Some things recur as regularly as rain in an English summer: cyclists continue to ride up the blind side of lorries and get killed and people abuse dogs and get killed. The only difference is that, on the very rare occasions when dogs kill people, it is often not the original perpetrator of the abuse that dies. I nearly wrote “that is the victim”, but of course the initial victim is the dog.
In the last couple of days a Staffie has bitten several children and yesterday a man was killed by one of his dogs in Cumbria. The poor dog, reported to be a pitbull, was tasered before it was executed.
It doesn’t take much imagination to conjure up the life that the dog had led beforehand, nor the owner for that matter.
I am just finishing reading Simon Harding’s excellent book Unleashed: The Phenomena of Status Dogs and Weapon Dogs which looks at the social and political changes that have led to the rise in dog-on-human attacks. He also considers the changes to dogs caused by in-breeding and selective breeding for aggression. Far more research is needed in this area, but it is probable that some breeds of dog have been both bred and trained to maximise aggressive traits. Large numbers of dogs are abused by ignorance and poor handling even if owners do not intend that they should cause deliberate harm.
There also seems to be something of an arms race where, in areas where gangs are common, non-gang members (mostly young males) buy dogs that they think will appear to be aggressive and be a deterrent for anyone who might attack them. If they came from the local pool of back street-bred dogs, they may already be the products of selection for aggression. Although it is by no means a guarantee, the likelihood that these dogs are housed in poor conditions, largely untrained and fed a poor quality diet is high. They may be exercised on lead only or even chained up outdoors for long periods. As we reported earlier, 6% of owners surveyed by insurers More Th>n admitted to administering protein shakes so that their dog “would look more impressive in public”. Damaged trees in city parks all over the country attest to the owners who encourage their dogs to hang off branches to “toughen their jaws”.It is also possible to see ropes slung from tress with a stick tied to the bottom that dogs dangle from.
In turn, the people that own them see little future away from the depravation and “post code wars” that confine them to a few run-down streets. they too often expect life to be cut short prematurely. Even the gangs and violence don’t get them, poor health often will.
Until we address the social and political problems that give rise to the breeding and keeping of dogs that cause harm, the headlines will continue to appear with depressing regularity.