September 08, 2006

Boy survives pit bull attack - back on bike eight hours later

The headline of a recent Sudbury Star news report screams "Boy survives pit bull attack". Here are the facts that are available from the news report which, of course, doesn't mean that they're the only facts.

  • Dog is nine months old.
  • Boy is five years old.
  • Dog is owned by boy's neighbour.
  • Boy enters front door of house (after being told to do so by the CHILDREN in the house).
  • Dog jumps up and bites boy on face.
  • CHILDREN in the house get a cloth and ice for the wound.
  • Boy gets seven stitches to lip.
  • Dog is going to be killed.
Take away the inflammatory and incorrect use of the word "pit bull" in the headline and what we have left is an all-too-familiar refrain: "unsupervised young male child bitten by neighbour's unsupervised young (possibly male) dog". According to multiple research papers by professional organizations over a number of years, this is probably the most common situation in which a dog bite occurs. It doesn't have anything to do with the dog's breed, at all!

So, at the risk of repeating myself from comments about previous newspaper articles, here is my in-depth analysis of this poorly researched and sensational bit of fluff written by Jordan Ercit of the Sudbury Star.
  1. A "centimetre-long gash" (also described as "tore his lip a quarter of an inch open"). Please grab a ruler and see how long a centimetre is. While you're at it, flip the ruler around and see how long a quarter of an inch is. They're not the same, are they? On my hand, a quarter of an inch is less than the length of the fingernail on my little finger. Under what possible circumstance does this get called a "gash"? When a dog did it?
  2. "Boy survives pit bull attack", "gash", "mauled", "eight hours in the ER", "lunged", "tore", "ripped". My God, this sounds like the child almost died! Do me a favour, reporter, and go back and see how long the "gash" was. A centimetre, you said in one spot. A quarter of inch, you said in another sentence.
  3. Nine month old dog. Five year old boy. Do you think maybe this wasn't even an "attack"? Is it possible the dog just jumped up and decided to play tug-of-war with the kid's face? As horrifying and traumatizing as that experience might be, that's what happens with kids and dogs, particularly when they are BOTH unsupervised! How do I know they were unsupervised? Read the next point.
  4. Kyle went to his neighbour's home, knocked on the door, and was told to enter. Notice the article doesn't say who told him to enter. After the bite (and I quote), "the kids at the house were quick to react, grabbing a cloth and ice, and then rushed him to his mom". Where were the owners of the dog? Why did the kids have to get the cloth and ice and take Kyle back to his mom? BECAUSE THE OWNERS WEREN'T WITH THE DOG AND THE KIDS!
  5. Eight hours in the ER. Again, this sounds horrible, traumatic, scary. Wait a second. Eight hours for seven stitches? That's less than one stitch per hour. So we can pretty well assume that seven and a half of those eight hours were spent waiting, registering, explaining, reporting to police and animal control, etc, etc, etc. From my experience with Toronto hospitals, that's a little long to wait, but then it was a DOG BITE, so they probably paid a little more attention to Kyle than to the child next to him with the concussion and broken leg from skateboarding.
  6. The dog had never been aggressive before. Define "aggressive". Was this even aggression? Had the dog jumped on people before? On kids? Every puppy I know does that (or did until it was trained not to or grew out of it)? Did the dog chase kids and nip and even bite, all in play, fun and games? Many puppies I know do that. Did the owners discourage it? Did they talk to a professional, perhaps take the dog for training? At nine months old, if trained, he should no longer be jumping and nipping and biting.
  7. The dog will be put down. Make no mistake about it - this dog is being put down because of its breed. I place FULL responsibility for the death of that dog and the injuries to the child on the shoulders of the owners. This dog should not have had to die and that boy should not have had to get stitches to his face. It was unnecessary, it was foreseeable, and it was preventable. The dog and multiple children were unsupervised together.
  8. I'm also not too thrilled with the mother for letting her five year old go anywhere unsupervised. Too many children get hurt and killed in this country, in many circumstances other than dog bites, simply because they're not being watched.
  9. The dog came from a questionable environment. What does this mean? Shouldn't the reporter investigate that a little further instead of just throwing it out there? I have no idea why that's even in the article, but it certainly raises further questions about how responsible these owners really were.
  10. Last, but not least, the "pit bull" issue. Let's start with the descriptions and phrases used by the reporter (and perhaps by the mother, although I'm not certain that she used these exact phrases). Pit bull mix (once), pit bull-husky cross (once), pit bull (seven times). Do you think maybe this reporter has an agenda? Why the focus on "pit bulls" when one half of the dog was supposedly husky? If the reporter didn't have such tunnel vision about "pit bulls", whatever they are, a little research on dog bite related fatalities and injuries in Canada could have given this story a whole different slant. It could have been about huskies or husky crosses or sled dogs or northern dogs or farm dogs. Or it may have ended up simply being about dogs, kids, and what happens when they get together without an adult.
The reporter's final comment is a quote from the mother complaining that the pit bull legislation in Ontario is not being enforced.

"There are two pit bulls in this area that are constantly outside without muzzles. I think it is a good idea, but I don't think it is enforced."

Guess what, Ms. McIntyre? That wouldn't have helped your kid. Not one bit. The dog that bit your child was inside its own house. No muzzle required. I'm really sorry, but that legislation wouldn't have protected your child.

Point the finger upwards until you get to the human end of the leash. Oh, and look in the mirror as well. Those are the only two people who could have prevented this.

FOLLOWUP ARTICLE: Is this lady being quoted correctly?

FOLLOWUP ARTICLE: Phantom "pit bulls" in Sudbury

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Anonymous said...

This guy is good. it's true that most people believe that pit bulls are automatically vicious because of their record. It's not the dog's fault its the owner. He should have tought that dog not to be a bad dog. The dog is just following his natural instincts to protect his home or in this case just wanted to play.

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