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Source: Humane Society of the United States

Discussion in 'Dogs - Pit bull breeds specific' started by Walt, Jun 12, 2004.

  1. Walt

    Walt New Member

    Carl T. Hall, Chronicle Science Writer
    Thursday, February 22, 2001

    Davis -- Little Marlowe cowered under a chair at the veterinary hospital, eyes darting beneath a scruff of white hair, a neutered male terrier mix all of 15 pounds, who looked to be about as big a threat as a declawed kitten.

    Yet here he was at the University of California at Davis animal-behavior clinic, having bitten or snapped at two people already during his first year of life, including his owner, schoolteacher Carolyn Elder.

    Veterinarian Valarie Tynes had no doubt as to the diagnosis -- a syndrome known as "fear aggression" -- and recommended a training regimen that might, in time, help the dog learn to calm down.

    But she offered no guarantees. "It's going to be tough," Tynes said. "We can make a dog like this easier to live with, but we don't usually talk in terms of a cure. It's like diabetes -- you can control it, but you can't make it go away."

    The case pointed to a disturbing reality, all but ignored amid the daily flood of shocking revelations after the death of Diane Whipple, who was mauled to death outside her San Francisco apartment door by a 120-pound Presa Canario linked to a prison attack-dog ring.

    Despite the bizarre circumstances of that case, aggressive canines are, in fact, an everyday problem throughout the United States. The real concern, veterinarians and public health experts say, is nonfatal dog bites, which they describe as an increasingly worrisome hazard in a pet-loving society that rarely takes the danger seriously.

    Cases of truly vicious dog attacks are extremely rare, especially considering that there are an estimated 54 million dogs in the United States and only about 20 or so fatalities every year.

    Yet dog bites are among the leading causes of traumatic injury, causing an estimated $1 billion a year in medical costs and liability claims. In a 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, dog bites were found to be responsible for more emergency room visits than playground accidents and were second only to baseball and softball injuries on a selected list of dangerous childhood activities.

    Close to 5 million people, mostly children under age 10, are bitten every year by dogs in the United States, including about 800,000 cases serious enough to require medical attention and 6,000 hospitalizations, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

    Children are not only the most likely to suffer a bite but also are two to three times as likely to suffer a serious injury from a dog.

    "We see it time and time again," said John Snyder, program director in the companion-animal section of the Humane Society of the United States. "Just about everybody gets bitten by a dog at some point in life, usually when they're kids, but it's usually something that's overlooked."

    The most recent studies show an estimated 36 percent increase in medically attended dog bites from 1986 to 1994. At the same time, fatal attacks, which tend to be the only ones that attract wide public notice, have not increased at all.

    Still, incident reports compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the San Francisco killer-dog case is hardly the only real- life nightmare to occur in recent years.

    Ten cases have been reported where an infant less than 1 year old was killed by a dog while the child was asleep or in its crib. In one such case, a family chow chow killed a 3-week-old child in her crib while her parents slept in an adjoining room. In several other cases, children have been killed while riding bicycles, brought down by deadly packs of four to 14 stray dogs.

    People have suffered fatal heart attacks during dog attacks, asphyxiated when rescuers couldn't get past a marauding animal to perform CPR, been strangled by a dog pulling on a scarf, died of injuries sustained while fleeing from a dog and succumbed to infections secondary to dog bites.

    Besides the health hazards, dog bites are a major headache for the insurance industry -- one of the biggest single sources of claims against homeowner and renter liability policies. In 1999, the insurance industry estimates that it paid $310 million to cover dog-related claims.

    The popularity of pit bulls and rottweilers -- muscular breeds often bred and trained for their fighting tendencies -- has often been cited as the main culprit.

    In fact, studies show those breeds are to blame in about two-thirds of the fatal attacks during the past 20 years, and that percentage has been increasing. Male dogs that have not been neutered also are far more likely to be implicated in attacks than females and neutered males.

    At the same time, however, veterinarians say that smaller dogs like little Marlowe are the ones most prone to fear-aggression and unpredictable biting behavior.

    Of course, these attacks tend not to be as serious, but there are exceptions. Dachshunds have killed children, as has a Yorkshire terrier and Labrador retriever.

    Although pit bull mixes and other miscellaneous "muscle dogs" are most likely to kill and seriously maim, fatal attacks since 1975 have been attributed to dogs from at least 30 breeds.

    Communities including Denver, Wilmington, Del., and Miami-Dade County have tried to enact bans against particular breeds, but experts say such efforts rarely do any good. Many pit bulls, for example, are raised to be gentle. Nor is there any clear-cut way to identify a particular breed.

    Even if a ban could be enforced, owners who seek that type of animal can easily find other, equally aggressive breeds not on the banned list.

    "Breed-specific policies are unlikely to provide any long-term solution," said Dr. Bonnie Gilchrist, who has studied dog bites for the CDC's injury- prevention center in Atlanta.

    Moreover, experts stress that any dog can be dangerous in the wrong circumstances, particularly when children are present.

    "No dog is 100 percent childproof," said veterinarian Bonnie Beaver of Texas A&M University, a national authority on canine behavior who serves as executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. "It's very important for people to understand that children must be supervised anytime they interact with any animal."

    Such commonsense warnings are routinely ignored in public playgrounds and along busy sidewalk commercial strips like Solano Avenue in Berkeley and 24th Street in San Francisco's Noe Valley, where dogs are commonly left tied to parking meters in front of coffee shops and stores.

    Children passing by are hardly ever bitten, but health specialists said it's asking for trouble to leave a dog unattended in public -- even if it has no history of snapping.

    Off-leash dog-running areas in public parks have been generating controversy in the Bay Area, but that's because of environmental problems and not because of attacks on humans. Bites are rare in those areas, experts said, noting that "dog parks" typically are clearly posted and are effectively self- policed by responsible owners.

    It's the harmless-looking dogs, improperly handled, that can cause the nasty surprises, partly when they encounter unsupervised children who have not been taught how to interact with animals -- or unsuspecting owners who ignore the risk.

    "There's no such thing as an absolutely, completely safe dog," said veterinarian Ben Hart, an animal-behavior specialist at UC Davis.

    Owners often miss warning signs of a dog that may be trouble.

    "Aggression is a normal means of communication among dogs," Tynes said. "It's unacceptable when it's directed at people. The problem is that people overlook the signs of aggression. People have come in here with dogs that have been growling at people for years, and then they're shocked when it bites one day."

    Health specialists advocate a mix of public education, school programs on dog safety, enforced leash laws and incentives for dog owners to seek training,

    particularly of puppies during the critical early months when the dog's temperament is more or less fixed.

    Too often, experts said, people expect too much of dogs -- and not enough of their owners.

    "We expect dogs to be four-legged humans, and they're not," Beaver said. "It's difficult to think like a dog, but you really have to try to understand animal behavior."


    -- Spay or neuter your dog. Dogs who have not been spayed or neutered are three times more likely to bite than dogs who have been.

    -- Train and socialize your dog so that she is comfortable being around people, including friends, neighbors and children.

    -- Never play "attack" games with your dog. He won't always understand the difference between play and real-life situations.

    -- If your dog exhibits behavior such as growling, nipping or biting, seek professional advice from your veterinarian or a skilled dog trainer.

    -- Don't pet a dog, even your own, without letting him see and sniff you first.

    Source: Humane Society of the United States
  2. GinaH

    GinaH New Member

    I think this is a load of crap...I would love to see their statistics to back up this statement.
  3. honeybears

    honeybears New Member

    "No dog is 100 percent childproof," said veterinarian Bonnie Beaver of Texas A&M University, a national authority on canine behavior who serves as executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. "It's very important for people to understand that children must be supervised anytime they interact with any animal."

    "It's the harmless-looking dogs, improperly handled, that can cause the nasty surprises, partly when they encounter unsupervised children who have not been taught how to interact with animals -- or unsuspecting owners who ignore the risk. "

    I think more of the above is what is happening and has little to do with the type of dog. Heck, I am afraid to touch my parents shitzu for fear of being bit. She is very aggressive. Its the rots, pits, etc that are making the news and I think the media is to blame. When a lab bites, thats not sensational enought o make the news.

    And since most of the bites are under children of 10, its parents responislbity to change this, because they leave children unattended or the children have no fear and go after dogs to pet startling/scaring them and then they snap.

  4. Samsintentions

    Samsintentions New Member

    You know, ITs stories like this that really get under my skin. I want to see the facts to back it up. Where does it show how many dogs were tested, and what breeds?
    Hello!!!!! You have to test EVERY SINGLE BREED known to man, and EVERY SINGLE DOG at that to get an accurate reading. Did they do that no.

    Soooo what did they do. Rant and rave on how Rotts and Pitts are just horrible, What about the chi's and mutts and JRT, and those little white dogs that never seem to quit nipping at you???? Oh And what about those kids that bite? Guess we aught to ban them too!
  5. Angie

    Angie New Member

    I think the best sentence out of the entire post was this...

  6. Sara

    Sara New Member

    I think the point was that when the larger breeds do attack they cause more damage... Too bad they just didn't come out and say it though...

    All in all it was the best article I've read yet that gives mention that any dog can bite and all in all it didn't give a "witch hunt" feel... I think sometimes people are too critical... Most of people's opinions of "Dangerous" breed dogs won't be changed based on an article they read online... Most of the changes in opinion come from a meeting of the dog in question... A good meeting...etc... THAT'S why it's so important to be a good ambassador for these breeds... To take your good dogs out in public and let everyone see what they really are...as opposed to reading things and coming up with these mental pictures.

  7. Angie

    Angie New Member

    I agree with Sara

    At least they aren't putting all the blame on pit bulls. I am glad that they did mention other breeds. I think that the reason 'pit bull attacks' get put on the news is (in part) because they ARE a bigger/stronger breed and CAN do more damage. BUT I think they do push it a little too far, like when they THINK it is a pit bull because it LOOKS like one and they call it a pit bull when it really isnt. Also they dont always use a picture of the 'pit bull' they are telling the story about. Once they were talking about a friend's pit bull and they showed a clip of a different dog..it wasn't even the pit they were talking about.

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