Biting the Bullet: 20,000 in Mass. Dog-Tired of Nips
By Thomas Caywood and Jessica Fargen
Thursday, June 8, 2006
Dog bites sent a stunning 20,000 people to Bay State emergency rooms from 2002 through 2004, according to state statistics, and while brutal pit bull maulings grab the headlines, the canine culprits are usually fluffy family pooches.
“The fact of the matter is dog bites take place routinely by all kinds of dogs – Dalmatians, poodles, you name it,” Boston personal injury lawyer Eric J. Parker said.
In the past two weeks, dogs have badly mauled an 11-year-old Brockton boy, savaged a Brockton man during a barbecue and chewed up a Revere grandmother, landing them all in the hospital.
Last year, 153 Bay Staters were gnawed so severely they had to be admitted to hospitals, the state Department of Public Health reported. By comparison, Virgina reported 150 dog bite hospitalizations last year but has 1.2 million more residents than Massachusetts. Worcester Sheriff Guy Glodis was attacked on the campaign trail in Milford by a German shepherd named Teddy as he walked up the dog owner’s driveway to ask for his vote.
“It locked his teeth into my arm. I still have scars on my forearm and fingers. I had to pry his mouth open,” said Glodis, who got 36 stitches after the September 2004 attack. “The worst thing is many of these dogs are repeat offenders,” he said. “The dog that bit me had bit four other people, all of which had to go to the hospital.”
Despite his history of chomping unsuspecting folks wandering onto his turf, Teddy is still living with his elderly owner in Milford, an animal officer said. Glodis didn’t press to have the dog put down.
“I’ve seen some terrible injuries, a lot of them to children,” said Parker, whose firm represented a woman who had her thumb bitten off and another who lost a chunk of her nose to a cuddly Dalmatian pup that jumped and bit her face.
Fall River Dog Officer Melissa Sevigny said small dogs such as Chihuahuas bite most often.
“The dogs doing most of the biting aren’t pit bulls. It’s the little ones that bite,” Sevigny said. “They do more damage than a big dog, believe it or not.”
Virginia Rowland, president of the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners, said towns and cities that ban breeds are barking up the wrong tree. “It has nothing to do with breed. It has to do with the people who own the dogs and (the dog’s) lack of socialization, or their use for particular guarding purposes,”she said.
Nicholas Dodman, a Tufts University animal behavioral specialist and author of “Dogs Behaving Badly,” begs to differ. “A certain breed in the wrong hands can be as dangerous as a handgun,” he said. “Genetics does play a role and people who think it doesn’t are kidding themselves.
“The pit bull is notorious for a very hard bite. They are always No. 1 in the lethal dog bite parade,” he said. “The dog was bred for pit fighting. It was bred to never give up, to bite and hang on.”
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