Ever know someone with a reactive or aggressive dog who makes their pet everyone else’s problem? Who are we kidding? Of course this is something you’ve seen or experienced before. Sometimes, the owner denies or minimizes their dog’s behavior (“Don’t be afraid. He’s just playing!”); they may also make excuses for their dog (“He’s being triggered by past traumatic experiences!”), or, in some instances, the owner may even blame the victim(s) (“Why did you let your dog aggravate him!”). The lack of accountability and excuses are all too familiar.
Pets are part of the family, and our protectiveness and desire to paint them in the best possible light comes from a good place. That’s completely understandable. It is also true that our pets may act differently around us than with unfamiliar people, pets, and places. But regardless, the behavior of our pets is our responsibility. At a bare minimum, we have a duty to make sure our pets are under control when dealing with the public and strangers. And not to let smaller pets off the hook (which is a topic for another article), but this responsibility is doubly important when we’re talking about large dogs that can more easily cause grievous injuries to other pets and people.
Hammering home this point is the story of a five-year-old girl in Florida, who endured five hours of surgery after a dog owner allegedly invited the girl to pet her 60lb, recently rescued dog that was “very good with kids.” Yeesh. The dog proceeded to maul the girl twice, as the girl’s mother wrestled with the attacking dog. The owner (who, in at least one recounting of this story, just stood there as the attacks transpired) and dog disappeared as the girl was rushed to the hospital by her mother, but have since been identified. It’s a pretty horrific tale. The images serve as a graphic reminder (consider this your warning) of the harm that occurs when people fail to meet their most basic common sense and responsibility requirements as pet owners.