model there.

  19. Sandra Says:

    I feel sorry for the neighbor that was bitten. That said I am sure we will not know the whole story since the dog cannot tell us. What I know of this case is that I have NEVER met a more responsible dog owner. Diane has taken Conner to training many times and I would see him behaving better each time. The ONLY problem I ever saw was with SOME dogs. He would get into scrapes with other dogs. But only certain dogs. He never did any damage that I witnessed. He has never shown aggression to any people. As for the gate. It seems a older woman came to the house about an hour before this happened. Nothing happened to her but she may have thought she had secured the gate but in fact did not. It is all a tragedy. For the woman bit by the dog and his owner. I’m sorry to see how much press has maligned pit bulls when this dog is a mix and the owner did all she could to train her dog. I do not believe that the dogs trainer had told Diane to put the dog down. I think that will come out when all the facts come out.

  20. Sharon Says:

    Good old Kitsp County, nothing better to do then file charges against this person. Don’t you think she feels bad enough as it is? And what do they hope to prove? Lets use her as an example. This county is corrupt

  21. Elaine Wolcott-Ehrhardt Says:

    I received a ticket in the mail for a dog at large. I did not even own a dog at the time. I plead not guilty and was still found guilty. The name of the dog on the ticket was completely different than the name the dog pound guy said in his testimony. He told the Judge he knocked on the door and talked to my son. I had no sons living at home but, the judge asked me if I had any sons. I replied yes 6 sons none whom live with me. He then said this must have been your dog. I will never donate to the humane society again. The price of this ticket was a few hundred dollars. I can only imagine the high fines for a dog that bit someone.

  22. Kris Says:

    Kathy,
    Quit passing judgment on people who love their animals. To some, dogs are just as much family members as their children are. Children on airplanes cry…and it is annoying sometimes…mainly because parents don’t control the behavior of their kids until they get a dirty look form a stranger. Also, as far as I know, kids have a difficult time with the cabin pressure change…needless to say, parents should be aware of the problems that arise from a plane flight and be prepared to take care of it…i.e., Dramamine (for nausea), Tylenol for earaches, gum for ear poppy…etc…

    Kathy, if you have issues with your neighbors then you need to do something about it…if their dogs are not leashed then call the animal control…file a complaint with your local police…the bottom line here is you have to be pro- active.

    My dog does not run free, and does not poop in others yards. When he goes for a walk, we take along a trash bag.

    I am with you on the people who are inconsiderate towards their non-dog owning neighbors. But, to accuse everyone of being apologists is unfair. It is obvious you don’t understand the love of a pet…or you wouldn’t be so quick to judge.

  23. ashley u Says:

    First, I would like to say that I have 2 dogs, one is a pure breed American Staffordshire Pitbull Terrier and another is a German Shepard/Pit mix. Since we are on the subject of Pitbulls, mine has never shown any aggression of any sort and people that were originally scared about his breed later came to say that he is the sweetest dog they have ever met. He is around many different types of people (and other animals) of all different ages and he treats all the same – with love.
    We recently received a note from the Sheriff’s office saying that my dogs were loose-interesting when they were with me all day long at my mothers house, our entire yard is fenced with a gate there was no way for them to have gotten out, even if they were home, the very next week I noticed that my dogs were barking at something on the other side of the gate and there was the loose dog-it was dark brown that’s all I could make out, not at all like my dogs- I think people are just scared of what they don’t know.
    I personally think that banning specific breeds solves nothing, I could see having to obtain some sort of license to own dogs in general though, which may only be wishful thinking, but should help with the “bad owner” problem. oh and as for the kids that trespass, well anyone for that matter – I believe they get what is coming to them, it’s a fence and it is there for a reason, I know my dogs wouldn’t attack anyone, but I have warning signs around my fence as a precaution. Unless the dog is seriously just plane mean – and lets face it you can tell most of the time – why would you go into their territory? I believe that most attacks are provoked by the human, for those of you that walk around with a weapon to ‘protect’ yourself, sorry but you are asking for it just by the energy you are projecting. When I walk my dogs they ignore all the others dogs around us who come barking up at us and even the ones that try to attack my dogs, they just sit there and look at me. oh and by the way those dogs that try to attack us would be a mini poodle, some small white fur ball, and a St. Bernard. Breed specific, I don’t think so, any dog can attack.
    Anyway, I was looking for a new decal and came across some interesting slogans I guess you’d call them for you pro-pits out there-
    You think Pitbulls are dangerous, have you seen who is running our country!
    and then this one.
    You think Pitbulls are dangerous, do you know how many sex offenders live in your neighborhood?

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