Monday, June 1, 2009

Case File: Owner in Denial

Case File stories are based on actual bite incidents - names are fictitious.

Mark was riding his skateboard down the sidewalk, when suddenly a neighbour's dog came out off its property and bit him. Suzanne, the owner of the dog was mortified. "She has never done anything like this before, I don't know what got into her. Bad dog!". The animal control officer who investigated the complaint from Mark's mother told Suzanne that Muffy would be put to sleep if she bit someone again.

A few weeks later Suzanne was at her summer home in another community with the family. Her kids were having swimming lessons in the community pool and Muffy was loose outside the fence, running frantically up and down the fence and barking while the children swam. A phone company worker was minding his own business, making a repair in an outside box, when Muffy took out her frustration on his unsuspecting behind. The other parents, who had been annoyed by the dog's racing and barking, were now angry as they realized that it could have been a child's face that was the target of the bite since there were many small children also outside the pool fence waiting for siblings to finish swimming. Suzanne, recalling the warning from the previous bite incident, gave a false name and address to the phone company investigator. "Muffy is my daughter's dog and she loves her so much, I just can't let her be put down".

Unfortunately owners often make excuses for their dogs and are in denial about the dog's capacity to bite, even after the dog has actually bitten. Muffy has bitten twice now and will certainly do so again if the triggers are presented. Suzanne should seek professional help to assess the dog's behaviour and rehabilitation potential and in the meantime the dog should be muzzled at all times outside, kept on a leash or in a crate and never be loose around children. Suzanne needs to consider very carefully whether this dog should get yet another chance. Mandatory microchipping and data sharing would prevent owners like Suzanne from allowing their dogs to offend in different communities without records being shared.

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