Sunday, April 4, 2010

What Responsibilities do Pit Bull (or ANY dog) Owners Have?

6pm PST
March 28, 2010
Anaheim, California

It's been a week since my husband Johnnie and our two beloved Greyhounds (both rescue animals) were attacked and mauled by a neighbor's Pit Bull. In an instant our lives and the lives of our pets, were changed irrevocably.

I'd been home in bed recovering from a back strain, so I hadn't been with my husband during our regular late afternoon walk with our dogs. We walk the dogs twice daily, traversing both sides of the street we live on. Doing so as much for me (I've limited mobility and walk with a cane or walker) as for our two furry friends. Visiting with neighbors, the dogs receiving admiring looks and hugs along with the occasional treat. For which they prance and nuzzle while dispensing sloppy wet puppy kisses in return.

We live in Anaheim, less than two miles from Disneyland. Ours is a quiet street, not quite a culdesac, not quite a dead end, but isolated non the less. Our neighbors are mostly families with infants and small children and older people such as ourselves. We may not know everyone's names, but we know their faces, their children, their pets, and their homes. Their children play in our yard, and ring our door bell to look at the dogs from behind our iron gate. Harvey says "Love You" when offered a small treat, which makes the children giggle and smile. (Makes adults laugh and smile as well.)

In the 50 odd years we've lived in Orange County we've noticed a change in demographics, along with the urbanization of the areas around our home. Our lovely quiet street is now surrounded on three sides by streets full of shoddy looking homes, each of them lined with row upon row of cars.

On weekends we deal with the noise of parties, sometimes the sound of the police shutting down a party that had gone on into the wee hours of the morning. Our area even made the national news when some poor misbegotten soul shot and killed his girlfriend ... only to be shot and killed himself after threatening the police later that afternoon. We heard a quick successions of loud pops, followed by the sound of dozens of sirens.

We had a drug dealer living on our street for a while, cars driving by 24/7 ... some of them impossibly huge tricked out vehicles with strange hydraulics and jarringly loud boom boxes. We always walked past that house quickly, thinking life in this neighborhood isn't nearly as simple or pleasant as it used to be. A lot of neighbors packed up and left, even further changing things on the street.

We all breathed a collective sigh of relief when they abandoned the house. The poor owner had such a mess to clean up. Then an other family moved in, distant and uninviting, with pile of noisy dirty unkempt children and a tiny terror of a dog who kept crashing through the screen door. Uncollared, he'd roam the street, lunging at people, chasing cats, barking at other dogs, and leaving tiny warm reminders of his presence. They vanished one night as well, leaving an other gigantic mess behind them. So the house was empty for quite some time after that.

The new tenants showed up at our door last summer, asking if they could have the things we were getting rid of while remodeling our home. They told us they were sleeping on the floor and had no bedding. We put together boxes of draperies, bedding and food. Like the other children in our street, their 10 year old son came over often to play with our dogs. He spoke a lot about his dog, a Pit Bull that had been a gift from his uncle. It was living with his Aunt, he missed it.

Eventually the dog started showing up on the weekends. We saw her running around without a collar or a leash, and asked them to please collar her, and get her in the house. But she got out a lot, and I worried about the children on our street.

6pm Sunday, March 28, 2010

The phone rang, I could barely make out what my husband was saying. He was weeping, and breathing hard.

"I tried, I tried, I couldn't stop it, there's so much blood ... Harvey's Harvey's"

"What's wrong?" I asked, my heart hammering in my ears.

"I've been, we've been, attacked. A Pit Bull went after the boys and me. I need you to come and get the dogs. The paramedics are checking me out now. I called the police, they just got here. I'm across the street at the new neighbors ... the ones with the Pit. Please come."

I got up, sans cane, sans walker, forgetting my teeth, my shoes and my street clothes. I ran (sort of a quick waddle) out side in my bed clothes, wild haired, the phone's headset still attached to my head. The street was filled with people staring at the new neighbor's home. Johnnie was sort of half sitting on the ground, on some sort of a box, covered in blood. The paramedics, the fire department, the police and animal control were there as well. Flashing lights everywhere. The dogs were bloody and looked terrified. The Pit Bull was no where to be seen.

My husband looked like he was having a heart attack, his face was a frightening shade of pale blue. One of our neighbors was holding the dogs. They told me to stay with Johnnie, that they would take the dogs to our home and place them in their run.

The next 24 hours were a blur. Talking with police, Animal control, paramedics. Both dogs needed surgery, which meant going to an emergency clinic. With wounds to his face and throat, Harvey was hurt the worst.

The police and animal control had told told us to give our bills to the new neighbors, as they were legally responsible. When Johnnie handed our neighbor the receipt for surgery, he was shocked at the $2,700.00 price tag. "It costs that much to fix a DOG?" (Two dogs actually, but I guess he missed the point that his dog caused these injuries.)

He told my husband his dog was hurt as well, and described the dog's wounds in detail ... as if we were some how liable for his dogs injuries because our dogs defended themselves. He then told my husband he had no liability insurance, the dog had never been vaccinated (he told the police it had), he had no dog tag and no money. Dead tired, sore and still covered in blood my husband simply walked away. We got to bed around midnight.

At 6am (day after the attack), we got up to get the dogs from the emergency clinic. We needed to transport them to our regular vet for post operative care. We got back home a little after 1pm. My husband finally made it to a doctor at 3pm. More money spent for examination, xrays, medications.

When Johnnie spoke with the neighbor again the next day, he told my husband that "dog fights are natural. That's what dogs do." Like dog bites were an unavoidable part of life, and no big deal. Our dogs nearly died, my husband quite easily could have died ... but hey it's no big deal.

As of April 1, 2010, they still own their Pit Bull. They haven't put up the security door the police and animal control told them they needed. They have told us they're broke and can't pay us anything. Which probably means they still haven't vaccinated their dog, spayed her, signed her up for obedience training and gotten dog tags ... all recommendations by the police and animal control.

Many of neighbors have been coming over to check on Johnnie and the dogs. Everyone's scared about the Pit Bull, so are we. We worry about how we'll be able to walk the dogs once their wounds have healed. The wheels of justice turn slowly ... so for now we are hostages to our new neighbors whims.

Owning a dog ... ANY dog ... is a privilege, not a right. With ownership comes responsibility.

  1. All breeds need to be socialized, so they'll not feel the need to protect their home.
  2. All breeds need obedience training so they'll obey commands.
  3. All breeds need to be vaccinated for their own protection and the protection of others.

  • If you can not afford to care for a pet properly, you shouldn't have one.
  • If you're too scared of your pet to help stop it during attack, why in God's name would you even want it?!
  • Once your dog has attacked other dogs, and you DO NOT take responsibility for the damage it caused, you shouldn't be allowed to keep it.
Right now our local dog shelter is filled with Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas, the local dog dujour. Both dogs needing a lot of attention and care. Unsocialized Chihuahuas bite and bully, the same with Pit Bulls. While a Chihuahua that nips and bites can be a royal pain, they aren't the killing machines unsocialized and improperly trained Pit Bulls can be.

In the end, it's rarely the dog that sets these things in motion. Ignorance, self entitlement and poor training helps create an animal who is bound to cause problems. Sadly once a dog's attacked and/or killed an other dog or person, it's often too late to save that dog. So much pain and suffering ... for what? To have a cool looking Gang'sta dog who can kick any dog's butt.

My husband and I have fostered and rescued all kinds of animals for decades. Socialization and obedience training has always been on the top of our list. Our dogs see the vet frequently, have all their vaccinations, and wouldn't hurt a soul. We have double doors in front, (one's an iron gate), an iron gate in back, and a special gated run in the backyard. (So the dogs can't get out.) This is as much for their safety as well as the safety of others. Greyhounds can run up to 55mph, and have been known to run out into traffic.

PS ~ It was touch and go with Harvey. We nearly lost him the first night home. He's doing better now. Raleigh barks at the Disney fireworks now, something he never used to do, he also snaps and barks at our newest foster dog (adopted before the attack). Johnnie's back still hurts, and I jump each time the phone rings. Johnnie refuses to take the dogs for walks until he knows the Pit Bull is gone.

I'm grateful my husband and our dogs weren't killed. Hopefully in time, life will feel normal again.

1 comment:

  1. Pit bull are friendly breed of dog, but can be trained to be dangerous.