The "Case File" column was a regular feature of the Doggone Safe newsletter. The Newsletter has been replaced with this blog, which gives much better as well as searchable access to the archives. Since many new readers and members have not seen the newsletter archives, we are going to reprint all the case files here at the blog. This one first appeared in July 2004.
Case File stories are based on actual bite incidents - names are fictitious.
Four-year-old Tommy was wandering around happily in the back yard of a family home enjoying a piece of candy. He was suddenly attacked and severely bitten by a family member's dog in the presence of supervising adults. What went wrong here?...family dog, family enjoying time outside in the back yard, adult supervision...seems like a safe situation. The dangerous element here is that the dog was TIED.
Karen Delise, author of "FatalDog Attacks - The Stories Behind the Statistics" states that "Chaining a dog is arguably the single most dangerous condition in which to maintain a dog". Based on statistics, chained dogs are more dangerous than free roaming packs of dogs. Chained dogs have killed at least 98 people in the US and a further 11 have been killed by dogs that broke their chains. The overwhelming majority of the victims were children. The number of children injured by tied dogs is not known.
A false sense of security is felt by those who consider a chained dog not to be a threat. According to meter reader safety officers who have spoken to Doggone Safe, dogs that break free of their restraints to attack meter readers are a serious concern. Children can inadvertently wander into the tied dog's territory, or can be close enough that the dog can reach them. Children have been hurt or killed through entanglement in the dog's chain, where there was no aggressive intent on the part of the dog. In some cases entanglement has occurred when the victim was trying to help untangle a suffering dog.
Why are tied dogs so dangerous? Dogs are naturally territorial and a tied dog is acutely aware of his territory boundaries. The inability of a tied dog to retreat causes him to be more likely to perceive threats and to stand his ground and defend his territory. The frustration of being tied and watching activities unfold can cause dogs to become stressed and even frantic, leading to aggressive actions when the opportunity arises.
What can we learn from Tommy's case? Owner and parent education are the biggest factors that can be influenced. Parents need to learn that children should not be in the same space as a tied dog, even if there is adult supervision. Dogs should be behind a secure barrier to prevent possible interaction with children. Dog owners need to understand how detrimental chaining is to the emotional well-being of the dog and to recognize that the dog that is friendly and stable when loose may become aggressive when chained.
For more information visit Mothers Against Dog Chaining