DogsBite.org - The title of this post is suitable for the dog bite prevention tips distributed this week by the U.S. Postal Service, health organizations, animal groups and news agencies. Such tips, like presented on the CDC's Dog Bite Prevention page, "If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still (e.g., "be still like a log")," fall a little flat though, and might even result in human death if the attacking dog is a pit bull. Unlike most dog breeds, pit bulls maul.
There is no National Dog Mauling Prevention Week in the U.S.
Dog bites are a serious public health issue. Dog maulings are an even weightier public health issue. The problem with National Dog Bite Prevention Week is that it fails to address horrific dog maulings, mainly inflicted by pit bulls, which will attack indiscriminately and continue attacking until shot to death, stabbed to death or nonlethal human intervention succeeds in stopping the assault. So how does an average person prevent an unprovoked dog mauling?
Prevention may be impossible. However, we have several golden rules:
- Children should not approach, pet or play near a chained dog, especially if the dog is a pit bull or rottweiler. This includes a child's own household and all households a child visits. The latter situation escalates the risk factor five-fold as the child is new to the dog and the dog is on its owner's property.
- The CDC recommends that someone bitten by a dog not scream.1 This is highly advisable when it comes to pit bulls, but may be difficult to maintain if the attack is serious or prolonged. It is best to avoid all sharp sudden sounds when in the presence of a pit bull, as one may trigger an attack.2 If you are attacked and start screaming, this may amplify the attack, but also may bring others to assist you.
- Another "abnormal" human behavior tip offered by the CDC, "Avoid direct eye contact with a dog"3 is also very important when it comes to pit bulls. This tip may greatly reduce the risk that the dog perceives you as being confrontational because you are looking directly at it.4 (Practice this one daily!)
We have more prevention tips on our Staying Safe page.
Though most of the CDC's dog bite prevention tips are useful and helpful,5 they do not address sudden, explosive pit bull maulings that commonly capture headlines across the country and have been since the 1980s. The tips also imply that only human beings, usually the person bitten, could have prevented the incident (by not provoking the dog). The theme of the tips is that a dog will only attack when it is provoked. We know this is untrue about pit bulls.
We encourage readers to leave their favorite dog mauling prevention tips in comments.
2The AVMA, who currently sponsors National Dog Bite Prevention Week and opposes pit bull laws, has known for many years that sudden sharp sounds, such as the brisk clapping of hands, can trigger a pit bull to attack (See pages 15 and 18: Dos and Don'ts Concerning Vicious Dogs, AVMA Professional Liability Trust)
3It is instinctual human behavior to look directly at the person, animal or thing that is presenting an immediate threat. While adults may be able to train themselves to do otherwise, expecting a child to do so is nonsensical.
4A pit bull may also "force" confrontation by taking actions that demand it be directly looked at. Please see the second video on Craven Desires blog: The language of dogs, normal and psychopathic.
5Especially this one: "Consult with a professional (e.g., veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or responsible breeder) to learn what breeds of dogs are the best fit for your household."
05/17/10: Dominic Solesky Featured in National Dog Bite Prevention Week Video
02/06/10: Pet Pit Bull Unleashes Explosive Attack on Owner and Two Others in Hoboken
01/18/10: 2010 Fatality: 56-Year Old Man Killed by Daughter's Six Pit Bulls
05/11/09: Animal Agency, PSPCA, Distorts History of 25-Year Old Pit Bull Problem
04/10/09: Animal Control: "This is Not Just a Bite. This is a Mauling."
03/17/09: 10 Shots Stop Pit Bull Attack on Pregnant Woman and Officer