Your dog’s balls, or your kid’s face; Texas (and nation) given choice

Your dog’s balls, or your kid’s face; Texas (and nation) given choice

Please support the author’s efforts and read the orginal story at the Houston Examiner.

In an earlier story we told you about Adopt-A-Cat’s efforts to open a low cost spay/neuter clinic in the Greenspoint area. According to the National Canine Research Council’s (NCRC) investigation on dog bite statistics, the need for these clinics is not just an issue of controlling the stray pet population—it is a matter of public safety.

We’ve all seen the sensationalistic headlines, each one more gruesome than the last, and all invariably bearing the image of a dog in a Cujo-pose. But the most recent fatal dog bite that seems to stick out in my mind the most happened late last year in Riverside County California.
At the time, I was researching information for a pit bull related story, and came across the mauling death of 60-year old Gerald Ademund. Apparently, just before Christmas, Ademund stepped into his backyard to smoke when his breeding pair of pit bulls attacked and killed him. The news reports surrounding this incident unwaveringly described the incident a “random attack,” but was it?
After reading the NCRC’s meticulously gathered statistics, this attack looks a lot more predictable.
 
Fatal Attacks Exceedingly Rare
According to the National Weather Service, in the year 2007, 45 people were struck and killed by lightning. That same year, fatalities attributed to dog attacks are reported as either 33, or 34.
And yet, how many splashy news articles can you recall regarding the unlucky guy smoked by lightning? Obviously, more lightning bolts than dogs were killing folks in 2007, and yet the only lightning story I can truly recall was the Croatian guy whose penis was transformed into a spontaneous lightning rod when he stopped to pee by the roadside. On second thought, that’s probably exactly why I remember the event—but my point is; I also recall dozens of national headlines blaring about this or that fatal dog mauling.
In retrospect, it certainly seems a bit out of proportion.
Another interesting fact the NCRC’s research has concluded is that if you are killed by lightning, it’s a certainty it was an act of God. If you’re killed by a dog, however, you can attribute it to an act of human stupidity. Well, OK—that’s my interpretation of the information, but in light of the evidence, the wording seems appropriate.
 
How Does Texas Stack Up?
In 2007, out of the 33 (for the sake of argument, we’ll use this number as opposed to the 34) fatal dog attacks in the US, seven of them occurred in Texas. That’s 21% of the national total; higher than any other represented state, and almost twice as high as the runner up, Georgia, which had four fatalities.
So, is it because Texas is bigger? Hardly.
There are several consistent factors that stand out when compiling information on fatal dog attacks in the US, some of which include the exceedingly high number of dogs kept in backyards or on chains, but the most compelling would have to be the sheer numbers of dogs that are intact—the un-neutered or un-spayed canine.  
Nationally, of the 33 fatal attacks that occurred in 2007, 26 of those involved intact animals. Of the seven not included in that number, only three of those were known to be neutered—the rest were dogs whose reproductive status was either unknown or not recorded.
So nationally, 79% of all fatal dog attacks involved intact animals. And in Texas? Try 100%.  
 
Intact Animals a Dangerous Mainstay in the Lonestar State
Unfortunately, 2007 wasn’t a banner year for the Lonestar State to have fatal dog attacks involving intact animals.
Over a 44-year span, 1965-2006, there were 59 fatal dog attacks in Texas. In those 44-years, as in 2007, all of the incidents were caused by intact animals.
For example, in one of those deadly incidences, two stray/abandoned dogs attacked and killed a child in Harris County in 2006.  Although the media labeled the dogs as “pit bulls,” and politicians began discussions of breed ban laws after this incident, no animal control professional directly involved in the case identified either dog as a pit bull.  However, although it was not reported in a single media article, both of the dogs were intact—a significant fact that is incomprehensibly, yet consistently, overlooked.
A fact that, when weighed against the sheer numbers, makes any breed ID attempt sound ludicrous.
dog-killed-girlClearly at least one of the dogs (pictured to the right), was obviously not a pit bull, however in the ensuing avalanche of political posturing and mass hysteria, the term “pit bull” was used as a veritable diving board to plunge into murky BSL waters in an attempt to “safeguard the public.”
Unfortunately, pit bulls (or anything resembling one), were made the popular scapegoat, and the truly dangerous factor, that of reproductive status, was tragically ignored. Again.
It’s been more than 44 years, Texas. It’s definitely time to wake up and make some changes.
 
The Line in the Sand
Yes, there are instances of pit bulls and other so-called “Dangerous Breeds” that kill (don’t get me started on the problems with breed ID), but the underlying factors unrelated to breed completely overwhelm the question of lineage.  100% of fatal dog attacks are caused by intact animals—and that’s far too compelling to be overshadowed by mere hype.
(Yes, I said it; hype.)
With so much at stake—namely human life—it would seem the need for low cost spay and neuter clinics and educational campaigns throughout the state takes on a whole new urgency.
With an educational campaign focusing on the necessity of spaying and neutering; relying on accurate, compiled data on the extremely high occurrence of dog-related fatalities in conjunction with intact animals, while simultaneously offering state-wide low cost services, it is not inconceivable that Texas would soon shed its dubious distinction of having the highest number of dog-related deaths in the country.
There are a lot of people who own dogs in Texas. Instead of wasting another minute and dime on BSL dialogue, we need to coalesce our efforts into making spay and neuter surgeries affordable, accessible, and desirable to everyone.
It is a matter of urgent public safety for these surgeries and educational campaigns to be made widely available; least of all so that people are given the tools to make an educated choice—your dog’s balls or your kid’s face, so to speak.
And when you boil it all down, that’s essentially what the choice becomes.

Conditions and reproductive status more indicative of attack than breed

Conditions and reproductive status more indicative of attack than breed

So where do we go from here? Do we continue to thrash out the validity of BSL legislation, or continue to blame the public for having unaltered animals while offering no affordable alternatives? Personally, if I hear one more person say “Breed Ban” again, I think I’ll vomit.

South Texas News Story

South Texas News Story

Poorly, my friend—poorly.

Typical newscast

Typical newscast

You are more likely to be killed by a random bolt of lightning than by a dog—the numbers prove it.

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7 Responses to “Your dog’s balls, or your kid’s face; Texas (and nation) given choice”

  1. Lynn Orbison says:

    Thank you for posting this story and these statistics. What can we do to promote these numbers and these facts?
    Has anybody published a fact-sheet that communities and rescue groups can use to help seek funding and support for low-cost spay/neuter programs?

  2. Curtis says:

    Great title… When I first looked thought it was “on” instead of “or”…
    Your dog’s balls on your kid’s face; Texas (and nation) given choice.
    Sounds like front page news from the Onion!

    Anyway, I think its great that we preach that neutering your dog will reduce agression… however the new president of Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago and other members of CASA esentially say… ‘well, not really’ in their letter against a mandatory s/n ordinance posted here:
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/letters/chi-090310dale_briefs,0,3557678.story

    It says:
    “Supporters assert that mandatory spaying and neutering will make Chicago safer from biting dogs, but neutering does not magically eliminate or prevent aggression. While hormones matter, behaviorists agree early socialization, genetics, appropriate care and supervision are far more significant.”

    While the same shelters preach the behavioral benefits of spay/neuter when it serves their agenda, these statements further befuddle the public’s view of the importance of sterilizing their pets.

  3. sue_cosby says:

    Think there’s a few messages mixed up in here that we should probably iron out.

    Yes, some forms of aggression can be reduced or minimized by neutering BUT not all and it is not - by any means - a magic bullet. Once a dog has developed a pattern of aggressive behavior it’s highly unlikely that neutering will stop that problem. It’s just not that simple.

    On the other hand what is harder to know is the effect of neutering on aggressive behaviors related to being sexually intact IF the neutering is done early in the dog’s life. I don’t know that too much has been done to study that and it would be difficult to study but it would seem that certain behaviors could be decreased in advance of them forming. Preventing rather than undoing behavior.

    Likewise, mandatory spay/neuter is not in any way the same as accessible and affordable, targeted spay/neuter. Two different animals. One criminalizes certain aspects of pet ownership that may be out of reach for some for whatever reason. The other embraces and balances the needs of the animals with the needs of the community.

    Just like neutering isn’t a magic fix for aggression, mandatory spay and neuter is not a magic fix for a community’s animal issues. Again, it’s just not that simple.

    And the last monkey wrench is that the animals we most want to target for sterilization - tend to be the ones who cause the damage via aggression - well they tend to be owned by the people who are least likely to take proper care of their animals - law or not.

    In the meantime, those who truly wish to do the right thing but can’t (search for stories on LA ceasing spay/neuter voucher program on KC Dog Blog). Actually, KC Dog Blog is a great place to go to regularly and read about dog attacks in the news plus the real story behind the headlines.

    The No Kill way is affordable, accessible and targeted free, wholly subsidized or incentivized (whenever possible) spay and neuter for both dogs and cats.

    • Curtis says:

      Sue,
      I think the No Kill way you refer to is more than incentivized s/n for dogs and cats.

      Texas, Chicago and other places alike should use every weapon in their arsenal to protect the lives of our companion animals, including legislation. Sadly the breed ban laws or ordinances mentioned aim at the wrong target. As readers (or contributors) of a no kill blog we know that it is time to stop blaming the public or breed, and start holding those in care and control of homeless animals to a high standard.

      Irony lies when the same organizations that promote the behavioral benefits of spay and neuter, use the same exact arguements to renounce ordinances to begin to forward that agenda. Leaving the public baffled… and reflecting the duplicitous nature of such animal sheltering today.

      BSL and mandatory spay/neuter is not the answer, but to the author’s point, sterilized pets (and s/n clinics) contribute to the safety of our community.

  4. Trainer says:

    The dogs who killed the boy in Harris County in 2006 were later indentified in the Houston Chronicle by a Harris County official as Boxer mixes. Of course, it was baried in the paper and just one paragraph.

  5. MichelleD says:

    I understand being agry that irresponsible parents are endangering their children one way or another but…I don’t agree with the tone of this post and its message is dangerous as well as fear mongering. Few people altered their dogs 50 years ago and yet we don’t see a huge population of baby boomers that were the victims of maulings. Thousands more children die at the hands of their primary care givers than all animals combined.

    Despite Sue’s clarification this post calls for MSN. “You’re dog’s balls or your child’s face” - if you truly believe that
    then MSN is the answer.

    But its not, correlation does not equal CAUSATION. Many responsible dog owners do not alter their dogs for various reasons. But NO irresponsible dog owner will alter their dog.

    Remember the stat that red cars are more likely to get tickets? It wasn’t the color that was the issue it was that sports cars came in red more often and people who bought sports cars liked to try out their power. I’m sure we could show that people with brown eyes are responsible for more crimes. But that is only because more people have brown eyes in the first place.

    • “But NO irresponsible dog owner will alter their dog.”

      That isn’t true either. There are people who may spay/neuter but feed improperly, fail to train, or don’t provide adequate medical care, supervision, or exercise.

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