Following the fourth fatal dog attack in the UK in the past four years debate has raged about what we can do to reduce the incidence of serious or fatal collisions between canine and human.
It is my belief that what we should NOT be doing is putting those dogs to sleep summararily without spending the time to investigate.
They say the definition of madness is to do the same things over and over and expect different results. Well it seems to me that this is precisely what we do when it comes to the dangerous dogs issue.
In the wake of any other method of accidental or deliberate human death I can think of NO examples where there is a rush to destroy the most important piece of evidence as quickly as possible.
Let me be clear: I am NOT saying that dogs involved in serious or fatal attacks should be spared. I absolutely understand that these dogs will invariably be euthanised. However, the rush to put them down almost immediately is crazy. Plainly it’s madness.
Of the four fatal dog attacks in the UK since 2006 we know precisely NOTHING about what prompted those dogs to kill. Nor shall we ever. All we can do is guess. And if we took the same approach to investigating other deaths – car crashes, murders, sudden health related deaths etc – if we were to tackle those investigations by sticking our finger in the air and having a good stab at what we think *might* have caused those people to die, how would we ever develop ways and means of learning how to prevent, reduce, minimise, understand future incidents?
If someone is to lose their life to dog attack, we OWE it to them to find out why it happened.
It is not sensible to simply record the incident as ‘Death by dog’ without any attempt to discover how or why the dog (or dogs) in question acted in this highly irregular fashion.
When family dogs take a human life, dogs who have shown no signs of danger or aggression, we should be working with professional behaviour experts to try and discover what it is in that particular dog’s make-up that may have prompted them to kill. We CAN and WILL learn from it. It won’t bring anyone back to life, but it might just prevent others from going the same way.
Yes, we know that we should never, ever, ever leave dogs and young children alone. Tragically, people still do. And yes, we know that we should never assume ANY dog is 100% ’safe’ – no such canine exists. But dogs do not kill people for the enjoyment of it. Why they kill people at all, we can only speculate – and the reason for that is because we just aren’t working with the animals from whom we can learn the most.
These dogs will invariably have to lose their lives. But let’s not instigate that process out of some human sense of justice or retribution – we’re more evolved than that. The decision should be taken out of the hands of the dog’s owners or the relatives of the victim, emotion will not help us to turn a tragic incident in to an opportunity to learn.
I believe that – unless a dog is posing a serious and present threat to the safety of the public or people in its immediate vicinity – there should be a standard process of containing the dog and then deploying the services of canine experts who can work to establish real, tangible, credible thesis on why this dog acted as it did and record this information in a central, publicly accessible database which could be linked up to similar systems from around the world and from this, we have a much greater opportunity to save lives – human and canine.