Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My sympathies to the Teffeteller family. What a terrible tragedy.

Dogs are animals and no matter what the breed, amount of training and socialization received, or the type of family environment, animals will always have the potential to be "unpredictable." All dogs have the potential to bite. A loving family, good training, and socialization will lessen a dog's chance of acting inappropriately, but the animal instinct is always there. Dogs are dogs. Not "furry children." They don't think like humans and we shouldn't expect them to have human rationale. They don't comprehend size differences between themselves and another dog, for example.

I love dogs and they are my livelihood. However, I am not a dog apologist. There are some that no matter what, will ask what was done to "provoke" the attacking animal. I'm not a member of that group. Sometimes dogs will act in a way that we cannot understand. They are animals, and will behave as such.

I for one owned a dog who became aggressive toward small dogs. Lovely dog with people and medium to large sized dogs but "unpredictable" with small dogs. I have no idea why she became this way. Sometimes she was "provoked," other times her aggression seemed to come out of thin air. Was she trained? Of course! Was she loved? Without doubt. How did I deal with this issue responsibly? She was never off leash and in most cases I muzzled her every time we were off our property. She simply had a very strong self-protective impulse and I knew that at any moment, no matter the amount of training, she could give in to her instincts. I took the right measures to protect myself, my dog and those in my community by keeping her restrained and under my control at all times.

Dogs interact with each other physically, and it is only wise for dog owners to supervise their dogs at dog parks AT ALL TIMES, and only wise for the CCRPC and all other area dog parks to create safe zones for small dogs to play. A small dog play zone WILL cut down on tussles between dogs of mismatched size and strength and WILL lessen the number of dogs severely injured during such tussles.

A breed ban is not the answer. Many people have suggested looking to England, a country that placed a ban on pits several years ago under the Dangerous Dogs Act. Unfortunately, that ban has not been effective because it does not focus on the true problem, irresponsible pet owners. DogMagazine.net reported that dog attacks, irresponsible dog owner practices, and animal abuse and neglect have actually risen since the Act's creation in 1991. http://www.dogmagazine.net/archives/1859/the-dangerous-dogs-act-costing-lives-a-whole-shed-load-of-cash/ Irresponsible pet owners are attracted to a pit bull due to its "tough" reputation and are only more attracted to the dog once it is banned. Or they move on to other protective and physically daunting breeds such as German Shepherds and Dobermans. It is exactly these sorts of dogs that need RESPONSIBLE dog owners. Banning such breeds or restricting them makes them attractive to the exact opposite type of owner these dogs are in need of.

Perhaps the answer instead is to require permits to breed and own any breed or breed mix of a certain size and stature - a sort of dog ownership suitability permit. Those who own certain breeds without such permits would face jail time. Of course this takes time and money.

In the meantime, the city of Charleston has a new leash law and I think it's a good one. Unless on personal property or within a fenced, off-leash dog park, dogs must be on leash. I believe an enforced leash law will cut down on roaming dogs, pet overpopulation, and dog attacks.

When you go to an off-leash dog park, you do accept some risk. A small dog play area will help minimize this risk but that won't stop all dog fights from happening. As dog owners, we must come together and find a real solution for keeping our dogs safe while at dog parks. Perhaps a licensing program that requires a temperament test? The license must then be presented at area dog parks before admittance? But what about un-manned dog parks such as the dog run at Hampton Park? These are the sorts of questions we must ask of each other , with respect and without heightened emotion. Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts at the LCD message board:

Educational programs that promote responsible pet ownership are crucial for every community. We are fortunate here in the Charleston area to have many educational programs through groups such as the Charleston Animal Society, Pet Helpers and the various breed specific rescue groups. Lowcountry Dog is committed to promoting these programs and policies in every way possible.

Leah England

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