It’s been a newsy day for pit bulls and other “vicious” dogs. A change in Ohio’s approach toward vicious dogs and the announcement of a rise in dog bite liability payouts were two that topped the list. Since May is National Dog Bite Prevention month, I suppose you could say these are quite timely.
|Photo courtesy Purr Photography|
Ohio has now reversed its breed specific legislation, where it had labeled pit bulls as “vicious dogs”. Under previous law, a pit bull was automatically considered a dangerous dog; now, though, it must first be proven that a dog is dangerous – regardless of its breed.
This is a great step forward, at least from the backward stance the state previously took. BSL does not work, offers a false sense of security, and is wholly discriminatory without merit. Ohio’s new law regarding dangerous dogs is based on evidence, not theory.
There are still plenty of people, though, who consider pit bulls inherently dangerous. I am one who will not argue that point – quite frankly, I think too many people forget that a dog is a dog. Never mind the breed, any dog has the potential to react in a way that may be harmful to someone in its presence. It is dogs’ nature to bite, even to attack, for various reasons.
It’s up to us humans to realize this, learn how to train our dogs well, how to treat dogs properly and how to read a dog’s body language. While larger, stronger dogs may be more apt to cause serious injuries, all dogs – any dogs – are capable of biting someone.
As for dog bites, the newly released figures showing that liability payouts increased to $479 million in 2011 are quite frightful. No doubt, the soaring costs of medical care accounts for a good portion – ask anyone who’s been hit with a doctor or hospital bill lately. Moreover, our litigious culture seems to keep feeding upon itself, cultivating both overzealous pursuits of legal remedies and illogical assumptions that insurance policies make for cash cows.
A friend of mine has a neighbor who isn’t tolerated well by her dogs. When the man is out in his yard, her dogs bark ceaselessly at him. (As the saying goes, if a dog doesn’t like someone, you probably shouldn’t, either.) My friend resolves this issue by bringing the dogs inside whenever the man is out.
One afternoon, the dogs began barking, and before she could call them in – one of them allegedly bit the man. Now, mind you, there is a fence between the yards. The neighbor obviously had to insert his arm into my friend’s yard in order for it to be bitten. He wasted no time in alerting her to what allegedly happened, and reminded her of her responsibility as the dog’s owner.
She’s a nurse, so her first instinct was to examine the wound and explain to him the best way to treat it. She also encouraged him to have it checked by a doctor, and that she would reimburse him for that expense. His first question to her was whether she had insurance. As it turned out, he wanted to collect as much as he could from the insurance company.
In the end, she realized the game he was playing and refused to take part. He was more than welcome to file a police report, and she was more than willing to pay for a doctor’s examination. When he saw that he wasn’t going to get very far with it, he backed off. The dog by the way, is pictured below. He’s a small guy, definitely not a pit bull.
Unfortunately, between our greed and our ignorance, we’ve created quite a convoluted, tangled mess for ourselves when it comes to behavior issues with dogs. It’s going to take a lot to straighten our heads about it, and to understand how to proceed properly in the future.
The good news is that there are plenty of knowledgeable people who have the information we need and are willing to help. And there are communities that are indeed taking a sensible approach to “dangerous dogs” occurrences – in San Francisco, the accused canines get their day in court with a dog judge. (Thanks to Pamela at Something Wagging This Way Comes for alerting us to this great article!) Mel from No Dog About It Blog says the city of Minneapolis has a similar approach.
In honor of National Dog Bite Prevention Month, why not take a few moments to learn something new about dog behavior, training, and how to prevent bites? Then just pass along your newly-acquired information to someone you know. We can make this a kinder, gentler society – and one that’s more understanding of our dogs, too!