Friday, June 21, 2013

lessons from a dog bite

A tragic, dog related death in Union City, CA on Monday June 17 pushed every body's buttons this week and sent news outlets rushing to file fast-deadline headlines from an alert that was distributed by the local PD. Media inquiries poured in to our corners, as reporters tapped their cell phones looking for someone who would talk for or against pit bulls, "We want to hear your side of the story," they asked - as if we could divide a young boy's death into sides. Most of our readers already know that the press is keen on inventing divisiveness and playing spokes people like pawns to sell a controversy, but it's especially troubling to watch it play out so close to home.

We initially assumed that the 'Whys' behind the dog bite were so clear that no one would possibly miss them, and the public conversation would soon shift to bite prevention must-knows. We were discouraged though when this SF Gate article came out, suggesting that "both sides" believed dog bite prevention practices were altogether a useless endeavor. Did they really publish that?

What happened? No adults were nearby to see the bite, but family told police that young Nephi Selu and seven or so cousins were rough housing in the yard with a relative's dog named 'Gava' when Nephi climbed on his back to ride him "like a little horse." Except dogs aren't little horses and most are not remotely comfortable with this level of intrusion. Any stress signals from the dog were likely unnoticed because Nephi was just a child at six years old and had mild autism, a condition that inhibits a person's ability to interpret gestures, cues and facial expressions. During the rough housing, the dog lashed out at the boy with what is reported to be a "single bite" to the top of his head. (Source)

According to Union City police Commander Ben Horner, Nephi's guardians pulled the dog away without issue and decided he might need "a couple of stitches." A very bad day for all, and another statistic for the yearly tally of dog bites in this country. An estimated 4.5 million people report dog bites each year. (Source) In most cases, bites are very painful but not life threatening and leave scars, as well as lasting lessons for the recipients.

The dog's owner then left for work, expecting his nephew to get patched up and sent home from a local hospital. A few hours later the boy was dead. While autopsy results will ultimately shed light on how a single bite injury played out to be fatal, SF bay area neurologist Dr. Aimee Chagnon, MD, explains how a well placed bite on a child's head can cause such damage.

The pattern of the child's injury is highly suggestive of an intracranial hematoma (epidural or subdural).  The fact the adult present, a trained police officer, felt there was no serious injury present and went to work after the bite, adds to the evidence that there was little external evidence of trauma.  In addition, loss of life from external blood loss would not have followed the time course of this particular event as head injuries are notoriously heavy bleeders and so would have been obvious. It is well recognized that epidural hematomas are often fatal because they don't seem bad but the blood accumulates under arterial pressure, so often by the time they get to the hospital the damage is done. It doesn't take much, especially for a child ... It doesn't have to be a forceful bite, sometimes it's just really easy to tear bridging veins or, if there was a little skull fracture the middle meningeal artery can be lacerated, causing the epidural hematoma. It in no way necessarily equates with a vicious dog, it can happen with relatively mild injuries that just affect the wrong place, resulting in death. - Dr. Aimee C. Chagnon, MD

Good Dogs vs. Bad Dogs? 

Commander Ben Horner stated,"It's a mystery as to why the dog chose yesterday to bite the young man."  Not much of a mystery though to people who work with dogs on a regular basis. In an effort to prevent dog bites, the Internet is filled with materials created by dog experts aimed at helping families recognize canine body language and understand proper behavior with dogs. Nobody was on the scene at the time of Nephi's bite to recognize the signs of discomfort that escalated, but many were surprised when the dog they all trusted acted out. It's important to note that even "friendly dogs" can resort to using their teeth if pushed beyond their threshold. From the American Veterinary Medical Association:

Even the cuddliest, fuzziest, sweetest pet can bite if provoked. Dogs bite as a reaction to something. If the dog finds itself in a stressful situation, it may bite to defend itself or its territory. Dogs can bite because they are scared or have been startled. They can bite because they feel threatened. They can bite to protect something that is valuable to them, like their puppies, their food or a toy. Dogs might bite because they aren’t feeling well. They could be sick or sore due to injury or illness and might want to be left alone. - AVMA

Dogs Warn. And Yes, Pit Bulls are Still Dogs. 

Gava the dog was identified as a pit bull, news that inspired rubber necking and the usual fear based speculation on news sites around the net. Opinion from dog experts was absent from most reports, filled instead with sweeping generalizations including an incredulous comment from Benjamin Hart, Professor of Veterinary Anatomy, Physiology, and Cell Biology at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Hart shamefully announced to SF Gate readers that we could blame all the trouble on Kava's breed. He stated, "It's quite common for a pit bull to show no signs of aggression. "People will call it a nice dog, a sweet dog, even the neighbors - and then all of a sudden something triggers the dog." Dog safety seemed to take three steps back with this quote, provided by a UC Davis emeritus professor no less. We can only hope that this news article fades into oblivion as social media and credible experts work to daylight life saving dog bite prevention information that was buried with Professor Hart's comments.

Perhaps Professor Hart missed the third issue of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior back in 2008. That issue documented the research of the Institute of Animal Welfare and Behavior of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover, Germany. Four authors scrutinized over 1000 individual dogs of various breeds during their research to learn if different breeds signaled their warnings differently before triggering into aggression. They concluded that "all dogs, including dogs commonly labeled 'pit bull,' signal their intent." Myth de-bunked. Study link. 

Make no mistake: Whether or not warning signs are recognized, all healthy, normal dogs signal as a way of communicating escalating stress. Canine body language. Warning signs. Dog safely. It's not rocket science, but as of this week, it has become even more important that our communities and our media acknowledge that we have the power to prevent dog bites, and all without throwing breeds under the bus.

Our sincere condolences to Nephi Safu's friends and family. Despite media reports, we are all on your side.

Resources for dog safety information:

An uncomfortable but revealing look at warning signs that say, "Please leave me alone." Video.
Bite prevention info from the AVMA.
The Family Paws Parent Education programs.
Graphics for children on how to avoid trouble with dogs. Credit: Dr. Sophia Yin. Link
BADRAP's page on dogs and kids. Link.
The Safe Kids / Safe Dogs Project
National Canine Research Council - for science on dog bites.

47 comments:

Debra@Peaceabull said...

My heart goes out to this little boy's family.
Just this week I finally posted about a warning our dog gave to my granddaughter. My daughter was there and when she called me she was shocked (at first) when I said I was glad he growled/snarled (whatever the sound... he made his wishes known).

As a volunteer, I handle many, many diverse dogs, but always remain vigilant when people of any size are nearby. You never know when a dog (or human) has reached their limit until they tell you or show signs, so lets all keep our eyes open.

Anonymous said...

I watched the link with the baby and the rottie. I stopped breathing seconds into it. That poor dog was a saint, he was trying so hard to be good. One mistake and he's dead and of course he wasn't the one making the mistake in the first place. Absolutely heartbreaking.

BoingyDog said...

It's a tragedy for the family but also a tragedy for society that the media continuously pushes misinformation. It's difficult to be out and see people's fear as large dogs walk by, especially pit bulls. Recently while speaking with a friend whose daughter is bringing her pit bull to live with her while her daughter is at college, she said "I just found out that my daughter's dog will probably kill my dog." I knew the answer to my question before I asked but wanted the opportunity to educate her so I asked why. "Because my daughter's dog is a pit bull and my dog is a terrier." I did my very best to educate her and will keep trying. We'll keep at it and look forward to making great progress together to eradicate ignorance about dogs, especially pit bulls.

Dianne said...

Most of the press didn't pay attention to the fact that the family admitted the dog "was not allowed in the house." That means he meets the classification as a "resident dog" and not a "family dog" which clearly figures into dog bites. Thanks for an excellent write up, as we have come to expect from you.

Donna said...

Thanks all. Dianne, I'm not comfortable indicating that living in a backyard makes a dog dangerous. Especially since most of the dogs that come into our program have never been in a house. Gava wasn't on a chain and seemed well loved and very familiar with kids. The police called this a 'tragic accident' and we tend to agree.

Joan said...

Thanks for trying to educate. If you put it out there, hopefully some people will read and listen.

Liz Senteney said...

In one report by NBC News, it was said that the child did not go to the hospital for 2 1/2 HOURS AFTER the bite. This could absolutely have played a role in the death of the child, and not necessarily the bite itself. Blood clot, perhaps? Internal bleeding?

The bottom line is, this was not an unprovoked "attack" or "bite." ANY dog of any breed, will likely give off a warning bite when climbed on. This was a "well placed" bite. But again, may not have been fatal.

To add, the dog was NOT a family dog. I'm not saying outdoor dogs are dangerous, but with all due respect, they did not fully know the temperament of the dog if it was outside all the time, and not a part of the family.

I can't help but think the adults in the household played a role in the death of the child. Not just due to lack of supervision, but because the child wasn't taken to the hospital until 2pm. (When the bite was reported at 11:30am)

kathi r said...

I have a Pitt that I trust completely. however that does not mean he or any of my dogs would be allowed to play with a group or even one child with out supervision. my Pitt is my. 4 year old granddaughters best friend however they are supervised. together a lot in and out of the house. along with rules. she knows not to climb on him etc. my Pitt has been bitten several times now by little dogs while we r out walking on a leash each time he looks at my as if to say what did I do? hes he is a fantastic well loved part of the family but still a dog and trained as so. please people train instruct and supervise your pets don't put them in the possition where they are going to bite. or have to resort to hurting someone to feel safe. love them enjoy them and give them respect and some space

Anonymous said...

As is usual in these tragedies, adult humans bear a lot of responsibility for what unfolded. We humans demand such patience and tolerance from our dogs when it comes to children; rarely is the reverse asked.

It's one reason I'm extremely vigilant about my dog around children, especially. As much as he loves them, I know it's my job to keep him safe. Most children know very little about what's appropriate behavior around dogs - and many parents never teach them.

Then when trouble strikes, the dog pays with its life - no matter how many warning signs it gave and how long it tolerated inappropriate behavior. It is imperative that people keep raising awareness about safe interactions between children and dogs. Thank you BAD RAP for this blog post.

katferreira said...

Did anyone notice how differently SFGate reported a similar but non-fatal dog bite of a 5 yr old's face that occurred in Pleasanton just 2 weeks ago? Even though it was the 2nd time the dog bit the child's head dangerously enough to require medical attention - and the dog was officially ruled "vicious" - clear blame was placed on the dog owners - not the dog's Presa Canario breed.

SFGate should to be ashamed of such irresponsible and skewed journalism. Alameda County officials should also explain the vastly different outcomes for the 2 dogs and their owners.

See the SFGate article about Pleasanton dog case here:
http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/2-charged-after-dog-bites-boy-twice-4588250.php

Tami S. said...

I SO wish all parents were as wise as mine. Whoever got too rough -dog or child - was the one who was scolded. If she had had enough of our playing, she sought out my mother as if to say, "Do something about them, Mom." Parents, you don't want them to feel that they must ever defend themselves, because all they have at their disposal is teeth. For all the sweetness and love they give us, do that for them and for the safety of your kids.

Anonymous said...

I think you guys are full of crap. I doubt you will post this comment. But the kid died because of the amount of pressure in the bite - something that's unique to pit bulls. When something goes wrong with another dog - like the case in Pleasanton - it's much less likely to be fatal. Deluding yourselves that these animals are not inherently more dangerous than other dogs does not facilitate increased safety.

Anonymous said...

Great article, but I'm even more impressed with he civility in the comments.

Donna said...

Agreed Anon 2:22.

Anon 2:20. It's fairly obvious (and well documented) that the size of the victim plays into the amount of damage done during dog bites, which is why even small dogs and, in some cases, puppies have been involved in fatal attacks on infants. But with bites to the head, as the Dr. Chagnon points out, the placement of a bite and the amount of time between the impact and the start of medical treatment are critical factors in recovery and survival. I'm not as familiar with the case in Pleasanton, but I believe the child recv'd bites to the face rather than the top of the skull. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the parents were arrested and face charges of child neglect and endangerment because they ignored bite prevention standards and allowed it to happen twice.

Becky said...

Very well written, and such a tragedy all the way around. I was working in SF the morning this story came out and the initial headlines on the talking head news was "boy mauled to death by family dog" - and it just kills me that the sensationalism to feed the "if it bleeds it leads" mentality of the news continues to lead to such poor reporting. I actually think that dog was probably a pretty decent dog, he'd been playing with the kids many times, but most dogs arent' going to tolerate being ridden like a horse, especially if the rough housing had been going on unsupervised for some time. Once the warning signs are ignored, all dogs have is their teeth to correct. Just so sad and I am sure the family is already beating themselves up more than anyone will ever know. But good blog post, maybe if enough see this it can prevent some future accident.

Beth said...

Excellent article!I don't discriminate against breeds a pit bull is a breed of dog but the media has a hatred toward them sadly. If it was a lab or a golden they would've been less likely to have the media firestorm.

My husband and I own a rescued black lab and she is sweet kind and of course cuddly. We know heer stress signals, and to watch her bad hip because it sometimes gets sore, and we know when she wants to be left alone. However have kids in our neighborhood that just love to hug on her and push her buttons. She loves kids but they don't know how to act around her. More than once I have told them to leave her alone and escorted her back inside the house. So she is always on a leash and always well watched to prevent any dog bites or vicious attacks. I will not risk my dogs life, or a kids life because of my own failure to watch and know my dogs cues.

Summer Ottoline said...

Heart breaking. People need to supervise their pets and know their animal well enough to know when they've had enough. No dogs' warning signs are exactly the same but if you know your pet you still know them. Even my cat lets my kids know when he's had enough and unlike most cats he doesn't hiss or twitch his tail. He does a very high pitch meow as a warning first. I have taught my kids what this means and they know to let him go. It's not just dogs, this is all animals and people need to keep that in mind. they have no way of verbally communicating with us so they communicate the only way they know how. Honestly, I've had more issues with my 7 lb Yorkie and snapping in aggravation or discomfort, than I have with any of the 4 APBT I've owned. It's not about the dog, it's about being a responsible pet owner. And honestly, as awful as this incident is, it sounds more like a tragic accident, than necessarily anyone's fault.

Kerry Lokey said...

Thank you for stating the facts. We are, as dog owners, responsible for reading their energy. On of my girls recently injured her leg while in the care of a dog sitter. After the vet, my husband and I took both of our dogs to the park. It was filled with small children and their mom playing with the dogs. I kept my girls out of the park until I could read everyone's energy. I kept the injured dog out because I did not know what might trigger her discomfort and she was stressed. A little girl approached me and asked if she could pet my dog. I told her not today because she was hurt, but that I thought she was very grown up for to ask and I really appreciated it. She held up her arm which had a cast and said, she is broken just like me! I wanted to give her a huge hug for being so grown up and well educated by her parents. I do not leave my dogs unattended ever! I rarely take the two out at one time because combined they are about 150lbs which is more than my body weight.

Anonymous said...

Bite force in an American pit bull terrier comes in at 238 pounds of force, behind GSDs. behind Rottweilers, and not even half of a presa canarios(the dog from the other article). 238 is at its hardest. average bite force is around 150. Not much more than a human. if the bite pressure were to blame the press would not had to bite that child a 2nd time, because his force would have killed the child the first Time.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so my question was where were the grown ups? seven or so kids jumping and rough housing with the dog and they wonder why he defended himself? I don't care what the studies say. I own two "pitbulls". They are not a recognized breed, the name describes any type of bully dog. My dogs are in the house and are socialized into the family and I still would never leave them or any breed of dog alone with a child or an adult that they don't know very well. You never know what might trigger stress in any dog. I have owned several different breeds of dogs and I had more problems with a Dalmatian biting with no warning. She was so nervous she bit my granddaughter and was never allowed to be around the kids again.

Anonymous said...

All dogs give warning. I have a wonderful 5 year old French Bulldog/Boston Terrier mix. Both breeds were bred to be companions with no history of fighting. They are truly people dogs. She has never bitten or even growled at a person. Not once. But at a BBQ I took her to there were kids. She's fine with kids but I could tell she was tired and one little girl wouldn't leave her alone. I could tell my dog was getting annoyed but she was tolerating it. She never did snap or growl but I could visually see her limits being tested. Trying to get away, wanting to leave, standing behind me were all signs she had enough so I let the little girl know she needed rest.

On the flip side, my 8 year old English Bulldog, while very patient and gentle with children has a pretty short fuse, especially with me. I won't leave him unsupervised with adults let alone kids. But again, he gives clear warning. He's a growler. He sinks down, tenses up and gives you that look...you KNOW he's not kidding. And English Bulldogs are known to be stubborn but sweet and gentle. Mine is a handful.

It goes to show you it doesn't matter the breed, just like people, when they've had enough, they've had enough. If you know your dog at all, you can tell when they're over it.

Unknown said...

Adults need to monitor young children around pets. I can't think of one young child that I know, that would understand discomfort signals from any size animal. Growling and/or biting are natural defenses for Canine's.

Though the bite may not have appeared to be serious, the child needed to be seen by a Dr. ASAP!

Though unrelated to a dog bite. My 2 yr. old grandson was running and grazed the rounded edges of a granite desk. What appeared to be a minor childhood incident, turned into emergency brain surgery. A 5cm x 3cm blood clot had to be removed from his temple area....a silver dollar size piece of his skull needed to be removed. Thankfully my daughter is vigilant when it comes to her children's health. Had she not sought medical care immediately, Donovan would surely have died.

Bottom line here is supervise children with pets, quit continually blaming the animal, teach children from a very young age how to respect animals. Most importantly, whether a dog bite or bump on the head....seek medical attention immediately....this poor child shouldn't have died! Prompt medical attention would have saved him.

Anonymous said...

It's not about the breed about it's about responsible dog ownership!! The media doesn't report all the dog bites from labs or golden retrievers and it's not right! The mean dog on our street is a golden retriever that has attacked 2 members of my family and many other people! Responsible dog ownership is where the problem lies not the breed. Don't use your dogs as a baby sitter!

Donna said...

Anon 4:05

Bite force comparisons get kookie since each of the breeds that have been tested come in a wide range of weights and sizes. APBTs for example can run between 25-70lbs, so who's to say what a pit bull's so-called 'bite force' is?

Since we expect this topic will service again, it would help to reference your sources including links to studies when discussing. True science beats hearsay any day. :-)

Donna said...

One more item: Comments in the queue that include personal attacks are deleted pronto. There's an art to disagreeing with someone without resorting to insults, -- and it's an art worth pursuing.

KBC said...

Donna, I am always impressed with your thoughtful and controlled posts/responses. Goodness knows I have a hard time not taking personal offense when the media talks about all pit bulls, which includes my perfect gentleman, in such a negative and uninformed manner. Thank you for investigating this unfortunate event and presenting some sound information to the community regarding this.

renebesette said...

As much as I feel sorrow for the family, and I do for the loss of their son's life.

People need to realize a dog is not a toy. Children need to be supervised at all times and ultimately the dog ends up with death.

Again, I am very sorry for the death of an innocent child, but so very sad that this happened in the first place.

Anonymous said...

there are two other breeds of dogs who's bite is twice the amount as any bully breed that is a load of crap that the dogs bite pressure was the result of child's death...it was plain and simple parent neglect children playing out side with no supervision is stupid to begin with add any dog who us unfamiliar with kids is plain idiocy. ..then to not take child to hospital to make sure is insanity!!! shame on the parents for not teaching the children about rules and safety around dogs and shame on them for leaving a child with disability unattended.and as a mother with a child with a disability you never leave them unattended

Anonymous said...

Years ago my beloved Westie nearly tore my ear off because I leaned over him while he was asleep and startled him. I had to have 8 stitches to re-attach. Never would have believed it.

Anonymous said...

Amen! Someone WhoKnows About The "Pit Bull" Breed And It'sGeneralization Of All Bully Breeds. I've Had Many Breeds Before I Had My 2 "Pit Bulls"And My Border Collies Bit 2 TimeS When I Had Someone Dog Sitting Them Becaus They Didn't Know Her Triggers.

Anonymous said...

My deepest condolences to the family. I'm not going to put blame on either party in this sspecific case, but speak honestly about all situations. Any dog of any breed can be an amazing animal. It is all on how they are raised and the blood lines they come from. Despite the bite pressure or size of the dog or child, no animal that hasn't been properly socialized and trained should be left with people no matter what their age, and vice versa. I personally have 3 k9z who are a part of my family of 6 including 4children under 11. As I write this 2 are curled up beside me in my chair while the 3rd sleeps at my feet. People need to not only train their animals but their children, family and friends as well. My k9z are not allowed to be pet until they are in a sit stay and if a human attempts to pat before said dog is in position, I explain to them when it's ok. My children do not pet dogs either until the owner has been politely asked and given the ok to do so. The breeds need to stop being labelled but unfortunately until the blood lines can be purified there is no way to stop the cycle

Anonymous said...

My daughter has a little pit and she all so has a 18 month old son that climbs on her and does anything to her she is a great dog , She will lay beside his bed and not let any one in , she will growl if anyone comes in , when the baby cries she is the first one there ,I fill sorry for the family that lost there little boy , but people writing nasty things on here about pits , it's all about how you train them . Because this little pit has never been nasty to this little boy and will always be there to protect him

Anonymous said...

Animal have a fight of flight instinct, that poor dog was put in to an area that he tolerated very well until the child tried to ride him. a child is far to heavy to ride a dog, and he may have tried to warn the child, more than once with no luck. Now let me ask you to put your self in the dogs position you have a you have been rough housed with all day, pulled and poked at your now tired and hurting some you just want to be left a lone. Now one person who out weighs you climbs on your back, and wants to rodeo if ... your going to snap and do anything to get the indivual off your back and stop the pain you would snap also! so why do you expect a dog to stand by and endure the pain and suffering that can cause permeate damage to his back, the adult is at blame for not giving the dog a safe place for a time out not the dog, he was defending his self that is all you can not take away the natural instinct from animal and that includes man! But now the dog suffer and is destroyed!

Anonymous said...

My heart breaks for this family.I am in no way pointing fingers, however my feeling is dog's need love and attention and need to be treated as family members if you expect them to show love. A dog who for 2 years was never allowed in the home to interact with the family cannot be expected to love and be as tolerant as a dog who is part of the family. The yard was this dogs home and territory, we don't know the exact situation but i feel an adult should have been outside. And i think the dog would have been kinder and more tolerant if he was treated as a family member. I have had my pit for 12 years and he is a best friend to all children who visit our home.. He has been a family member with access to the yard,home,car and i think that makes a huge difference..

Karen Delise said...

Great post BAD RAP! One thing I would like to clarify:
When Dianne correctly pointed out this was probably a resident dog-- this does not imply a dog is dangerous. It simply means that dogs maintained outside of the family unit usually have less tools and clues as how to behave appropriately at times of stress.
An example, when my dogs start to rough house and it gets a little intense they will often look to me, or come to me for reassurance or to intervene on their behalf. Resident dogs do not have this guidance or benefit. This does not mean they are more dangerous, just that they are denied the necessary guidance/protection of their owner.

Donna said...

Thank you for that important clarification about resident dogs, Karen. You're so right in that a dog living without the benefit of adult guidance is less likely to succeed under duress. Additionally, the dogs's owner reported in a recent update that the dog was purchased for protection, which hits another point in your definition for resident dog.

Here is the hand-out that explains the definitions:

http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/uploaded_files/tinymce/Family_v_Resident[1].pdf

Anonymous said...

While this stories purpose is for education so this sad situation will not happen again and again, I am sadden when people jump onto their soap box . No one comes out ahead in this senerio. The death of a two legged or a four legged child is a tradgey all in it's own. People always want to put blame to something/someone. The people involved with this are going to endure heart break for the rest of their lives for both child and dog. Too easy for humans to judge when they don't know the entire story or haven't lived in that persons shoes. Let's keep this story so it will do the most good as far as educating people and not use as a soapbox for whichever position your trying to defend. It's hard to listen and learn when you're being attacked. Education is the key.

Donna said...

Anon 9:18

Thank you for your comment. Agreed that it's very important to stay sensitive when discussing tragic accidents in a public forum.

This one does evoke strong emotions because, days after the event, the media's chosen sources and presumably the family too have decided that the dog's breed is to blame. It may be a long while before it's understood that even dogs that have been friendly can be set up to fail very badly, regardless of breed. The family has chosen to go public with a statement which you can watch in this news video.

http://www.willitsnews.com/ci_23510096/union-city-mother-boy-fatally-mauled-says-dog

JoAnna said...

My family includes an American bull dog as well as 4 other breeds. I also have two sons 15 and 9. Both of my boys have been taught to respect any animal and its space. I do rescue and my children are involved as well and know to be aware of the animals comfort. Children should be taught very young what is appropriate behavior in the presence of an animal and NEVER without adult supervision! All animals have limitations regardless of breed and it is unfortunate that misguided humans blame the animal when it is the responsability of the human to protect and care for those we domesticate. The parents were negligent to the child and the dog. This could have and should have been avoided! Pray that this sad incident will inspire education and not ignorance!

Anonymous said...

I have been following the death of the six year old that was bitten by his family's pitbull. There are many unanswered questionsm the big one being, WHERE were the supervising adults? Why were there so many children (9) of them rough housing with the pitbull? Did the boy also fall on his head when the pitbull didn't like being ridden like a horse? Did the young boy hit his head on the cement in addition to being bitten on the head? Why didn't the adults take him to the hospital emergency room asap instead of waiting? I think that there are a lot of human mistakes that could have been avoided. The pitbull if he was leashed and the young boy was riding him had no other recourse than to nip or bite him unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

Any dog has the potential to react and snap if triggered. I have a 12 year old black lab who I got as a puppy. He is my baby and my everything, has been raised around people - adults, children and the elderly - dogs, cats and horses. He is extremely well-socialized, sweeter than anything and on top of that his breed is well-known to be among the most gentle, fun loving, affectionate dogs and great with kids. Despite all this, he has his triggers just like any other dog, and since he is old his joints often hurt, making him cranky. He has growled at children before when they get in his face too much, and though he's never gotten to the point of biting someone (I've always been there to stop the interactions before they got too far), I would never leave him unsupervised with 7 kids - or any dog, for that matter. It's not about the breed; it's about a lack of parental supervision. Had an adult been around to see Gava's reactions to the rough housing, I'm sure the whole tragic situation could have been prevented.

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Laura said...

I never understand why people feel like dogs should have to put up with more than they would put up with themselves. When my kids start to play inappropriately with my animals (whether it's my "pit bull" type dog that I got from a shelter when she was 8 years old or the cats) I stop my child and ask him if he'd like to be treated that way. I say "would you like someone to get in your face/pick you up/play with your ears/whatever while you're sleeping/eating/whatevering? No? Well, then they probably don't appreciate it either". My dog is about as tolerant as a dog can be (definitely more tolerant than me) but there's no reason why she needs to put up with whatever they feel like doing (they're not malicious, just typical boys). On another note, the thing I ask my kids to do when they have disagreements is to "use their words"...well, dogs can't do that so they have their ways of letting us know when they've had enough. It's not their fault that much of the human population is too ignorant or unwilling to learn their language. I don't know the details of the accident leading to this little boy's tragic death, but it really sounds like it could have been avoided with a little bit more human knowledge, attention and intervention...which is probably true with most dog bite situations...especially the ones involving children.

Safe Haven Hotel said...

How awful and tragic, both for this boy's family and for this dog. I couldn't agree more that people need to take responsibility, in this case, the parents of this child who were not supervising as they should have been.

We all have our thresholds (including dogs, ALL dogs) and it's so frustrating and unfortunate that this horrible accident is then seen as typical behaviour because this doggie happens to be a pit bull.

My heart goes out to this boy's family, but it equally goes out to a breed that continues to be misunderstood.

Kari said...

You asked about sources on the comments about bite force. The Pitbull Placebo by Karen Delise does discuss this myth on pages 110-113 under the heading the Pitbull Bite Force Calculated in PSI Myth.

A summary being GSD, APBT, and Rottweilers were tested with a bite sleeve that was hooked to a computer and the APBT had the least bite force of the 3 (by National Geographic). However, bite force data is very difficult to accurately measure because of the individual dogs motivation to bite the test object, how hard the individual dog bit, and if they were even using full force or bite inhibition at the time.

To the best of their knowledge their is no scientific data to allow meaningful data comparisons among different breeds, there are many compelling reasons why such data can't be collected in a meaningful way, and all figures "proving" Pitbulls bite with more force can basically be traced back to unfounded rumors or newspaper articles with no actual factual data.

It's a very good read and it's free: http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/uploaded_files/publications/230603563_Pit%20Bull%20Placebo.pdf

Great blog post! My heart goes out to the family that lost a child to this tragedy, and to the dog for being set up to fail. I truly hope people begin to pay attention to ways to prevent bites from happening.

Just an aside, I was bit twice as a child, once by a golden retriever and once by a mini-poodle. The poodle came 1/4 inch from doing serious damage because it caught me in the eye. Any dog can bite and do damage.

Anonymous said...

Wow. There was a lot of great information in this post. Some dogs really do get a bad rap, every pit or rot I've ever met was just the sweetest dog. In fact, when I got bitten, it was by a golden retriever, which I always thought was considered a gentler breed. Thankfully, Darryl Isaacs (http://www.isaacsandisaacs.com/) helped me with my recovery. But that's beside the point, thank you for the post, it was most enjoyable.

Lisa researching dog bites said...

Many people ignore the warning signs that dogs give, then later fail to remember that there were warning signs.