STRICTER DOG LAWS NEEDED

Published in the Kelowna Daily Courier among others…

bewarecolorMy friend’s eight year old son was recently attacked by a pit bull who bit his beautiful face so severely that he was rushed to the hospital. After receiving approximately 40 stitches that ranged from just under his left eye, cheek and under his chin, it was immediately obvious to his family that they had narrowly escaped a parents’ worst nightmare.

“You’re lucky he never got his jugular,” I said to my friend when I saw her son two days after the attack. With tears in her eyes she nodded, beyond grateful he was alive.

When her family found out that this wasn’t the dog’s first attack and that its fate now rested with its owners rather than the authorities, they took the story to the press.

“We want stricter dog laws in the Okanagan,” she said. “If we had known that family had a dangerous animal we never would have allowed our child to be in their house. We should have been informed.”

Not wanting to see another family go through the same difficult situation, she’s written her first letter to the Regional District and started up a Facebook page called “Stricter Dog Laws in the Okanagan” where she has posted the facts about the terrifying attack on her son. Many people offered their sympathy for the traumatic experience, and encouraged their efforts to make the community safer. Then the unexpected happened: they started getting blamed for the attack.

After their emotional trauma the last thing they needed was to be blamed and she dismantled the page after its first few days. But blaming the victim is par for the course I’ve now learned since reading a slew of recent dog attack stories on the Internet. Sadly, it’s probably what keeps many victims from going public.

Word seems to fly whenever a pit bull or a dog that is on a dangerous breed list is in the news again and fanatical animal protectors come out of the woodwork to do their dirty work. And if you don’t think blaming the victim of an unprovoked and vicious dog attack is dirty work, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.

“Pit bulls get a bad rap,” another friend of mine said when I told her the story I was working on. “Poodles and Chihuahuas bite way more often and we never hear about them in the news.”

“Because they’re not maiming and killing people,” I responded.

“Oh yeah, there’s been deaths,” she said. “But the media keeps those stories hush hush.” Huh? Was this a joke?

“Any animal that kills any person is going to be reported in the news,” I said. “If anything, that would be more of a story because it would be so rare.”

But there seems to be a perception that it’s the fault of the media that pit bulls, rottweilers and other potentially dangerous dogs have received a bad rap. I’m no reporter, but I’m guessing that the poodle who bit my son’s hand (and even managed to draw blood) wouldn’t make the headlines like the story of a pit bull’s deathly attack on his pregnant owner did last week in California.

We need stricter dog laws in the Okanagan, and it shouldn’t take an attack resulting in death to make this happen.