Right now, a 12-year-old boy lies in a Jackson hospital as he heals from a vicious dog mauling last Friday in Montgomery County.
The six dogs responsible for dragging the boy off his bike and nearly killing him have been humanely euthanized because they posed a threat to others. These dogs weren’t wild dogs. They were family pets – pets that, according to the owner, had never shown aggressive behavior before.
According to a study from the Center For Disease Control (CDC), approximately 4.7 million dog bites occur in the United States each year, and 800,000 of those bites result in medical care. The U.S. population is approximately 325.7 million people as of 2017. That means a dog bites 1 out of every 69 people.
U.S. News reported that one-half of all households in the United States own a dog. Although in most cases, the dog is very much like a member of the family, in 2014, more than 50,000 children ages six and under suffered a dog bite injury. While most of these were not serious and did not require medical attention, dog bites can happen, even by family pets.
In the fourth grade, my family’s miniature schnauzer bit me through the bottom lip. She was always an ornery dog, but when I leaned in to give her a kiss, she let me know she wasn’t interested. I ended up with two stiches and a scar that is still visible today.
I have always been a dog owner. At one time, I had four dogs – all rescued from bleak futures. I loved all of my fur-babies dearly, and today, only Don Juan, a 16-year-old Chihuahua is left – all living long, spoiled lives.
Don Juan spends most of his time sleeping on his pillow or under the comforter on my bed. When I’m home, he follows every step I make. The thing he wants most in the world? To sleep curled up against my leg as I read or watch television.
According to the Canine Journal, a Chihuahua is one of the top 11 breeds that are known biters, along with bulldogs, pit bulls, German shepherds, Australian shepherd, Lhasa Apsos, Jack Russell Terriers, cocker spaniel, bull terrier, Pekingese, and Papillion, and maybe in his younger years, he might have bitten someone who frightened him. Now that he is a senior dog, and missing half his teeth, he isn’t too dangerous. Even my five-year-old, who adores Don Juan (sometimes too much), has never been bitten. Would that be the case if Don Juan was younger, I really don’t know.
After my stitches incident with the schnauzer, I learned that dogs should be respected. They have their own natural instincts just like humans, and they have their own triggers to become aggressive – fear; protectiveness over food, puppies, or personal space; if they are sick or feel unwell; or if they are involved with rough play with humans. And, Canine Journal reports that dogs that have not been spayed or neutered are more likely to become aggressive, so remember to spay and neuter your pets.
Although many Mississippi counties and municipalities do not have leash laws or other animal ordinances on the books, all pets should be kept behind a fence or in a proper kennel. (Notice I didn’t say chained to a stake which is just cruel.) They should be secured for their own safety and the safety of other people.
My dogs have never been free from a fenced yard unless they were on a leash. None of them were biters, but I wanted to protect them from other dogs that could attack and kill them or spread disease.
And all municipalities and counties should have animal ordinances to protect the community from dangerous animals and to protect the animals from human cruelty. Although Mississippi has animal cruelty laws, sometimes local cruelty laws are tougher than state laws.
We live in a rural community, and animals of all types are part of our culture here. However, just because our community is rural doesn’t mean our leaders shouldn’t do what needs to be done to take care of the large number of dogs who run free in our towns and county. An ordinance could prevent another mauling in the future.
Pet owners need to take responsibility as well. Owning a pet is expensive. It is a multi-year commitment. My fox terrier lived to be 20 years old.
If you own a pet, get him proper medical care. Feed and water him regularly. Keep him protected from the elements, and keep him secured so he does not roam away from your property.
If this type of care is too much for you maintenance-wise or financially, do not have a pet.
Canine Journal provided some tips to protect someone from getting bit by a vicious animal.
“Don’t approach an unfamiliar animal. Do not run from a dog, panic or make loud noises.
If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, remain motionless. Do not run or scream. Avoid direct eye contact.
Don’t disturb a dog while they’re eating, sleeping, or taking care of their puppies. Allow a dog to sniff and smell you before you attempt to pet it. Afterward scratch the animal under the chin, not on the head. Report strays or dogs displaying strange behavior to your local animal control. If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and remain motionless. Be sure to cover your ears and neck with your hands and arms. Avoid eye contact and remain calm. Don’t encourage your dog to play aggressively.”