This isn't a happy blog post to write, but two recent incidents in our home towns demand attention.
Troubled dogs are in headlines after loose dogs attacked women in two separate incidents this month - in Marin County and just recently, in San Jose. Luckily, both incidents attracted good samaritans who intervened to stop the attacks, and each victim is home now and healing from their injuries.
The San Jose incident is still hot news (82 news stories and counting, including a nationally distributed piece in the AP), as one of the dogs is still missing. The captured dog appeared to be a very nervous and altogether unsocialized pit bull type dog in a KTVU television report. The body language of this animal helps piece together the 'whys' of frightening stories like this and moves us beyond the formula media hype and hand wringing over breed type.
Pack Aggression - where two or more dogs gang up and attack a victim - is not a breed specific behavior. While the National Canine Research Council reminds us that dog bites are on a steady decline in this country, dog attacks involving unsocialized packs of dogs still factor into many of the recorded incidents each year and they can include any breed type of dog. Even small dogs weighing less than 27 pounds have participated in packing together and harming people, according to a 1983 study "Attacks by Packs of Dogs Involving Predation On Human Beings," by Borchelt et al., published in the journal "Public Health Reports." It's not happy reading, but worth the understanding.
According to the Borchelt study, "The past history of the social interactions of dogs with people in a variety of circumstances is probably an adequate predictor of whether these dogs are inclined to bite someone." In other words, if dogs aren't socialized to people properly (ie, they're kept as resident dogs in garages or yards instead of as family pets) they're more inclined to revert to unruly and sometimes dangerous pack behavior when the situation presents itself.
After a horrible fatal attack involving a pack of dogs in GA last year, Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University and an expert in pack behavior, explained that when pack mentality takes over "they do insane things that they would not do" under normal circumstances. This news link shows two of the dogs involved in the GA incident. CNN
Meanwhile, the second bay area dog attack victim is safe and healing in Marin County after a good samaritan came to her aid. She and her dog both needed emergency care after two loose dogs tore up her jack russell terrier and bit up her face, arm and legs. The Novato Patch said that an "employee with the North Marin Water District is to thank for preventing worse injury or even death to the woman and dog."
The loose dogs in her situation were rounded up by authorities and are being held at the Marin Humane Society. You won't hear much about that incident outside of this singular news report, however. Why? The attacking dogs were identified as "chocolate labrador retrievers" so apparently didn't interest our local news cameras. And so it goes.
Hang tight all, as San Jose jaws at the topic of breed specific regulations again. They won't help reckless dog owners learn how to be more responsible, but they make for exciting headlines.