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Monday, 14 May 2012

Dog attacks humans, it’s the owner, not the breed!

Ferocious debates notwithstanding, there are studies to show that almost every breed has been involved in fatal dog bites, and dogs that bite humans were 2.8 times as likely to be chained as unchained.

IN a kopitiam in Subang Jaya, Selangor, two 30-something women were snarling at each other over dogs.

A woman, whose bark was probably (hopefully) worse than her bite, insisted that pit bulls should be banned in Malaysia while her canine-loving friend argued otherwise.

Both were in a ferocious discussion about a death in their neighbourhood.

And I thought: “Who let the dogs out?” 

On Tuesday morning, a 74-year-old man was mauled by a miniature bull terrier cross while jogging about 1km from his house in Subang Jaya.

The dog attacked Yip Sun Wah for almost four minutes, biting his neck and almost tearing of his left ear.

The Star reported that the owner, a 25-year-old accountant, bought the animal three months ago after her house was robbed.

Eavesdropping, I pretended to be fascinated with the condensation on my glass of iced white Ipoh coffee.

The woman whose bark was hopefully worse than her bite went on and on about how “fierce” dogs (i.e. Akita, Neapolitan Mastiff, American Bulldog, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro, Japanese Tosa and American Pit bull) were “killers on the loose”.

She supported the knee-jerk decision (in my opinion) by MPSJ (Subang Jaya Municipal Council) to immediately ban these dogs – classified as under the “big” category as predisposed to aggressive or dangerous behaviour.

Her friend, whose expression was that of a terrified Chihuahua, snarled back, calling the woman Mussolini for supporting a fascist move.

The dog-hating woman and MPSJ, I thought, were barking up the wrong tree.

I wanted to interject in the “dogfight”. But I didn’t as I was afriad the two rabid women would maul me.

Instead, I fired up my iPad to find an article which I read in the New Yorker, a weekly magazine, about a few years back that a violent dog was a reflection of its owner and not its breed.

It was written by the clever Malcolm Gladwell who has authored bestselling non-fiction books such as The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

A quick search on produced Gladwell’s article titled Troublemakers: What Pit Bulls Can Teach Us About Profiling, published on Feb 6, 2006.

Gladwell argued that the notion of a pit-bull menace rested on unstable generalisation.

Quoting Randall Lockwood, one of the United States’ leading dog bite experts, he wrote that Lockwood had seen virtually every breed involved in fatal dog bites.

“... including Pomeranians and everything else, except a beagle or a basset hound,” Lockwood said. “And there’s always one or two deaths attributable to malamutes or huskies, although you never hear people clamouring for a ban on those breeds.”

Gladwell also quoted a study that found dogs that bite humans were 2.8 times as likely to be chained as unchained.

“About 20% of the dogs involved in fatalities were chained at the time, and had a history of long-term chaining,” said Lockwood.

“Now, are they chained because they are aggressive or aggressive because they are chained? It’s a bit of both.

“These are animals that have not had an opportunity to become socialised to people. They don’t necessarily even know that children are small human beings. They tend to see them as prey.”

Gladwell continued: “The strongest connection of all, though, is between the trait of dog viciousness and certain kinds of dog owners. In about a quarter of fatal dog-bite cases, the dog owners were previously involved in illegal fighting.

“The dogs that bite people are, in many cases, socially isolated because their owners are socially isolated, and they are vicious because they have owners who want a vicious dog.

“The junk-yard German shepherd – which looks as if it would rip your throat out – and the German shepherd guide dog are the same breed. But they are not the same dog, because they have owners with different intentions.”

Lockwood said: “A fatal dog attack is not just a dog bite by a big or aggressive dog. It is usually a perfect storm of bad human-canine interactions – the wrong dog, the wrong background, the wrong history in the hands of the wrong person in the wrong environmental situation.”

If you think I’m a die-hard dog lover, I’m not.

When I was a 12-year-old, a dog (owned by a Catholic convent running Stella Maris primary school in Tanjung Aru, Sabah) bit the back of my left knee.

It was a local breed.


Related posts:

American Pit Bull Kills Jogger !
Pit bull Terrier, a restricted breed; Time to regulate pet shops!