Dog attacks always seem to make the newspapers. I think that this is partly due to the fact that, considering the large number of dogs in the country, serious dog attacks are rare. Dog bites are fairly common (I see them every week in the ED) but the vast majority of these are “nips” from an overly excited dog rather than a true “bite”. Dogs nip with their front incisors, usually barely puncturing the skin. They bite with their longer canines, tearing large holes. The difference is screamingly obvious.
Most of the proper dog bites I see are in people fleeing from police dogs. Police dogs, of course, are trained to hold, rather than bite, but a struggling person will be bitten as the dog has to tighten its grip (message to crims – stand still next time!)
The other reason that dog attacks are popular with the media, is the meme that big dogs are dangerous. I don’t entirely agree with the counter argument that there are no dangerous dogs, only dangerous owners. However, there is no doubt that the person who decided to set his large dogs on some partygoers he had been fighting with earlier, is a certifiable bonehead who should never be allowed to keep dogs again and should preferably spend some time in jail, reflecting on his stupidity. He was just lucky his animals did not kill anyone.
The trouble with idiots like this is that they give all big dog owners a bad name. The same goes for those morons who let a highly territorial pack animal roam free on their unfenced properties and then wonder why they attack small children. Like all pack animals, dogs respond well to a combination of kindness and firmness. They are not cuddly stuffed toys but they are not savage, feral beasts, either. If you abuse the animal, cage it or do not set proper boundaries for it, you have set up the scene for a dog bite (if you are lucky) or a dog attack (if you are not)
I have two dogs, a German Shepherd and a Siberian Husky. Both of these magnificent animals are potentially dangerous in an incompetent owner’s hands. Mine are on a well fenced property, walked on a leash and given plenty of love and affection. The worst you could expect from them is a playful nip from the husky as she tries to persuade you to play with her. The worst you can expect from the German Shepherd is to be bowled over as she runs to hide behind you. She’s just a giant fuzzy chicken. That either of my dogs could be considered dangerous is laughable.
Manukau City Council has an excellent Responsible Dog Owner scheme which halves your dog license fee if you meet certain criteria (they come round and check visually to make sure you do). This has two major benefits. It obviously encourages people to become responsible owners. After it has been in place for a while (assuming good uptake), it will also help to pinpoint the areas of low uptake – these are areas that can then be patrolled more frequently by animal control.
New Zealand has a history of knee-jerk response to Dog attacks (microchipping, anyone?). It is nice to see at least one city council taking a proactive stance. I hope there are others around the country doing something similar.