Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pitbull vs. Poodle

This week at work has just been strange. Yesterday I got to fill out my first incedent report when one of my volunteers called to tell he'd been bitten by a dog at one of our worksites a couple of days prior. Why was he calling 2 days later you ask? Good question! Animal control and his doctor wanted to know as well!

Here's the story:
Our volunteer was working on our "green" house project and there is a pitbull who lives nextdoor. The dog was outside on a leash staked into the ground, but the leash is long enough that the dog can actually come onto our property. While the volunteer was working he got too close to the dog and the dig bit him in the calf. It wasn't a bad bite, but did break the skin. He didn't want to make a big deal of it, so the site supervisor cleaned it out with antiseptic and put a bandage over it and both continued to work the rest of the day and never told anyone else what happened. The volunteer has a dr friend, who he told about the bite, and the dr recommended he get it looked at and that he should probably get a tetanus shot and make sure the dog was up to date on its vaccines (especially rabies). He waited a day before calling his dr to get a tetanus shot and his dr told him he legally had to report to dog bite, so he called us to let us know what happened and to see if we could find out if the dog had gotten its shots. This falls to me to take care of - yippee. I got the incedent report form, started filling it out and notified my boss and our executive director of the situation. I then went out to the site to get a statement from the site supervisor and let him know that we were making a formal report, including calling animal control. The phone call with animal control wasn't fun - sitting on hold for 5 minutes before talking to anyone, then getting lectured for not making a report within 24 hours of the bite, then not knowing the exact address where the dog lived (you'd think they could figue it out when i told them one house south of ____ (the address of our site). Animal control was supposed to go pick up the dog yesterday, and I don't think I want to know what happens to it after that. I also doubt this is going to help the relationship with the dog's owner, who already doesn't like the construction noise around her house everyday.

It did start an interesting conversation around our office though, about dogs, owners, breeds, and animal control. There have been a lot of stories around KC lately about pitbulls and reports of their "vicious" behavior. Is this a breed quality or just the cause of bad owners who intentionally make them that way? Perhaps a bit of both? Several towns around have banned pit bulls in city limits and Kansas City, MO talked about following suit but there are a lot of people who own pitbulls in this city and they petitioned the city council, etc. and got a deal. No new pit bulls are allowed in city but current owners can keep their as long as they follow city code about numbers of dogs on a property, getting them licensed, etc. I don't know if this dog followed those code or not - I heard it was less than a year old and hadn't had its shots, but I have not actually seen the dog for myself or talked to its owner. At this point, it's all out of my hands. The reports have been made to the appropriate people and we have the paper trail to cover ourselves should anything else go down. I wonder, though, if this would have been as big a deal if it was a little poodle instead of a pit bull. Of course, I'm partial to poodles since I got bit by one when I had a paper route as a kid, but generally poodles are well liked dogs and pits are not. Do you think it would be different? Our volunteer didn't want to make a big deal about the whole thing - and the dog owner certainly didn't want her dog to be taken away - so does the city have a place to come in like they did?? I personally think they should have made her shorten the leash and keep the dog on HER property, and make her get the dog its shots and licensed (perhaps paying a penalty for not doing so before) but getting her dog removed seems a bit harsh. Am I crazy? What do you think?


Kim in KCK said...

Here's what I know about it, at least in KCK. Our normally loving but very protective Aussie bit somebody, and when Animal Control came to the house, we showed them that he was current on his rabies shot, and then they told us they would have to take him for observation for ten days, or we could have it done by our own vet. We opted for boarding at our own vet because they are clean and actually like dogs. I once lost a dog to parvo virus that he picked up at the pound. After the ten days, we picked him up from the vet, paid the boarding fee, and took him home. End of story. There used to be a pit mix that lived a block away that liked to cut across our property and bark at us on our own property. We reported him time and time again, but they could never catch him (Pits are illegal in KCK). I haven't seen him in a while, I think the owners must have moved away.

Rachael said...

I know you'll be so shocked that I chose to chime in on this First off, let me say that BSL (breed specific legislation) doesn't work. It doesn't work because law abiding citizens already have well behaved, properly contained and adequately vaccinated animals. And those same law abiding citizens are the ones who will make the very hard decision to either move or lose their pet if this ineffective law is passed in their community. Those individuals who do not obey the law, who do not control and care for their animals, will continue to break the law and possess banned breeds. So all BSL really does is punish those who are not creating the problem to begin with.

Secondly, in the 5.5 years I've been a pet groomer, I've never been bitten by a pit bull. I have been bitten by just about every small breed of dog you can think of, poodles, schnauzers, shih tzus, etc. I was bitten in the face by a german shephard (luckily she just grazed me and chomped my glasses a bit) and I was bitten on the forearm by a shar pei badly enough to send me to the ER. I truly do believe that it is the way the animal is raised and trained, and not the breed, that dictates their behavior.

Sharpei said...

The viciousness has nothing at all to do with the breed. They are born loving. And now, thanks to you, the pitbull will be put down probably just because it's a pit. I would'nt have reported t even if I had to legally.

Big Unit said...

Sharpei, let's be clear the owner is the ONLY one responsible for getting their dog taken away. The dog should have been on a shorter leash (btw, I believe a leash is a poor way to treat a dog IMHO). The dog should have had its shots. As far as I know Kim is right about the observation.

revhipchick said...

you're probably correct about the poodle comment--perhaps it would not have been taken quite so seriously had it been a poodle.

i'm sure i'll sound like a total jerk but i'm just asking.....

Rachel--how often do you groom pits opposed to the other dogs? what would be the ratio of dogs you've groomed and dogs you've been bit by? (am i making any sense here?)

also, how is it that pits have been so villianized? seriously, does it have to do with race and or economics?

i can't help but think there are many issues that underly the pit issue. just as with people i don't think it is an either or issue--it can't be either breeding or training, it has to be a combination of both.

i do think Rachel has hit on an important aspect--BSL legislation being total crap. that being the case, what do we do about dogs that bite and are dangerous. it seems that animal control laws are overly invasive, how do we fix that? can we pull them back in or is it too late?

Sharpei said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachael said...

revhipchick, I've noticed a much smaller number of pitties in this area of the state (northeast Oklahoma) than were in Oklahoma City. I don't really groom that many pitts because, like other short haired dogs, they are really easy for their owners to groom at home. I mostly do dogs that require hair cuts, or dogs who have so much hair that it is cumbersome for owners to wash them at home. So I probably only do a couple of pitties a month, give or take. In the salon I worked at in OKC, we probably saw 5 a week. Of course, that was also a much larger establishment, with 5 groomers and 2 or 3 bathers. Now its just me and one bather. I groom about 30 dogs a week.
As far as the ratio of bites I receive per breed, that's hard to say. It's just part of the job when you work with animals, especially when you do things they don't like, such as trimming their toenails or brushing tangles out of their hair. And most of the dogs that do bite do so not in an attempt to harm me, but rather as a way to make me stop what I am doing. If you've ever seen a mother dog carry a newborn pup in her mouth, you know that they have incredible control over their bite. Most dogs will give warning nips or will snap without making contact. I've only ever received 2 bites that were bad enough to require medical intervention. One was from a lhasa apso and one was from the shar pei I mentioned previously. I would estimate that 90% of the bites I receive come from small dogs (under 15 lbs).
I hope that answers your questions. And I don't think you're being a jerk at all. This is an issue that needs to be discussed more often. The pet population in our country is exploding, and we must have the education and awareness to keep up with it. You can ask me questions any time :)

mandyc said...

Hipchick, you bring up some great points about other things that may play into this (economics, race, etc.). I don't know if this is reflective of a trend, but it seems like the pit owners I've seen and met were mostly black and I can't help wondering if the whole violent portrayal is linked to that somehow (the perception that black men and their dogs are somehow more violent than others). At least locally, pits have gotten a bad rap from the media covering stories about them biting people (about a year and a half ago, I think, we had two people who were seriously injured and one who died after getting mauled by pits). I think it's interesting that the media shone such a spotlight on those incidents and then barely mention other acts of violence done by humans against other humans. All that media attention is what got people riled up in the first place to push the city to make some kind of law. The city didn't want to push responsible dog owners out but they also had to address the fears of the others, so they made this legislation about new ones coming in.

I agree that BSL doesn't work. I think alot of our laws don't really work like people intend them to when they get made. But that's another post for another time.

Sharpei, are you trying to make a legitimate point for debate or are you merely trying to incite us? Grammatical correction isn't necessary here (on this blog), as long as the meaning is understood.

Sharpei said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharpei said...

And I wasn't trying to "incite" you.

Mary said...

Hi- I hadn't been by in a while and thought I'd stop and say hi.... and add my 2 cents :)

First of all Mandy, you had every right to report the bite. It's the owners responsibility to keep their pets safe from the public and vice versa. I have a friend that has Rotts- they have never bitten anyone and have shown no signs of aggression, yet there is a genetic component as well as instinct in play. She has an 8 foot fence in her backyard and when she walks them she does not allow anyone to approach them. She will cross the street to avoid people. Dogs are pack animals and especially when they run with other dogs your chance of a serious attack increases. The genetic component is - many,, for centuries have been bred for aggression and while my friends Rotts have never threatened anyone, she knows you can't trust centuries of being bred to protect and attack is going to be changed w/ one owner. Compar this Mastiffs which were bred to knock you to the ground and stand on you until the rangers arrive. Or Goldens who never had a job being aggressive, just flushing out birds and bringing them back. So sorry Sharpei, I disagree- they are born w/ the instinct to do their job as defined by decades if not centuries of breeding and training. Do you know why dogs always like to sleep at you feet? Because they were trained to do that when we were nomadic so that they could 'watch' for anything moving toward you. That's been hundreds, thousands of years or more and my bichon still likes to sleep at the foot of the bed- head toward the door. I doubt the breed bichon's were ever used to protect anything, but that ancient ancestor still whispers in his genes- he watches out for me.

Ok, so my take on breeds- I have known some great pit bulls. One that was the most loving dog, killed a pony when it made a 'kind of' aggressive move toward it's owner- genetics. Most things tend toward economic gain- and with Pit Bulls, if the dog couldn't fight and kill another dog it wasn't bred and those are the lines most pit bulls come from. We did it to them, none-the-less, their instinct is to attack and keep attacking until whatever, whoever is dead. Do I think Pit bulls should be banned- no, but they can't just be allowed to roam the streets or have access to the public like the neighborhood cat. The same is true for Rotts, Dobies and Malinois and some German Shepards and I'm sure I missed some. Not that these aren't great dogs, they just benefit from a predictable environment and can become dangerous when put in a fight or flight situation. Didn't you hear about the football player that got bit by the police dog in the end zone this past weekend? I don't think any dog should be on a chain for this reason- you take away the flight they have to fight and they can be killed if attacked cause they can't get away. No dog should ever be on a chain unattended or for a length of time.

As for little dogs, I've gotten my worst bites from a miniture poodle and a Persian cat named Princess who turned my hand into hamburger. The difference is whiie some 'nippy' little dogs may be more likely to bite you, they probably aren't going to kill you. Unfortunately the power of a big dog can.

As for owners, honestly many people are attracted to dogs w/ aggressive reputations cause they want a 'bad ass dog.' And they want to encourage the dog to display those traits. Those that are responsible w/ these dogs, don't have them running around in public and don't encourage them to growl, bark, bite and 'get em' = IMO.

Sorry you were put in this situation Mandy.