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Loose dogs create all kinds of problems

POSTED July 17, 2012 4:56 p.m.
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Recent cases involving packs of dogs attacking bicyclists serve as an important reminder to dog owners to ensure that their pets cannot escape from home and run loose. Earlier this month a 49-year-old man was hospitalized with serious injuries after he was dragged from his bicycle and bitten numerous times. His injuries were serious and he is fortunate that he was not killed. These kinds of attacks are more common than they are publicized, since the victims do not always report actual or near attacks by packs of dogs. Over this past decade, there have been a number of dog attacks on people in this area, and when the victims are elderly or children, the consequences can be grave.

People tend to think that packs of dogs running loose and attacking humans and domestic animals are "wild" or strays, and probably not "every day" loving pets. In fact, more likely than not, these dog packs are pets that have escaped their homes. When dogs team up into packs, they tend to revert to their basic instincts which include hunting down and killing things. People are no exception to them, even though at home, they are probably totally trustworthy and would never show any sign of viciousness. To some extent, humans are known to do the same things when acting in mobs or other group-think circumstances when all notions of constraint are discarded.

Dogs are truly a gift to us, and generally speaking, when they cause problems, the cause can be directly laid at the feet of their owners. According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are approximately 78 million "owned" dogs in this country. The number of problem dogs represents just a fraction of the 78 million that are peaceful, well cared for pets that pose no threat owing to responsible pet ownership practices. Dogs that are abused by their owners are more likely to behave unpredictably and become vicious at times. Owners who train their dogs for fighting purposes or use their dogs to intimidate other people are major contributors to the problem.

While properly-done dog ownership is a virtual problem free relationship, when there are problems, they can be severe. A dog off its leash at minimum is a nuisance and can lead to a citation. When a dog causes injuries or death, the owner can be charged with criminal negligence and other crimes. Civil penalties and destruction of the dog are also strong possibilities. To avoid the problems, it is best to keep dogs for companionship and to serve as a watch dog (different from attack dog) to help let you know when there are trespassers or intruders. Make sure pens are secure; dig and jump-proof, and if your dog does manage to escape, make sure to notify animal control and neighbors so they can start looking for your pet.
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