Thursday, May 20, 2010

I almost missed National Dog Bite Prevention Week

In addition to my article on, I want to pass on some of my own tips.

1. At least once a year I get a phone call from a parent whose dog has bitten their child asking what can be done. If you have a dog, no matter the age or breed, and a young child you need to be extra attentive when both are interacting. Simply being in the same room is not enough. You MUST pay attention and correct whoever is doing something inappropriate. And if either is "not getting it", separate them physically. He/she will quickly learn how to behave around the other.

2. Who started the wrongheaded idea of sticking your hand out to a strange dog to let him smell you? "Here, doggie take this to bite on". I mean, seriously. By the time you get close enough to Fido to greet, he's already had a good whiff of you. Now you're just adding a confusing jesture by shoving your hand in his face. Just stand there and once you both feel comfortable, gently stroke the side of his face, back or under the neck. While we're at it, teach your kids to NEVER pet a new dog on top of his head. Talk about threatening gestures!

3. Do not dismiss or discipline a dog's warning signs. He will growl before he snarls, before he snaps and eventually resorts to biting. Any one of the pre-bite warnings require your intervention. This does NOT mean scolding him or telling him "no". You will only teach him not to warn you before acting. Instead, remove your dog from the situation and reward him once he is calm. This will strengthen your communication and human-canine bond.

4. Some dogs are more oral than others and can be "nippy". Well, one person's nip can constitute another's bite. Don't take chances if you have a mouthy dog. Muzzles are a necessity for these dogs. Protect others and yourself.

The first step in preventing dog bites, is being an educated, responsible owner. The second is to spread the word. Let's all do our part to lessen the number of next year's dog bites.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Increased attacks on dogs in Baltimore?

Yesterday I had to write one of the most heartbreaking articles ever "Pit bull puppy dies after beating at local golf course". This follows days after a North Baltimore man attacked a pit/Sheperd mix with a machete, the Easter stoning of another pit and last year's horrific attack on a pit who was set on fire by two teenagers.

In response to burn-victim Phoenix, who died during recovery, Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon teamed with the ASPCA to create an Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force in the summer of 2009. Animal safety is not only important morally and legally, but to the community as a whole. Violence against animals leads to violence against people.

While the task force does regularly work with BARCS and Animal Control to investigate animal cruelty, what more needs to be done? It took some digging for me to find a March 2010 Interim Report. It is 49 pages long. I admit to having only scanned it so far. But there are some great ideas in there such as cross reporting information by social service agencies and "have knowledge of areas experiencing high concentrations of abuse".

What is unclear is if animal abuse in Baltimore is actually on the rise. It is possible with this Task Force, Baltimore is instituting better reporting and increasing public awareness. What IS clear, is that Animal Control is underfunded and short on appropriate staff much like those nationwide. The resources needed to effectively eradicate animal abuse in Baltimore may be a long time coming.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bullies In Our Local News

This past week I wrote two articles for the Examiner involving pit bulls. The first "Catonsville veterinary clinic treats dog maimed by Baltimore man", a pit/Shepherd mix was maimed by a machete-weilding man. The second story, "Pit bull attacks local off-duty cop and his dog" is about an unfortunate incident in which a Yorkiepoo and owner were severely injured.

Any dog labeled as a "pit bull", and their owners have a hard enough time battling prohibitions, bans and prejudices. There is an added responsibility to pit owners to go above and beyond as owners. As a bully lover, I debated on posting the Examiner articles to avoid further negative press. But I believe education is the absolute best weapon against further incidences of these kind.

NO pet dog should be left unattended at any time. This not only prevents tragic accidents, but helps in training and overall care. If your dog gets sick, will you know what he ingested outside? If your dog is missing, did he jump the fence or was he nabbed out of the yard? Yes, dog-napping still happens. If your dog barks at everyone going by, you cannot train them from inside the house.

Left unattended, dogs will find ways to entertain themselves. This typically results in undesired behaviors such as digging, excessive barking, becoming territorial and more. Dogs contained by electronic fence are especially vulnerable to intruders as nothing prevents them getting in.

I do not believe that dogs "enjoy" sitting out alone in yard. I, too, would rather sit out on a sunny lawn, listen to the birds sing and watching the occassional passer-by than be ignored inside.

Please understand that I in no way blame the victims of any attacks. My sincere hope is that we all learn and grow from every experience.