A recent string of dog attacks in the Mahoning Valley causing severe injuries illustrates anew the serious and sometimes deadly consequences of irresponsible pet ownership.
It also serves as a forceful reminder about the importance of knowing and using defensive and offensive strategies to prevent similar tragedies.
Throughout this week, The Vindicator has been reporting closely on a series of dog attacks by a pit bull and pit bull/boxer mix over the past seven months. The attacks injured six people, including Vindicator Reporter Samantha Phillips who wrote a first-person narrative of the attack against her and her mother in last Sunday’s newspaper. The neighbor’s dogs broke loose of a metal runner.
Phillips suffered a bloody gashing bite to her arm that ripped deeply into her skin and left fatty tissue exposed.
Most recently, the same dogs from Vienna Township mauled Veronica Williams on Jan. 21 at Hubbard Pet Resort. Clearly the physical and emotional scars for Williams will linger.
“Just seeing a huge pit bull jump up and grab your face is horrifying. It also took a chunk out of my right arm, so bad that the hospital could not stitch it up.” Williams said.
Fortunately, upon the recommendation of Trumbull County Executive Dog Warden Michelle Goss, the two dogs were humanely euthanized Friday.
Though the community is safer now without the clear and present dangers these two dogs posed, the case nonetheless illustrates the potentially dreadful consequences caused by those who fail to take their responsibilities for animal control seriously.
The dangers of dog bites loom larger than many realize.
More than 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and those most commonly attacked are children and the elderly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Ohio, more than 14,000 serious dog bites were reported to the Department of Health in 2017, and 22 people have died from such attacks in the Buckeye State since 2010.
Clearly the consequences of dog attacks can scar lives physically and emotionally for years.
That’s why it’s critical for owners of America’s estimated population of 75 million dogs to aggressively work to avoid the possibility of their beloved four-legged family member wreaking havoc on a community and endangering innocent lives.
Among the offensive strategies include not permitting dogs to roam free, keeping dogs securely tethered while outdoors on private property and ensuring the dog’s shots and vaccinations are up to date. Training dogs on proper socialization skills will also help minimize the potential for violent attacks.
Even in the best of cases, however, good dogs can go bad. That’s why it’s up to all of us to be aware of and practice defensive strategies to prevent dog bites. The Anti-Cruelty Society offers a variety of worthwhile preventive tips:
Do not approach a stray or unfamiliar dog, especially if its owner is not present.
Do not try to pet, make eye contact with or run or scream near an unfamiliar dog.
Do not approach a dog while it is eating, sleeping or caring for puppies.
Healthy doses of common sense by owners also must play a role. For example, adults with small children should shy away from welcoming aggressive breeds into their home.
When common sense and personal responsibility fall short, however, the state should play a supportive role in minimizing the risks of death and injury posed by vicious unsocialized dogs.
That’s why new legislation sponsored by Rep. Glenn Holmes of Girard, D-63rd, and Rep. Niraj Antani of Miamisburg, R-42nd, should be viewed as a priority action item for members of the state’s 133rd General Assembly this year.
Under provisions of the bill, owners of dogs that kill or cause serious injuries to a person will rightly face a felony charge with much more stringent jail time and fines than the slaps on the wrist currently meted out because such major assaults are categorized as minor misdemeanor crimes.
Fear of harsh punishment, fines and jail time may be needed to motivate some careless dog owners to be responsible. It should not, however, have to be that way.
In the name of public safety, pet owners must do everything within their power to ensure their household’s best friend never becomes another’s worst nightmare.