Shocking News Story. Don Sullivan Comments on Dog Attacks & Rescue Dogs.

Highland Twp. Girl, 7, in critical condition after family’s ‘rescue dogs’ rip into her neck.

News story:

A seven-year-old girl was fighting for her life Friday but was expected to survive after she was attacked by dogs that her family rescued from an animal shelter where they’d faced being euthanized, police said.

The attack in Highland Township occurred Thursday afternoon when the girl opened a gate to the dogs’ pen and two of the seven canines they were keeping knocked her down, then began biting her in the neck and head, according to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.

The girl’s 6-year-old brother saw the attack and ran indoors to fetch their mother, who rushed in and wrestled the dogs away, receiving a deep bite herself in one arm, according to a news release. The dogs inflicted deep bite wounds to the girl’s neck and she was struggling to breathe when paramedics arrived, transporting her to Providence Park Hospital after which she was airlifted to the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, the release said.

“Physicians determined that the child’s most severe injury was to her neck and to her trachea; she is currently in critical but stable condition and is expected to recover,” Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said in the release.

Oakland County Animal Control took custody of one of the dogs, but the other escaped under a fence and was still loose on Friday, police said.

“Animal Control placed a dog trap on the property with the anticipation of catching the second dog,” McCabe said.

The attack comes at a time when dog bites are increasing in Michigan, with insurance claims up 25% in 2016, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

The family had been keeping seven “rescue dogs” in a pen outside the house, aiming to care for them until new owners could be found, he said. The two dogs that attacked had come from a humane society in Pennsylvania, the family told investigators. Family members signed over four of the others to the custody of Animal Control.


Don Sullivan, “The DogFather”:

As I read this story, a number of thoughts come to mind. First, I can identify a critical flaw in the thinking of people who, in their effort to be kind hearted, blindly endanger people in the path of their decisions.

There are many dog lovers that cannot bear the thought of any dog being destroyed (euthanized) for any reason. I have even read stories of dogs being stolen from city kennels and transferred to so-called “safe houses” in order to keep an aggressive dog from being killed. In one particular story, one of the people involved in transferring the dog through the underground network of safe houses was viciously attacked by the very dog she believed was the victim of misunderstanding.

There’s a sympathetic fallacy that an aggressive dog is somehow misjudged and that an abundance of love in a good home is the missing cure all it needs. In the meantime, on its road to recovery, the dog simply needs someone willing to accept and tolerate its behavior, finding ways to live around it.

Many of my clients – prior to enlisting my help – have received erroneous (and dangerous) dog training advice from so-called professionals. These self-proclaimed experts (who do not have the training results to support their titles) teach dog owners “aggression management” or “aversion” techniques. That is, they show people how to go through life trying their best to avoid situations that stimulate their dogs’ aggression. This is incredibly irresponsible. There’s simply no way to ensure the owner of an aggressive dog will be 100% diligent and 100% discerning of situations so that the dog will never have an opportunity to attack other dogs or, in this case, a human being.

This kind of training advice is simply a cloak for incompetence and pride. The trainers don’t have sufficient insight into the truth of canine aggression and effective, life-long rehabilitation – plus they’re unwilling to admit to their own limitations, so they come up with Band-Aid solutions that simply cover up a mess that will fester underneath. Shrouded in fancy terminology, these techniques are embraced by unwitting dog owners because they don’t know any better – and often because of the trainers’ skills at salesmanship!

What I see in the above article is a person (or family) that was a reckless hero (though, not necessarily a self-touting one). The parents were safeguarding and trying to re-home potentially dangerous dogs that had been acquired from facilities where they were slated to be euthanized, yet they were willing to put themselves and their children at risk in order to do this.

Through my 30+ years of experience, I know that most cases of canine aggression can be resolved so that the dog can, in time, be trusted. However, it’s something that must be handled in the correct manner and executed safely, so no-one gets hurt in the process. Sadly, too many people that naïvely adopt a dog with aggression issues believe that if they just offer the dog a loving “forever home,” the dog will respond favorably to their kind gesture and decide to be a better dog. Believe me, I’ve even known successful, well-educated people that supposed they could get their dogs to behave better if they sat down with them and had a heart to heart discussion. The owners assumed that if they poured out their hearts to their dogs, telling them how disappointed they were with their “naughty” behavior, the dogs would instantly change their ways. This type of thinking is completely delusional, but not that uncommon.

The poor little girl in the news story would not be on death’s doorstep right now if all the people involved had understood that aggression cannot be “loved” out of a dog. Logical wisdom has been pushed aside and trampled on by an emotional fervor that screams “save the dog” at all costs. Potentially life-altering dangers are ignored so that emotions can triumph. It’s as if in some way it’s believed there will be a medal of honor handed out for every dog that’s kept alive, even though the people thinking this do not possess the knowledge or skill to safely and effectively remove aggression from a dog – not just mask it. Too many times, situations like the one in this news story occur and the parents of the child have to live with the reality that putting their head in the sand and ignoring the risks of housing aggressive dogs has been the ruin of their child’s life. It truly is child endangerment.

Yes, people will say the parents were not being “responsible” dog custodians by having them in a kennel that could be unlocked by a child. I agree, but the failure to be responsible is greater than just having an unsafe kennel. It extends to what is stated in the article. We are told the people were caring for the dogs until new owners could be found and that four other dogs (in addition to the two that attacked the girl) were also forfeited to the authorities. That means six of the seven dogs they were in charge of were aggressive, and they were hoping to give those dogs to someone else! So many children, adults, and other dogs get maimed or mauled to death by dogs that people “rescue” because they don’t understand the workings of aggression in the mind of a dog.

People are often misled in their understanding about dog aggression because of deceiving things they witness in their own home when they first get a dog. For example, a rescue dog that has a history of aggression will quickly assess its foster home environment and seemingly settle in happily if he doesn’t notice any threats or challenges to his self-perceived leadership. He quickly becomes accustomed to the new environment that he feels the boss of (perception is everything in the dog’s mind!) and, almost immediately, his new owners label him as a loving, good dog.

The dominant–minded dog realizes that all the people in the house (his new “pack”) are submissive to his actions. This submission on the people’s part is quite unintentional. By their efforts to be unconditionally loving and tolerant toward their new companion, the people have inadvertently learned how not to irritate the dog. The dog has no reason to become aggressive toward the new adopters as long as they all continue to live by the dog’s unspoken rules.

Should they ever step out of line, they might be warned with a growl or a bark. In this situation, people will normally back down. They think what they’re doing is causing the dog “anxiety,” so they adjust their actions and/or words to alleviate the tension. In doing so, the people simply further slot into an existence with the dog, catering to its personality, and they believe the dog is becoming more appreciative of the love they’re pouring upon it. Yet, the reality is that they’ve not removed the fullness of the dog’s dominant, aggressive tendencies. There’s still the looming potential for the dog to become dangerously aggressive with them – and with anyone apart from the immediate family, too. The dog remains a ticking time bomb. All kinds of situations could easily instigate a full-on attack. It’s just a matter of time…

Tragically, so many children are maimed or killed by dogs that are known to them and considered to be part of the family. Children are most at risk because they lack the discernment to tell when a dog is about to strike. They’re also perceived by a dominant dog as a threat to the dog’s self-established authority because they’re generally at face height. The child simply causes an attack by looking the dominant dog in the eye at close quarters, often when trying to hug the dog. If the child survives, s/he is left with both physical and emotional scars that last a lifetime.

I know that shelters will euthanize dogs to deal with the sometimes-overwhelming numbers of stray and surrendered dogs in their care. It is heart wrenching to see beautiful creatures destroyed because the original owners were unaware of the proper way to train a dog – a way that truly changes behavior and gives them a dog they can trust in any situation. Ineffective training methods lead so many dog owners to give up on their pets. They abandon the dogs to a shelter for any number of “acceptable” reasons, but usually the root of the matter is that the dogs never matched up to the people’s dreams and visions of dog ownership. The frustrating fact is that many aggressive dogs that are surrendered did not become aggressive because they were treated poorly, but rather because they were spoiled by training methods that enabled the dogs to take advantage of the human members of the “home pack.”

Are there times when a dog needs to be euthanized because it’s too far gone to fully respond to rehabilitation training? Yes, but not often. Do I believe there are multitudes of dogs that could be saved from euthanasia if the people involved in handling/caring for the dogs understood how to dramatically and, in many cases, almost instantly alter their “core” personality? Absolutely yes!

As much as I have a strong passion for dogs, I will always side with the safety of humans over the life of a dog. I’m not against the good intentions of those who desire to see a dog fully live out its days. It is indeed a noble thing to care for the creatures of this world, God’s precious creation, but to do so at the risk of jeopardizing a human life – especially a child that is dependent upon adult wisdom and responsibility – is almost criminal.

I say almost because I know that no-one consciously believes they will be the one that these kinds of tragedies happen to. It’s emotion and lack of understanding that clouds sound judgment. Good sense must be diligently applied to assess all possible outcomes of your actions before launching headlong into a path that you could regret for the rest of your life, being led blindly by the way you feel. And that brings me to my goal: to enlighten society, so lack of knowledge can no longer be used an excuse for innocent blood shed by dogs.

My blood boils every time I read another story like the one above. Will there come a day when the majority of people wake up to see that cookies and cuddles (for the dog) will not keep their children safe, and in many cases, will actually be the death of them? I sure hope so.

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