Apparently Damian O’Connor would like to shoot my dog.
“It is about time we stopped pussyfooting around and advocated and implemented the destruction of any dog and breed of dog that is considered dangerous in New Zealand. No one is allowed to carry around a loaded gun and these dogs are just that.”
Three children have been bitten by dogs in the past week and the knees are jerking big-time. Loaded gun indeed! I find this hard to swallow from a blog that packs the loaded gun of Trevor Mallard. A much more sensible take on this issue is found (amazingly) in the Herald today, from DSS Animal Management managing director, Barry Gillingwater:
““The problem is any dog, of any breed, can bite and be aggressive. It just depends on the way they’ve been brought up, and the way their owner socialises and owns them.
““If the owner has high standards and does it properly, any dog will be fine. If the owner doesn’t care, or doesn’t want to socialise their animal, you’ve got a problem.”
Barring the occasionally insane animal that will bite anything and everything, this is true of even the most reputedly vicious of breeds. I have heard that even the fearsome pitbull terrier was once known as the “Nanny Dog” because it was so good with children. This is hotly denied by some but others provide a convincing collection of photographs to back the claim. Whatever your beliefs on the matter, it is fairly obvious that any breed of dog responds well to proper nurturing and care and badly to mistreatment and restraint. I have friends with Rottweilers and friends with Dobermans. Both dogs have lovely temperaments, despite their reputations. One of the girls bitten this week was bitten by a Doberman cross.
What is needed therefore is not a change of dog breed, but a change in the thought processes of owners of dangerous (abused) dogs.
“Mr Gillingwater advocated for a public awareness campaign similar to those used to combat drink driving and smoking.
““What they did was achieve a change in social habits and a habitual change for the human animal takes quite a while, but it is possible.
““The next challenge could well be dog owners.”
That would certainly be better than most of the “solutions” I have heard:
- Get rid of dangerous dogs: And which ones are these? I have a young Husky cross whose mother was a pure-bred Siberian Husky and whose father was a GOK dog (God Only Knows). Her face is quite Staffordshire bull terrier-like. Nothing else is remotely Staffie. Is she dangerous? Only if you melt in water – because we have not yet cured her of wanting to lick everyone to death. Is my friend’s Rottweiler dangerous? I have seen children rolling on the poor creature, so I guess not. The Doberman is much more sensible. She runs away from children.
- Muzzle all dogs when they are in public: Sometimes limited to the dangerous ones (see above). This is a certified Knee Jerk Response. The majority of dog attacks occur within the confines of owners properties, often within the confines of the chain the dog is shackled to. The rest are from wandering dogs who have escaped unsupervised. A very tiny minority will be partially supervised by their owners. These attacks might be prevented by muzzling. Possibly.
- All dogs must be microchipped: Ah, yes. That worked well, didn’t it?
- Owners must get a dog owners license: This one does have a bit of merit. Trouble is, the same people who fail to get a dog license and a microchip will be the same ones not getting a dog owners license. These people are also the ones most likely to be responsible for the majority of dogs who bite. In addition, there are quite a number of aspects of dog care that differ from breed to breed. It is uncertain that a dog owner license will be of practical value except in the most generic sense.
I do have one suggestion to put into the debate. Apart from police dog bites, in my experience the vast majority of serious dog bites (bites that have needed repair) come from restrained dogs. Dogs that have been placed on a chain, in a narrow run or in a cage. I propose to ban dog ownership unless the owner has a properly fenced property in which the dog can roam free. This will not prevent all bites, by any means, but I suggest that it will likely diminish the frequency and severity of such bites. Dogs that are restrained seem to become homicidally territorial. After all, they are pack animals used to company and do not handle solitary confinement very well. Coupled with the fact that owners who restrain their dogs rarely interact with them and you have a recipe for disaster – Mad owner, mad dog, mauled kid.
PS. No, Grant, you can’t shoot my dogs. But I have taught them your name…