Ban all stinking dogs

Giles Coren takes a recent deadly dog attack on a child and builds around it to produce a very provocative column.

“Man’s best friends are no such thing. They are brutal, dirty and a primitive throwback to the days of bearbaiting.

The death of Jaden Joseph Mack, mauled to death by two domestic dogs in his grandmother’s home near Caerphilly last Saturday, caused a ripple of anxiety in some quarters, muted calls for stricter licensing of dangerous breeds, and that was about it. Move along now. Nothing to see here.

Nothing, except a human infant shredded to burger meat by domestic pets. My God, the fuss they made over Baby P. Over Maddie. Over Sarah Payne. Over James Bulger. When the boneheaded popular press can use a toddler’s death to hammer such traditional bogeymen as paedophiles, social workers, “evil” young boys and invisible foreign ne’er-do-wells, it goes at it with a drooling, wide-eyed, sociopathic bloodlust, calling for hangings, sackings and ridiculous legislative upheavals. But when it’s done by a Staffordshire bull terrier, the very breed of dog most likely to have been tied up outside the shop while its owner goes in to buy a “red top” tabloid, they have nothing to say.”

Read the rest here on Times Online.

4 thoughts on “Ban all stinking dogs

  1. I know this entry is old, but I just came across it and wanted to comment.

    As a former canine aggression expert and dog bite researcher, I found the opposite to be true. Given the rarity of serious dog attacks, the media coverage of such events is incredibly overblown. (The disparity grows even more absurd if the biting dog is described as a type dog that is often vilified in popular culture. For instance, in a case involving a Golden Retriever and an attack so savage, the responding police officer described it as the worst he’d ever seen, the local media covered the story one time. In a case of a so-called ‘pit bull’ accused of chasing someone, that story ran for several days and was covered nationally.)

    I will say that dog attacks in England appear to be on the increase since the DDA came into effect. Hospitalisations due to dog bites have doubled (mostly for the precise reasons experts opposed the law when it was first introduced). There really is no such thing as a “bad dog” much less a bad breed of dog. A well-behaved dog is absolutely down to the owner’s level of responsibility.

    In the United States, for example, more people die after having tripped over their slippers, than are killed by dogs. Children are infinitely more often, and more seriously, harmed by everything from swimming pools, car rides, and even five gallon buckets (which kill more children each year than dogs, as well).

    According to researcher and author, Janis Bradley, the things that are more dangerous to children than dogs are pretty much a list of common, household items, including balloons and marbles.

    It seems that, other than media sensationalism, the people who don’t like dogs are the ones who overstate the dangers they pose. (It’s probably ture that those who like dogs tend to minimize their danger. I, on the other hand, choose to deal with the actual facts and figures, as well as decades of experience working with dogs. The truth doesn’t frighten me.)

    There’s an old saying that goes something like, “What we don’t know, we fear. What we fear, we hate. What we hate, we destroy.”

    Conversely, it is said that ‘knowledge is power.’

    Studies have found only about one in eight dogs will ever bite. (So, seven out of eight dogs will never bite anyone or anything.) Nearly all those bites will result in minor injuries (if any), and the victims will be the dogs’ owners. (…In the same sense that I’ve been injured using just about every piece of sports equipment I own; many of my appliances; some clothing; and definitely other human beings…even if it’s only inadvertent.) Nothing, it seems, can’t cause harm under unfortunate circumstances. To pretend we can, or even should, attempt to eliminate all risk factors in life borders on absurdity.

    Although the data vary quite a bit from region to region and year to year, only about ten percent of dog bites (do or need to) receive medical attention.

    Of the dog bites that do receive medical attention, only one percent will score higher than the lowest injury reporting rating used by hospitals. In short, only about one in eight dogs will ever bite and, of those, only about 10% of bites will receive medical attention. Of those that receive medical attention, ninety-nine percent are considered “minor.”

    Men will never compare with dogs, when it comes to risk assessment. Men are exponentially more dangerous to every living thing than dogs could ever be.

    Even parents have been shown to be about 100 times more lethal to their own children than are dogs.

    Here’s what we do know:

    1. You are most likely to be injured by a dog you know (probably your own dog).

    2. You are most likely to be injured by a dog on your own property, or that of the dog’s owner (if different).

    3. Dogs that bite have a known history of aggressive behaviour.

    4. Where a dog’s first bite is against a human, it has had a known history of aggressive behaviour towards humans or other animals (typically other dogs).

    5. When the victim is not the adult owner of the dog, the dog was inadequately supervised at the time of the bite. (Meaning, a child was left alone with a dog – often the family pet, or the dog was unsupervised outdoors.)

    You are least likely to be bitten by a dog:

    1. If you don’t know the dog; it is supervised; and you’re in a public place. (The risk isn’t zero, but this is the scenario that leads to the least number of dog bites.)

    2. If you avoid unsupervised dogs (no matter where you encounter them).

    3. You never leave your children unsupervised with dogs (whether it’s your own dog or a that of a friend).

    4. (In the case of your own dog) You have properly socialised your dog.

    5. (In the case of your own dog) You have done basic obedience training with your dog.

    There are so many myths about canine behaviour, it was one of the reasons I became an author and instructor, and why I spent the last decade, or so, of my thirty years training dogs, devoted to aggressive dogs.

    In all that time, I’ve never been bitten by a dog. (I’ve been bitten by many other animals, including cats and horses, but never a dog.) …And I worked almost exclusively with the most dangerous and difficult dogs imaginable, for many years. By the same token, not one of my own dogs behaved aggressively in any way (once I rehabilitated them).

    A well-behaved, reliable dog is developed by the owner, through reasonable rearing methods; proper training techniques; adequate, daily socialisation and daily exercise; and supervision. It’s not difficult or costly, but it does require commitment.

    There are, absolutely, aggressive dogs out there. It’s a pipe dream for me to wish all of them could find their ways to trainers like me, who can correct the bad behaviour their previous owners allowed or encouraged. But I will agree there is no place in civilised society for aggressive dogs. If someone feels unsafe, he/she should purchase a security system or take self-defence classes. Dogs are not weapons and shouldn’t be turned into them. It is an old, outdated, unscientific view that aggressive behaviours in dogs are somehow innate. They aren’t. Like us, dogs have to learn that their teeth can cause pain, or that the threat of using their teeth to cause pain can successfully manipulate others. Dogs are not born knowing this. When owners ignore growing signs of discomfort in their dogs, they lose the opportunity to step-in and do some needed training. So many owners are either oblivious or misguided. Let’s face it, many people acquire dogs in the hopes they will behave aggressively (wishfully hoping their aggressive dogs will differentiate between the paper boy and a burglar).

    There’s an old saying, “Hate people who keep dogs (for protection). They’re cowards who are too afraid to bite people themselves.” I couldn’t agree more.

    But much of what we see, in terms of serious dog attacks, are not actually dogs that were openly acquired and trained to behave aggressively. Rather, most of those biting dogs are just poorly-raised, indulged, and generally confused animals, who’ve never been taught how to behave appropriately.

    I know this is already way too long, but I must point out that in all my years working with aggressive dogs, I never needed to spend longer than six weeks working with any one dog. I make it a point to tell owners that if their attempts to correct aggressive behaviour are taking months, with little or no progress, it’s not working, and likely never will. They must do something different or consider killing the dog. While it is never the dog’s fault that it is inappropriately aggressive, there is no place for aggressive dogs in human society. No amount of “management” can protect innocent lives from an aggressive dog. Indeed, it is those few lapses in management or supervision that lead to biting incidents. Many dog owners know their animals are dangerous, and believe if they can just “manage” the dog all the time, there won’t be any problems. But no one can plan for all situations. Aggressive dogs will find their victims, some day. This is why it is so important to raise, train, socialise, and supervise dogs properly. If a dog doesn’t view people as threatening, it won’t feel a need to respond in kind. And that’s all down to responsible ownership.

    There’s another old, dog training saying I like, “You get the dog you deserve.” When I see someone being pulled by his/her dog, or unable to control his/her dog verbally (much less at all); an aggressive dog; or an unruly dog, I know the owner is a failure. He/she might be a very nice person. He/she might be wealthy, well-educated, attractive, well-meaning, and so on. But as a dog owner…a failure. If the owner doesn’t improve, the dog will remain the same or even get worse. Dogs don’t train themselves in the ways of human society.

    So, it will come to pass that yet another child will be mauled by a dog that was never given the benefit of a responsible owner. And there will be those who will focus on their energy on blaming the hapless dog, rather than the owner and/or the parent, who is meant to protect children from precisely this kind of danger.
    Most of the time, the biting dog’s owner is also the parent or relative of the victim. The dog will always be blamed for human failures.

    These kinds of cases involve less than one-tenth of one percent of all dogs. These cases involve less than one-tenth of one percent of all members of any specific breed or type of dog. In short, over ninety-nine point nine percent of all dogs, from all breeds, will never be inolved in an unprovoked “attack.”

    All cannot be blamed for the actions of a few. And, in the end, no dog should be blamed for its owners’ failures. After all, humans are supposed to be the more intelligent species. Only once we hold the real culprits responsible, will things change. Only once dog OWNERS face real penalties for harbouring dangerous animals will people stop doing so.

  2. “RARITY of dog bites that are serious”? Uh, nice try: FALSE.
    Do your homework.
    Though dog advocates would dispute it,according to the Centers for Disease Control, way back in the spring of 1999 (and these figures have since escalated!) dogs bite 4 million to 5 million Americans every year. Few attacks are fatal (25 in 1996), but serious injuries—everything from a gash in the arm requiring a few stitches to severed hands and fractured skulls—continue to rise and now stand at more than 750,000 annually, up nearly 40 percent from 1986. Dog bites are one of the top causes of non-fatal injuries in the nation.

    Children are the most frequent victims, accounting for 60 percent of the dog bites and 20 of the 25 dog-bite fatalities in 1996. Dog attacks are now the No. 1 reason that children wind up in hospital emergency rooms. Incredibly, nearly half of all American kids have been bitten by the age of 12. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that more than $100 million gets spent yearly treating dog bites in the nation’s emergency rooms, and U.S. insurance companies paid out $250 million in dog-bite liability claims in 1996.

    Pit bulls and pit-bull crosses (not always easy to distinguish) have caused more than a third of the nation’s dog-bite fatalities since 1979 and a comparable proportion of serious injuries. The rising number of attacks, and the unease pit bulls and other dangerous dogs cause in public spaces, have spurred many municipalities to crack down with legislation ranging from muzzle laws to bans on pit bulls and certain other breeds.

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