Porch Safety

As an Animal Control Officer, the household porch can be one of the most dangerous places that we face.  You must arm yourself in preparation to protect yourself.

If you are approaching a porch and there is a dog on the porch, using an ultrasonic device will aid your in determining the dog’s behavior as you approach.  I most cases, the dog will move away from the front door and allow you to approach.  You need to keep in mind that an ultrasonic device is your least effective tool to keep you safe.

A metal clipboard is the best defense in protecting yourself if you are attacked.  You might be attacked by a dog at the door when you approach or when the dog owner opens the door and the dog escapes through the open door.  It is important to use the clipboard as a shield and offer the board to the dog as it attempts to bite you.

It is not uncommon that you might be attacked by more than one dog.  Pepper spray is your best approach in dealing with multiple dogs or if you are finding your clipboard ineffective.  It is important to shake up your can of pepper spray once a week to make sure the pepper is evenly suspended in the container.  Pepper spray comes in various concentrations from .003% concentration to 20% concentration.  The 20% solution is sold to hikers to use on bears; but it appears to be a big hit with protesters; it produces a nice wide spray and comes in a larger container…. thus it will protect you longer.

If the dog pursues you to your vehicle and continues the attack, you should have a CO2 fire extinguisher available to  keep the dog at bay until you can call for backup or until you can reach for your catch-pole.

As with the clipboard, the catch-pole is an effective shield to keep the dog at bay, but it is an ineffective tool if do don’t open the noose.  If you cannot get the open noose over the dog’s head, you might consider letting the dog bite the noose and chinch the noose closed on the dog’s muzzle.  You can then  feed a second catch-pole noose over the first catch-pole and work the noose down the catch-pole and over the dog’s head.

Using a catch-pole usually causes a scene and in today’s society, capturing the dog will likely be videotaped and put on social media.  You have the way your capture method decision against being injured by the dog.

Dilemma

We have become a society in which many of its members exercise their rights without consideration of others.  Recently, we have had incidents in which people are harmed when they inadvertently find themselves in the path of people engaged in “peaceful” protests.

One of the advantages of staying home as part of the pandemic is that we are safely distant from the harm of those peaceful protesters.  So far, no one seems to have an answer for how we should behave, if we were in our own vehicle and suddenly surrounded by angry people beating on your car.  An incident in Utah proves that protesters are capable of shooting into vehicles with unarmed occupants.  So you are faced with either sitting still and waiting to be harmed or putting your foot on the gas and plow your way out of the crowd.  Are you responsible for the people you injure in your escape?

The same hold true to people protecting their property.  If a crowd of people are coming down your street burning businesses or homes, to what level may the property owner protect their property?  Lethal force seems to be excessive when we compare the life on a person to that of property.  So?  What do you do?

As is consistent with my writing style, I tend to get sidetracked.  So, this time I am going to try to get sidetracked back on the issue of animal welfare.  You are walking down a street or a path and a dog comes rushing at you.  You cannot read the dog’s mind, so you don’t know the dog’s intent.  You have either (or both) a gun or a walking stick (it seems that life now requires that you carry one or the other).

You, of course, take a defensive stance.  You might yell, “Get this dog under control.”  It is a common practice that people frequently walk their dogs off leash without thought to other people out walking (this callous attitude is what has helped me fund my retirement).  Yelling will proved to be a moot point, because callous dog owners are slow to respond to the problems that they create.  So, do you take action against the dog, or wait until the dog has bitten you to prove the dog’s intent?  If you allow the dog to get that close to you, the dog might be too close for the walking stick to be effective.

We are increasingly faced with situations that are caused by people exercising what they consider their rights over the rights of anyone else.  Somehow, they have gotten it into their heads that looting and burning is a side affect of their right to protest.   More that ever, we have to work out scenarios in our minds in preparation for the unexpected.  Once you have figured out how you would handle a situation, you need to worry about to what extent are your permitted by law to protect yourself.  How would your actions play out in court?

Giving in to Common Sense

Every week my brother and I get our cardio workout by sharing our thoughts on the state of the world.  We usually have breakfast together, but the stay at home laws limit us not to phone calls.  You could not find two people more opposite  in the expression of our views.  I see the fallacy in his views as he sees them in mine.

Our discussion turned to the people making the news by violating their stay at home orders.  I see these people as exercising their constitutional freedoms and assisting mother nature in shaping our gene pool through natural selection.  My brother, a retired fire fighter, sees these people engaged in activities that place other people at risk. I see his point.

In my eyes, I believe that  stupid people should be allowed to engage in their stupid activities because it is mother nature’s way of removing deleterious genes from our gene pool.   I failed to see the risk that these folks play in their efforts to become sick.  Paramedics, doctors and nurses are placed at risk because people engage in idiotic behavior.  We experience similar issues in the animal welfare profession in dealing with the outcomes of dangerous dogs.

There is always a group of people who get excited when you make a decision to euthanize an animal that you think is too dangerous to be adopted.  Sure, they can find a family to take the dog, but you have to worry about the kind of people who would want to bring an aggressive dog home to live with their children.  We live in a world where people willing agree to get into situations that are well over their heads.

Let’s face it, I may be the only person who is enjoying staying at home.  But, your right to walk about as you wish should not put other people at risk.  Give your first responders a break and do everything you can to keep yourself well and those around you.  That includes bringing home aggressive animals into a neighbor with small children.  Someone in the world has to start making smart decisions.

Give the Constitution a rest and do something for someone other than your self; help protect our first responders by following a few rules.  It is the least that we can do for them.

PETA

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) gained their early notoriety  with shock and awe tactics.  Their campaigns to end the use of animal pelts as articles of clothing revealed the naked bodies of many of their volunteers at public and private functions.  Obviously  it was an organization that you can get behind.

My first encounter with PETA was early in my profession when one our community’s pets mauled a young girl.  As the decision was being made as to what to do with the dog, I got a phone call advising me that if any harm came to the dog, I would be killed.  The caller identified himself as being from PETA.

I notified the local press, because I wanted to discredit the mentality of that caller so as to prevent any further foothold of people in my community to stand behind an aggressive dog over the life of a child.  The newspaper called PETA for their response.

I have  to admire Ingrid Newkirk for her response that PETA values all life and it is inconsistent with their mission to harm a human.  She advised the reporter that her organization has many volunteers who fail to follow strictly their organizational values.  In the years that followed, her words were a prophecy that I witnessed over and over with my own volunteers.

Over the years PETA has been criticized for their tactics that seemed inconsistent with their mission of doing no harm to animals.  Recently, I caught a CNN article claiming that they wanted to eliminate the term “pet.”

The Oxford Dictionary already includes animal in their definition of PETA’s new word for pet: “companion”.   PETA has declared the word “pet” as being derogatory.  Anyone who has ever cared for a dog will know that a dog isn’t debased by the term “pet”.  Cats, on the other hand, view humans as servants and being called a “pet” by our cat would be the closest thing to a kind word ever offered by a cat.  Lovers often call one another by pet names.

I understand where PETA is coming from; we live in a “woke” world and words have new meanings.  We have become a society in which words are used to declare our awareness of the plight of the world.  But the people who chain up thier dog in their backyards are no where near being the woke people who PETA hopes that they are.

Police Officer Shootings

Recently, in the news, a police officer shoots a dog running at large.  The officer claims that the dog, a pitbull, came at him in an aggressive manner.  We’ll never know what the dog was thinking.  The problem with a pitbull dog is that when they are running at you in a friendly way looks the same as if they are attacking you; it isn’t until the reach you that you determine their intent.

This particular officer has previously kill three other dogs in the line of duty.  Since the dogs cannot give their story, we will never know if this is the result of an over zealous police officer.

The local media is demanding the police department’s  “policy” of dogs running at large.  They believe that if there is no policy that allows for a police officer to kill an attacking dog, then that isn’t an option for the officer.  The request is pretty stupid.  Any rational person would understand that if the police officer feels he is in danger or feels that he needs to protect another person, then a rushing dog might as well have a target painted on it.

When an officer’s first response is to reach for his or her firearm, then they have failed the part of their training that teaches the escalation of force.  Pepper spray works most of the time on dogs and a taser is effective, if the officer can hit a small moving target.  Because the officer’s first thought is to reach for his gun; if I were his Chief, I would order him to take more training.

The real lesson to learn here is about training police officers.  It is about getting dog owners to accept their responsibility of keeping their dogs properly confined.  If I lived in a community in which loose dogs are shot, I would probably keep my dog safely indoors.

As I have always preached, all dogs have the potential to bite.  Even if your dog is friendly, some people have a fear of dogs and that fear is shared by a lot of police officers.  Unless you are looking forward to a law suit or your dog being shot, a smart dog owner keeps their dog under control AT ALL TIMES!   The problem is that we just don’t see enough smart dog owners., as demonstrated by the dog owner in this incident in which she is more concerned about the police department’s policy towards shooting loose dogs than accepting her role in allowing her dog to run loose.

Just Doing Their Job

Recently, a Tennessee teenage was maul and killed by a “pack of dogs” as she was approaching the home in which the dogs lived.  The sheriff’s report of the incident quoted the owner as saying, that the dogs were “just doing their job.”  I wonder what this guy owned that was so valuable that it was worth killing over.

I have repeatedly claimed that the owners of aggressive dogs are idiots.  It is unfortunately that we only become aware of these people after someone has been injured or killed.  Dogs are a lot like guns, they are dangerous in the wrong hands.

As with any dog attack, the prosecutor is struggling through possible charges; the first that always comes to mind is reckless endangerment,  especially when the expectation of the owner was for the dogs to attack innocent children that approached his home.

Temperament Testing

In an effort to afford potential adopters with full knowledge of their future pet, animal shelters provide behavior tests so as to provide the best adoption match.  Over the years, various temperament tests were use and eventually they migrated to the Safer Test for dogs.  Using a worksheet, the dog undergoes various tasks and a determination is made as to the temperament of the dog at the time of the testing procedure.  For obvious reasons, no test is performed to determine if the dog is good with children.

The Safer Test is a good indicator, but potential adopters should understand that the test is performed under controlled conditions and that the dog is performing the test after being taken from a confined space within a loud kennel.  The Safer Test is only an indicator, but usually pretty accurate, if performed by qualified, attentive staff.

It is not uncommon for owners who have had their dogs seized as a dangerous dog will demand that their dog be tested for aggression, as if the Safer Test will out weigh the dog’s actions of attacking someone.  In court trials, attorneys for dog owners make claim that their client was denied Due Process because the animal shelter failed to administer a temperament test on the dog.  The dog’s temperament at the time that the dog is in the shelter has nothing to do with the dog running out into the street to bite a delivery person.  The only true test would be to set up the same conditions that caused the dog to attack in the first place.  The Safer Test does not provide for having someone drive up in a UPS truck and approach the dog’s house in a UPS uniform.  If it did, the dog would likely fail that test.

Dogs are territorial.  They see some one approach their house and after barking at them, the person leaves; likely because their job is done and the package has been delivered.  Over time the dog begins to see that by showing aggression toward these people that the dog always wins and the person leaves.  If allowed to escape the yard, the dog realizes that he can finally teach them a lesson and bites them.  Even a dog that has passed a Safer Test could be caught in this situation.

Over the years, I have tried to explain this to dog owners who have asked to allow their dog be evaluated prior to a dangerous dog hearing.  Sometimes, I have even been tempted to allow it; but, I know that if I allow someone to test the dog while the dog is in my shelter and that person is attacked, that is on me.  The person will ask to sign a waiver, but a waiver of liability will not hold up in court.   It is foolish to place the shelter at legal risk by allowing someone to interact with the animal.  You don’t want to end your career by allowing someone into a position of being able to sue you and your jurisdiction.

Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)

Miami started the fad of banning pitbulls, thinking it was a public safety measure.  Many communities followed.

Does banning pitbulls make your community safer?  Yes, but so does banning Cocker Spaniels and Chihuahuas.   Most dog bites are the result of irresponsible dog owners, but poor ownership qualities become more noticeable as the size and the power of the breed increases.  A bad Chihuahua owner is hardly noticed because the bite of a Chihuahua rarely needs medical attention.  Bites caused by pitbulls are increasingly causing fatalities… thus the decision communities take to ban them.

Are Pitbulls getting a bad reputation?  Yes and no, Pitbulls are very loyal dogs, but they attract the worst pet owners; on top of that, genetics play a role that makes the dogs predisposed to aggression towards other animals.  Many humans are bitten trying to protect their pet from an attacking Pitbull.

People always find their way around the BSL laws.  When Pitbull owners discover that their breed has been unmasked, they simply respond saying that the dog is a service animal.  You already know how I feel about the abuses of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) concerning service animals; but, now you have communities dealing with the dilemma of dealing with Pitbulls as an ADA issue.

The chant opposing BSL is, “The deed, not the breed.”  The idea is that if a dog is aggressive, it will display that aggression by biting someone.  Given that every dog has the potential to bite, you don’t arbitrarily ban a breed without proof of aggression.  In theory, this sounds fair, but the problem arises that someone now has to be bitten.  The idea of BSL is to prevent bites before they occur.

We now live in a world in which people want to champion the cause of the under dogs and as such we are seeing a movement to rescind BSL laws in many cities.  Some State have created laws prohibiting breed specific laws.  Although this movement will not sway the insurance companies that have banned these dogs from homeowner insurance polices or stop apartment managers from renting to owners of specific breeds.

The underlying problem is that in the wrong hands dogs, any dog, presents a risk to society when the owner of that dog decides that his right to own a potentially dangerous dog out weighs the rights of his neighbors to live safely.  Pitbulls can live in our community, only if their owners can recognize the potential threat that they may pose and take the necessary steps to prevent them from causing harm… this also applies to Chihuahuas as well.

Although Pitbulls are finding good pet owners, they are prominently still falling into the hands of the worst owners, as evidenced by the volume of Pitbulls that are overwhelming our shelters.  In leu of a ban on Pitbulls, I would recommend legislation that requires the sterilization of the breed; it is our only hope of getting our shelter populations under control.  As long as pitbull breeds fill over half of the kennels in our shelters that are and will remain a problem in our communities.

A few years ago, after Denver banned pitbulls, people began identifying their  pitbull as a service animal.  As you have read in other posts on this site, the laws concerning service animals had gotten way out of control and Denver was dealing with that abuse as people fought for their banned pets.  In February of 2020, the City of Denver overturned the previous ban and provided for passage of pitbulls to be treated like other pets, following a two year probationary period.

Bad Fences Make for Bad Neighbors

One of the most frustrating thing that we face in our profession is determining the risk of a failing fence.  I have had countless conversations with owners of perceived aggressive dogs as to the state of their fence line.  We are not in the insurance business, but we know a accident waiting to happen.  The problem we face is that the owners of aggressive dogs are not the brightest tool in the box and as Animal Control Officers, we cannot take action until the dog actually escapes the yard.

The other day, 9-year-old Emma Hermandez was killed by three pit bull type dogs in Detroit after Emma’s father spoke to the dog’s owners about  the sad state that his fence was in.   The owner was arrested, but the article stated that the “prosecutors are determining what charges, if any, their owner may face.”  The problem with prosecutors is that they rarely deal with fatal dog cases and can’t think objectively.  Every dog has the potential to bite, but few have the ability to kill.  Dogs are like a loaded weapon, some are like BB guns and other are more like a 45 caliber.  Having been warned about the neighbor’s concern and failing to take action, the owner should be charged with reckless endangerment.  If the Animal Control had received and acted on previous complaints, the owner should be charged with murder.

As with guns, there are no laws that keep dogs out of the hands of idiots.  You can usually tell when a neighborhood has one of these dog owners, the rest of the neighborhood knows that a gun will trump a dog anytime.

I have advised neighbors to know the response time of their police and go on record filing a complaint with both the police and animal control.  A person needs to build a case for themselves as to the necessity of the actions that they have taken to protect themselves.  You may one day be in court trying to convince a judge that your actions were necessary.  A person needs to keep their wits about them, even an experienced police officer can fail to hit a vital organ.  My shelter dealt with a pit bull dog that had been shot by the local police officers 19 times and lived through the experience.  The best shot comes when the dog is running directly at you, presenting that large forehead.  If you miss, offer up your forearm and you are in perfect position to line up for a perfect shot.  If you work for the police department, volunteer to catch your canine dog on a wrap.  Plenty of “wrap time” can get you to see for yourself the opportunity that is made available to you.  If you find it necessary to shoot the dog, remember that in all of the excitement, you must always insure that you have a safe background behind the dog.

Why would you consider shooting a dog?

  1. You do not carry the necessary equipment to capture the dog alive without risk to yourself.
  2. It is a quick solution to a problem that demands an immediate response.  Let’s face it, the longer that a dog is allowed to chew on a child, the less likely the child will survive.
  3. It is a permanent solution to a problem that you cannot trust the dog’s owner to fix.

In the case with Emma, a neighbor shot one dog and the others were later captured by animal control; but, it was all too late for her.   As with any of these fatal incidents, there will be someone wanting to save the dogs.  They might even hire a “dog expert” to justify the dog’s actions, these guys are paid well to spin a yarn, they’ll even make the case that it was the victim’s fault.

The Case for Pookie

In 1995, a 2 year old girl was playing in her yard, when she decided that she wanted to pet the neighbor’s dog, Pookie.  She began climbing the chain link fence so that she could reach over and pet the dog.  As she climbed the fence, the dog grabbed on to the toe of her shoe and began pulling her toes, then foot, then leg through the fence.  A witness at a nearby bus stop reported that the dog look like a land shark, trying to pull that child through the fence.

The dangerous dog case against this dog was thrown out because the judge ruled that when the child’s toes crossed the plane of the fence, the child was trespassing and determined that the child’s actions triggered the attack upon her.

This incident became a landmark case in Portland Oregon because it set the stage for a local attorney and his wife to turn the local animal shelter into a prison as they appealed dangerous dog cases that came their way.  Anyone who has worked with the courts know the lengthy process and the attorney used this lengthy process to punish the shelter by forcing them to hold dogs pending the appeal process.  The appeals serve to keep the animal shelter full of “dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs,” and where the dogs become the victims of being caged for a long time.  Many debate as to how humane it is for a dog to be caged for years pending a court resolution.

The war between public safety and the rights of animals has been constantly waged in Portland Oregon for years.  This attorney and his wife have repeatedly stated that there really is no reason to declare an animal as dangerous, it is a human problem.  As with any cause, there are people at the extreme left and extreme right.  The people who live their lives in the fringe of any cause do not accept those of us who try to remain balanced and stay in the middle.   Working in the animal welfare field, you are going to be constantly called on to take one side or the other.  If you are a government employee, you have to understand that even though we got into this business because of our love for animals, our primary purpose is to protect our community.  In spite of what people will tell you, there are animals that are too unsafe to live in our communities.  Sure, most of them became unsafe as a result of their owners; so, even though it isn’t their fault, they are still a public safety risk.

The purpose of people like this attorney and his wife is to intimidate us.  They believe that if they are persistent long enough, we will cave to their will.  Along the way we are going to lose a case or two, but we will carry on because we have a higher calling: to keep our children safe.