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Pit Bull Attack Reignites Debate about Breed’s Disposition

An elderly woman suffered serious puncture wounds from two pit bull mixes last Friday as she was trying to protect her small Pomeranian while walking on Ponte Vedra Beach. Unfortunately, her efforts to save her dog were unsuccessful. The woman not only lost her beloved pet, but also sustained numerous dog bites on her ankles, hands, thigh and knee.

One of the pit bulls had previously been designated as a dangerous dog and the owner had been cited several times. When this happens, the owner is legally responsible for taking extra precautions, such as leashing and muzzling the dog in public, spaying or neutering, microchipping and keeping the dog under control physically.

At the time of the dog attack, the two pit bulls were unleashed and playing the ocean with a man who was caring for the dogs at the time. Upon seeing the pit bulls, the woman ran toward her home with her small dog in her arms, but she could not run fast enough. The dogs knocked her down, attacking her and killing her Pomeranian. The man caring for the dogs inadvertantly strangled one of the pits in an effort to restrain the dog. Per county ordinance, the other dog was executed.

This disturbing story reignites the ongoing controversy about pit bulls. Are they all dangerous or have a few aggressive pit bulls given the entire breed a bad name? Pit bull attacks have been in the news many times here in Jacksonville. Pit bull lovers are passionate in their belief that the breed has been unjustifiably labeled vicious while others, especially dog bite victims and their families, believe these dogs are genetically predisposed to attack.

Ironically, sometimes it is the dog owner who suffers the attack. Not too long ago, a 42-year-old woman was fatally mauled by her two pit bulls in Middleburg. The dogs also attacked the woman’s son and a sheriff’s deputy before both dogs were shot.

Dog attacks involving children are particularly disturbing. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), nearly 500 people, mostly children, have been injured or killed by chained dogs in the past 10 years. Last spring in Jacksonville, A 17-month-old child was killed by a Rottweiler when he wandered into a neighbor’s yard where the dog was chained to a pole.

The bottom line is that owners are responsible for their dogs’ behavior and can be held liable for personal injuries resulting from dog attacks. This is the case even if the dog has never attacked before. If a dog is showing aggressive behavior, obedience classes or a dog trainer who specializes in treating aggressive dogs may be helpful. Other precautions dog owners should take include:
• Do not let a dog run loose.
• Keep all vaccinations up to date.
• Keep the dog away from strangers’ paths, especially children.
• Display warning signs if you think your dog may injure someone by coming onto your property.

Written by Elizabeth Allen
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