Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mauling in Texas

Stories like these make me claw at the walls. I want to turn back time and find a way to get to this home and talk to the people that live there before before before the tragedy. Dogs should not be chained sentries. Sorry, responsible chaining people. We know you're out there, but godhelpus, chained dogs in impoverished neighborhoods are so often unstable and children living near them are so often not safe. We know that, but still everyone acts surprised when a chained dog gets loose and a child is hurt or worse.

Remember, Karen taught us well: Function of dog. Function of dog.

For every dedicated dog person scrambling to stop BSL, we need three more out in the neighborhoods, where children live, where dogs are chained and employed as guard dogs - where the next headline is pacing in dusty circles and slowly going insane. Educate, educate, educate.

Vaya con Dios, ángelito.

30 comments:

Dee said...

This is so frustrating. I currently have a neighbor who has a "junkyard" rotweiller and a fence with a huge gap in it. People have complained, and complained, and complained, and nothing has been done yet. This week the dog got out and I tried to get it back in its yard. It is obvious this dog had no social interaction with humans, was afraid, and this made it very dangerous. My only choice was to use its fear of children to encourage it into its yard (keeping a LARGE DISTANCE) and then using treats to distract it while trying to mend the fence.


I would not have placed myself in this situation usually, but there were kids playing in the neighborhood and I did't want them messing with the dogs. The neighbors intentionally pretend not to be home. The pity is that if this dog ever hurts someone it will be the dog and his breed that is blamed, not the owners. And on top of that animal control and the police just don't care. Gah!

Donna said...

Oh no. Dee, can you escalate this situation to the City Council? Get some video footage and come supplied with your paper trail of previous (ignored) complaints to AC? I wouldn't just squeak the wheel in this situation, I'd do loud squawking donuts in front of City Hall until somebody woke up.

Anonymous said...

For anyone out there who's interested in trying to pass a local chaining ordinance, The HSUS has a free kit that you can download online to explain the entire process. It has a primer on local government, how to write an ordinance, sample laws from around the country, and other good stuff. Go to humanesociety.org/chaining and click on the green link that says "download a free guide to help chained dogs in your community."

Dee said...

Yeah I think I am going to take some serious action this week. I know the difference between a dog that is scared yet social, and one that is scared and will bite out of fear. This is the first time in a long time that I felt scared trying to help a loose dog. And that is saying alot. I will call the city this week to find out what I can do about this. The simple solution is to mend the fence and keep objects away from it so he cannot climb over it. But the owners seem stubborn and defensive. As a dog owner this behavior makes me so angry because it gives all dog owners a bad image.

Donna said...

We love our anti-chaining ordinance in Oakland for busting really negligent dog owners - but, laws will never be as effective as community outreach efforts to help homes that don't have a safe alternative to chaining. Just having a law is not enough. In fact, you don't really NEED a law if the community cares enough to get out on the streets and bring new ideas to dog owners.

In the end, chained dogs aka cheap burglar alarms are symptoms of poverty and blight. Wouldn't we love to be able to download a 'How To Kit' for THAT?

Brent said...

Speaking of poverty -- you didn't mention it but I thought I'd post it here for your folks. The county in which this fatality took place has an individual income of less that $10,000 -- making it the 22nd poorest county in the entire US.

Rachel said...

I think I remember (not very clearly) somewhere else passing a chaining ban and it got over turned because of something like unnecessary laws, like the police can't tell you how to house your dog as long as it's not neglected. so I'm glad to hear there are some towns and cities that are able to pass it and up hold it. at least that's good news. The article made me want to cry, for the boy, the dog, the breed, and the wonderful people that work so hard everyday to improve the image only to get hit by this.
don't let it get you down! The last line in the article was by far the worst ...

Donna said...

Below 10K. Another example of how poverty kills.

Thank you Brent.

Isaac Orloff Illustration said...

what people dont realise is that pit bulls and dogs in general are exactly like people in that, if you keep someone locked up with no social interaction their entire lives, what do you get. serial killers and mentally unstable peope who cannot interact with society. what makes people think that they can treat a dog the same way and expect it to still love humans. if the average income of that town was below 10k, im sure that dog had never seen a toy or a full bag of dog food in its life, let alone a nice cushiony pillow. ignorance kills

Anonymous said...

What is so frustrating about chaining is that a dog cannot protect you when it is chained up. Pets belong in the home with their families. A chained dog can be more dangerous than some burglars. More importantly, it is absolutely heartbreaking. To take a social animal and isolate him is one of the cruelest things humans can do. I know everyone reading this knows all this already but it just feels good to get it out. It is so frustrating. I have a large magnet on my car that reads "Dogs deserve better, don't chain them". My relatives, suprisingly not my young children, laugh at me because it is quite 'loud' but I keep hoping somebody will read it and have an 'aha' moment.
Okay, enough ranting.
I love your website and am always very inspired by the work you do.

Jen
Dearborn MI

Donna said...

I think it depends, Isaac. Some dogs can rise above isolation...look at our Vick dogs for example. I wouldn't equate poverty with lack of care, either.......Michael Vick had all the money in the world, while some of the poorest people we've known will skip meals in order to provide for their pets...

...But crime is so common in poor neighborhoods and dogs have served as poor mans' gate keeper for centuries. It's horrible to think, but that probably won't change for many communities.

I agree with you that ignorance can contribute greatly. Some people are completely unaware if their dogs have substandard temperaments and many think it's perfectly normal for pit bulls to be "mean" -- that's what they hear in the media, right? One of the unhappier services we perform at Shots Fairs is informing families that have troubled dogs that their pet may not be safe with children. That comes as a surprise to many, and it takes some delicate conversations to help people recognize their liability.

I'm speculating like crazy here when it comes to the Texas case of course. Outside of reports of a chained dog, we don't have any insider information, although I hope we all learn more so Texas can take some lessons from this and not go the usual blame the breed route.

Ted said...

"What is so frustrating about chaining is that a dog cannot protect you when it is chained up. Pets belong in the home with their families."

What we have here is a culture clash and it needs to be acknowledged. Just as certain cultures value dogs as companions other cultures value other aspects of dogs and do not treat them as part of the family. As Donna stated, "...poverty kills," and until education (which is usually lacking in impoverished areas) can be spread far and wide, we are going to keep seeing situations like these again and again. We have to honestly look at how we, the pit bull defenders, are going to spread the family pit bull ideal without appearing elitist or politicaly incorrect. If the laws allow dogs to be chained up, how can we argue with someone's want to "protect their home," without stepping on some un-PC toes? Those of us who live in working class, middle class and upper class areas might not see the reasoning behind having a dog chained up in your yard the same way someone living in an impoverished area might. I'm not saying its ethical to chain a dog up or even a viable form of home defense, but it IS legal in some areas. Obviously, the laws need to be changed, but we've all seen what a long process that is. Educate, Educate, Educate is correct, but doing that and not alienating portions of the populus is the hard part.

Donna said...

Thank you Ted. Good points.

How about: "Educate for the sake of the community's children" Losing your television for the tenth time is a good reason to want to protect your home, but losing a child changes everything.

Like I said in my last post, some people really have no idea that their chained dog could cause that kind of problem, especially when the dog was a friendly pup when it was first chained out.

Most people are open to information tho' when it's given in the spirit of "I care about what happens to you and your family."

People first - for real.

Ted said...

So then... where do we go from here? Do we go door to door? Do we send out mass mailings? Do we have enough people in enough states to hold meetings regarding chained up dogs? And how do we spread information without further stigmatizing the breed? I can see the newscast, inflammatory voice and shady music, "A pit bull rescue group sends out pamphlets on how to keep YOUR dog from becoming a killer. an admission of danger?... or an act of treason against the president of the united states? ...next on nancy grace.

Ridiculous as it sounds (and i am indeed being ridiculous... hopefuly), its not that off base in light of some newscasts i see. How do we spread the information to the greater population?

Donna said...

Well, it's not a pit bull thing --- Dogs used for guarding purposes come in all breeds. Labradors, huskies ...

http://www.unchainyourdog.org/NewsAttacks.htm

I like this website. It has good suggestions. And, community outreach in the form of Shots Fairs, bite prevention programs in schools ... all good stuff.

Ted said...

All GREAT stuff for sure. Like you said, this is just one of those stories that gets to you, mostly because its completely preventable nature. Very sad.

Isaac Orloff Illustration said...

donna i totally agree, dogs and people both have the ability to overcome personality disorders stemming from neglect and abuse. the strong willed can accomplish anything, unfortunately some are never shown the love and affection needed to enable a full recovery. These situations result in the abused escalating until something terrible such as this attack occurs. And i think all sides pay the price. I live in baltimore, a city full of poverty and crime. It is also filled with unkempt, mal nourished dogs of all breeds which are kept in terrible living conditions, to defend against crime. I see it on a daily basis, and as much of a dog lover as i am, you will not find me walking through alley ways. I have saved my fair share of dogs in this city, but there are some even i will not risk. I always try to encourage people to interact with my pit and pit mix when i walk them, but to excercise caution and respect with all dogs. Its really sad that people and animals have to endure so much in ghettos all over the world.

Kirsten said...

So frustrating to see the same old slant on another tragic but familiar tale. The comments section of the article says it all, with people saying pit bulls should be gassed, etc. I had to stop reading, and wasn't game to leave a comment, in a 'pro pitbull=pro tot killing' environment. I wish the media would report on these stories properly, so that people could have a better shot at perceiving them properly. Unsupervised, poorly socialized, neglected dogs have a potential to be dangerous, full stop. It is up to the owners to provide the right environment. Dogs are not that unpredicable!

Anonymous said...

Hi Donna,

As hard as it was for me to read the comments for that tragic story (and Brent, yours were fantastic), someone did post this link to a study over in Austria. I had never seen it, it has some very interesting data. Some of their reasonings are a little off, but then again, maybe not. Have you seen this?

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/117/3/e374

Becky

Anonymous said...

I love the www.unchainyourdog.com site. I have printed up some things from that site to leave at some homes anonymously. Wimpy, I admit. Obviously, in the Detroit area there are many chained dogs but also some very well -loved dogs where you would least expect it which leads me to believe that keeping your dog in your home isn't necessarily a class issue. Just one of conscience. Actually, one of the worst cases of dog abuse I've ever seen was in my middle class neighborhood and the dog in question was a New Foundland.

Jen
Dearborn MI

Donna said...

Brent is doing a fantastic job on the message boards. Thank you Brent.

I hope more people contact media and message boards as they have time to point out the Function of Dog analysis published on the National Canine Research Council website as well as the unchainyourdog site. This kind of information needs to get in front of a few smart reporters willing to educate rather than sensationalize. It does look like the news was asking "Why?" -- which is encouraging. Too many will let the breed type be the final answer if they aren't plugged to provide better information.

Anonymous said...

I met a young, chained pitbull in detroit today. He was starving for attention and on a chain in a fenced yard (?????) with a small wooden doghouse. The MHS is going to speak to the owners as soon as they can get someone out there. I petted the pup for some time and didn't want to leave him. There is alley access to the yard and I was able to give him some water. I am heartbroken and am considering sneaking him some bones toys later.

Anonymous said...

What a horrific,sad story.
Donna, you are so right, we need to Educate, Educate,Educate. When we do educate, please remember to take into consideration people's different cultural and soci-economic backgrounds.
My heart goes out to this family for the loss of this child. Also,my heart aches for all the unwanted,chained bullies,that never know the kindness or love of human kind.-----------------W

Isaac Orloff Illustration said...

the scary thing about stories like this is that it really shows you how the majority of man kind thinks, at least in the united states. The ignorance is embarrassing and painful, and one would be a fool to think it stops at canine related issues. People respond with the same ignorance to matters of racism, terrorism, and plenty of other issues at hand.

smason39 said...

Stories like this are heartbreaking and remind me of why it is so important to educate, educate, educate! I saw this clip on Ellen today and thought I should share it to remind us of all the well loved pitties who take such good care of their (human) babies.

Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdaWZ4mamHg

Anonymous said...

This is horrible news of course.

But while there is an incredibly strong correlation between chaining and dog bites (dogs that bite are often chained) there is actually NO evidence that chaining CAUSES dogs to bite. Dogs on chains bite because 1) mean dogs are put on chains or 2) dogs on chains cannot escape harassment from people, for example and are trapped/have no recourse but to bite.

Living a life on a chain is not a great life, but the hysterical calls to ban chaining does NOT solve the problem of 1) bad biting dogs and 2) owners who don't care for their dogs.

Really, if the debacles of MSN and BSL prove anything, it's that more laws don't solve problems.

spotted dog farm said...

i love y'all, but i just don't agree that the chain is any sort of decisive factor in this. i don't agree that living on chains make dogs more aggressive. i don't agree that dogs in impoverished areas are more unstable or more dangerous to children. i don't agree that resident dogs are more unsafe than family pets.

i do understand that lack of stimulation and socialization will make a dog go nuts, but i just don't think that should be equated with chaining or with poverty. that's another stereotype that needs to be examined rather than perpetuated.

as much as i appreciate NCRC, i think their "data" is weak on this issue - and everything else out there is propaganda. there aren't any studies that are well-done, and we all know how much statistics lie. there's not been enough work done on this issue to base widespread efforts at education or legislation. i also wonder how many of us with strong opinions on this (and making our laws) have really hung out with chained dogs, or in impoverished areas. i have - a lot.

i know this is a very tough issue and we could argue about it all the day long. but one big question is: how do all these "facts" square with the most general stability of temperament in working dog breeds? and with the bulk of human/canine history, with most dogs serving functions that had very little to do with companionship?

the whole idea that dogs MUST be part of a human family to be happy and stable is a late 20th century construction. and unfortunately, as nice as it is, it's an anti-breeder, anti-rural, elitist assumption.

Donna said...

>one big question is: how do all these "facts" square >with the most general stability of temperament in >working dog breeds?

spotted dog farm, I think you and I both love our old world pit bulls and neither would hesitate to walk up and scratch a "real pit bull" behind the ears - chained or not. I would not be so brave with other kinds of chained dogs, specifically those kept for protection.

I hear you on not wanting to stigmatize people who do a good job keeping their chained dogs reasonably happy and safe from wandering children, but the issue outlined with this story is how to keep children safe from dogs that are not.

ideas? solutions?

spotted dog farm said...

i'm very much on board with supervising children and socializing dogs.

it's so tempting to grasp onto something to blame that will make us all feel better in the face of tragedy, and we definitely want to educate folks that it isn't about the breed. it isn't about the chain either.

how about we blame it on this effed up economy and our lame politicians? a society where some people need (really need!) dogs for protection. and where taking care of a dog is getting as expensive as a child - and it's a lot easier to take away someone's dogs. where people have to work so hard to eat that who has time to watch their kids or make sure dogs have play dates? that doesn't mean they don't try or don't care (or that they shouldn't have them). we should be as ashamed of our government in the face of this tragedy as with katrina.

Donna said...

I don't see where we disagree, sdf.

Responsible chaining; Fine. Irresponsible chaining ... as in ... dog maintained for protection purposes and no safety measures put in place for wandering children -- Not fine.

You're right -- Poverty does force many into creating these kinds of situations, but so does lack of education. Had that family known the risks, I highly doubt they would've allowed this situation. Most are blaming it on the breed though ..and/or an 'unfortunate accident.' The end-of-the-day lesson should not be that "it's okay to stake a dog out for protection as long as it's not a pit bull."

I tether too, by the way. In fact, I need to get outside and clip my moaning foster dog up right now!