Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Tragedy of Dangerous Dogs In Delaware

Tonight I write with a heavy heart for a family who is now dealing with a tragedy that will probably be one of the most horrific events over the course of their life. Today a 4 year old boy in Delaware was killed by 3 dogs, and his pregnant mother was bitten multiple times trying courageously to save her child.  We've all lost someone special in our lives at some point, but I can't even imagine the horror or pain of losing a child, and I pray that nobody else has to face that kind of pain.
Troopers Investigating Deadly Pit Bull Attack
May 7, 2014 at 10:39pm
Felton, DE- The Delaware State Police are currently investigating a deadly pit bull attack that tragically killed a 4-year-old boy.
The incident occurred around 4:00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon as a 4-year-old Camden boy and his 24-year-old mother were visiting with a female friend in the 900 block of Edwardsville Road, west of Felton.  The mother, who is several months pregnant, and her friend were inside the residence while the 4-year-old was outside playing in the yard around her friend's three pit bulls of whom he'd been around numerous times in the past.  At one point, the mother looked out the window and observed her son being attacked by the dogs.  While her friend called 9-1-1, the mother immediately ran out in an attempt to save her son and was also bit numerous times on both arms.  Two HVAC repairmen working at the house also attempted to save the young child by fending off the animals with PVC piping and assisting the mother from the attacking dogs.
EMS and troopers responded to the scene and began first aid on the young boy before he was soon pronounced dead.  He was turned over the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner who will conduct an autopsy to rule the exact cause and manner of death.
The 24-year-old mother was transported by EMS to Kent General Hospital where she is being treated for her injuries as well as observation.
The investigation into this incident is on going and the three pit bull dogs were removed from the residence by the SPCA.  The status of the dogs is unknown at this time.
The name of the 4-year-old victim is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
This tragedy puts the current legislation regarding dangerous dogs (HB297) in perspective.  Some of our "No-Kill" cohorts have argued to water down this legislation. They claim that cases where an animal chasing someone in an aggressive manner on their own property "in an apparent attitude of attack" should not constitute consideration as a dangerous dog.  But what if these dogs had previously chased or lunged at someone, but the person was lucky or fast enough to not get bitten. If this had been the case here, who in their right mind wouldn't want to err on the side of public safety and protection of children?

It doesn't appear that there were previous incidents based on the article, which stated that the child had been around the dogs without incident, but it doesn't take much of a stretch to imagine that in other cases there are signs like chasing and lunging aggressively on the owners property where there was no provocation.  Those signs shouldn't be ignored and they should be examined to try and prevent tragedies like this from happening.  For that reason, I fully support HB297 as it is written, and I hope that Representative Williams stands by his original bill and doesn't choose to water it down.

There is also a misconception that a dog is automatically euthanized if it is declared dangerous or potentially dangerous.  That's not true, despite what the "No-Kill" activists would like you to believe.  Sometimes the law finds that there merely needs to be additional requirements that the owner must meet, such as double enclosures or other steps that ensure the public is safe from dangerous dogs.  And clearly, if a dog had merely chased or lunged without actually biting a person and was declared potentially dangerous, restrictions are going to be based on the severity of the situation.

Rep. D.E. Williams & Sen. Peterson

Reps. Briggs King, J. Johnson, Q. Johnson, Potter




Section 1.  Amend § 922(a), Title 9 of the Delaware Code  by making deletions as shown by strike through and insertions shown by underline and as follows:
§ 922 Seizure and impoundment of dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs; notification of dog owner; request for hearing.
(a) An animal control constable or dog warden shall seize and impound a dog suspected of being dangerous or potentially dangerous when the warden has reasonable cause to believe that the dog has engaged in one or more of the following:
(1) Chased or pursued a person, including but not limited to a person on a bicycle, upon the streets, sidewalks or any public or private property, other than the dog owner's property, in an apparent attitude of attack on 2 separate occasions within a 12-month period; or
(2) Killed or inflicted physical injury or serious physical injury upon a human being; or
(3) Killed or inflicted serious physical injury upon a domestic animal, provided the domestic animal was on the property of its owner or under the immediate control of its owner; or
(4) Was subject to, or was used to facilitate, animal cruelty or animal fighting, as alleged in a criminal complaint or charge.

This bill clarifies when an animal control constable or dog warden may impound a dog that is suspected of being dangerous or potentially dangerous.  The bill makes clear that any of the paragraphs constitutes grounds.  In addition, the bill removes largely redundant language referencing an exception for the dog owner’s property.  Section 923 already includes an exception for injury to a “human being who, at the time the injury was sustained, was committing criminal trespass or other tort upon premises occupied by the owner of the dog, or was teasing, tormenting, abusing or assaulting the dog, or was committing or attempting to commit a crime.”

Are We Seeing More Dangerous Dogs Now?

For a state of under 1 million residents, we certainly seem to have more than our share of documented incidents of dangerous dogs, and 2 deaths in less than 2 years doesn't seem to be a good track record of protecting the public health and safety. Although we don't appear to have reached the level of danger that communities like San Antonio have encountered recently with 2 deaths in 3 months by dog attacks as they also go down the "No-Kill" road, but I still think 2 deaths is 2 years is too many for such a short period of time.  

Here are just some of the dangerous dog incidents that we've seen since CAPA was enacted:

Obviously these are only the high profile cases that we've seen, so I can only imagine how many human and animal bites or attacks are occurring that we never see in the newspapers.

Next week, the state will finally reconvene some version of the dangerous dog panel that disappeared after 2011 when CAPA went into affect. To date, most of us don't even know who are on the panels, which speaks to the lack of transparency in our state, but let's hope that this is a sign that the state is finally realizing that it's time to protect residents of the state and our pets from aggressive dog attacks.
May 12, 2014 - Public Health Dog Control Panel - Purpose - The Delaware Dog Control Panel will hear the case Delaware Animal Care and Control vs. Faithful Friends Animal Society, concerning a potentially dangerous dog. The Dog Control Panel will determine whether the dog in question should be declared dangerous or potentially dangerous, and will articulate on the record the reasons for its decision.

May 14, 2014 - Public Health Dog Control Panel - Purpose - The Delaware Dog Control Panel will hear the case Delaware Animal Care and Control vs. Alonzo Garvin
This is also a good sign for the animals of our state. There are so many great friendly shelter dogs that a person can adopt, and despite "No-Kill" attempts to banish temperament testing, the fact is that some of us realize that dangerous dogs should never be adopted out to the public and risk harming the reputation of shelter dogs. Also, dangerous dogs should also never go to irresponsible rescues that don't have the resources or the expertise to deal with an aggressive dog who might later place the public at risk by releasing dangerous dogs for adoption.

To The Family & Friends of The 4 Year Old Boy Who Died Today

My prayers go out to you, and I hope that your find peace in the cherished memories that this little boy brought to your life. While I believe that he is at peace and free of the horror of his final moments, I'm sure that it will take time to push aside the memories of today's events so that you can cherish and appreciate just how wonderful his short life was with you.  But your greatest gift to him will be to carry on and continue to spread the light of joy that he brought to you.