August 11, 2006

Muzzle ALL dogs, again?

I wrote an article a while ago in response to a columnist's suggestion to muzzle all dogs over 40 pounds. Now we have a contributor in the Toronto Sun suggesting to muzzle all dogs, period.

Most dog bites are not serious. They result in a little cut, abrasion, or bruising. Very few require medical attention, even less require stitches, and even less result in any permanent damage. Even the bites mentioned below that may have required medical attention were mostly minor.

Most dog bites (approx 85%) happen in the family home, neighbour's home, or relative's home to a child that the dog knows. Muzzling in public would not prevent these bites.

Here are the numbers from my original article, taken even further after I've had time to think about it:

CITY OF TORONTO (approximate numbers):

Number of licensed dogs: 50,000
Estimated total dogs: between 250,000 and 500,000, depending on who's calculating
Number of reported bites in 2004: 1,000
Number of bites requiring medical attention (at least one suture): 120 (estimated from earlier reports)
Number of bites in public: 150 (15% of all bites)
Number of bites in public requiring medical attention: approx 20

So, to possibly, maybe, perhaps prevent 20 somewhat serious bites, somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 dogs would have to be muzzled, every day, twice a day.

No more parks or beaches. No more happy greetings between dogs or to humans on the street. No more proper socialization.

The dogs will become defensive, frustrated, undersocialized, and neurotic. Their walks will be focused on the muzzles, not on their owners or their surroundings. The excitement and enjoyment of their daily outings will be replaced by misery and conflict.

If and when one of those dogs gets loose from their backyard, it will be much more likely to bite than a dog who has met and played with hundreds of children and dogs throughout its life.

To me, this is not a valid tradeoff, especially when 79 people were murdered in Toronto last year and 59 died in car accidents. You want to save lives? Focus on that and leave the dog owners alone!

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