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Could these tips on dogs save lives?

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Greg Peck
March 13, 2013

It’s rare when a dog attack kills someone. That and the victim’s age—a 14-month-old boy—made the attack last week in the town of Walworth all the more tragic. Two pit bulls owned by a young woman attacked her and the toddler she was babysitting when they were outside her apartment. The woman survived; the dogs were euthanized.

It was no surprise that, in the aftermath, PETA sent us a letter to the editor offering “lifesaving dog-bite prevention tips.” That letter, by Lindsay Pollard-Post of the PETA Foundation in Norfolk, Va., appears in today’s Gazette.

Most of the letter made sense to me. It suggested always spaying or neutering your dog because “unaltered dogs tend to be more territorial and more aggressive.” It said to promptly report animal cruelty because dogfighters and those who use canines as “guard dogs” often use cruel tactics to make dogs more aggressive and more likely to attack. It also suggested never leaving animals and children unattended together. That’s because, Pollard-Post wrote, animals and kids can be unpredictable. Even the friendliest dog might bite if it’s unaccustomed to children or if a child startles the dog while it’s sleeping. People in my family are well aware of that last point.

Here’s where Pollard-Post’s letter bothered me, however. “Never chain or cage dogs,” she wrote. “The lack of socialization and inability to escape perceived threats make chained dogs nearly three times more likely to attack than dogs who are not tethered.”

Molly is the second cairn terrier my wife and I have owned—and Cheryl had another before we met. Like Trapper before her, Molly sleeps in a large cage. She’s also there when we leave home for part of the day. It’s her “home,” a place she feels safe. Sometimes she’ll lie down on her bed in the open cage even when we’re around the house.

Before we got Molly from a breeder, we were screened through the Col. Potter Cairn Rescue Network. A required visit from a network representative was apparently in large part to make sure we didn’t have an underground “fence” because terriers are known to run through them. The rescue didn’t seem to have a problem with the fact we would be using a cage and a rope to confine a dog outside.

Yes, Trapper usually went wild barking when he was in the driveway on his rope and someone passed by. Our efforts to train him failed—as a terrier, it was his nature to alert us to passersby. Molly will bark, too, but not so obsessively. I wouldn’t want someone to approach her without us there. Yet I also can’t imagine letting her run loose outside, only to chase another dog, a squirrel or a rabbit and risk losing her or being hit by a car.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook



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