Today the UK headlines are dominated by the tragic story of a schoolgirl from Greater Manchester who was possibly mauled to death by four or five dogs in a private residence. I have only heard the story on BBC Radio 5 Live so far, and each time it is discussed the broadcasters are quick to reiterate that nothing is certain about the girl’s cause of death. For all we know it could have been something totally different. We are the outsiders, once again peering into another person’s life and making assumptions about what might have happened to them.
Personally I feel very sad for the poor dogs that were shot dead at the scene, as well as for the girl and her family. I am sure that if the dogs were involved in her death, they were acting on instinct or by their own sense of action. News reports suggest that the dogs never caused any concern in the local neighbourhood previously, and we don’t seem to be clear on where the owners were at the time, or why the girl was left alone in the house.
Naturally the debate has turned to the issue of dangerous dogs and what should be done about them. I am pleased to hear a majority of people are keen to promote responsible dog ownership, rather than blame the animals themselves. I think it is a flaw in the human character that we seem to expect animals to behave in the way that we would. We seem to forget that we are totally different species, and that all dogs have different thought processes that dictate their actions.
No doubt the issue will run for a few more days in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy. There seems to be no definitive answer to the problem. I am not sure there are sufficient levels of attacks to prompt the government into action in terms of legislating against irresponsible ownership or dangerous dogs. It seems that all we can do is try to encourage people to think very carefully before taking on the responsibility of owning dogs, large and small.
I have a rescue dog who is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross. He is the most loving, caring and even-tempered dog I have ever owned. He was house trained before he became a stray, and he is intelligent and resourceful. Yes, he has his faults, just like humans. The fact is that I and my husband are confident in our trusting relationship with him. We consider ourselves responsible dog owners, although I am sure there are people that would criticize from the outside.
Before our Staffie, I had a Yorkshire Terrier who was our family dog as a puppy. He was far more unpredictable and I wouldn’t have trusted him with children. I would consider him more dangerous than our Staffie, although of course the larger dog is capable of causing more serious physical damage to a person. So what can we do? Keep discussing the issue? Force a change born of knee-jerk reactions and public coercion? I don’t think there is a suitable answer to this issue. For now, we have to trust in dog owners and their pets on an individual basis.
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