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 June 2009 - Nr. 6
Hunny by David McKague

In a recent letter to the editor in my community newspaper, a woman vehemently objected to a proposal to section off a part of her local park to create a leash-free dog area. She stated that if children then went to the park "they would probably get bitten" and that the dogs "would attack seniors for no reason at all".

Comments such as these, based as they are on fear-mongering and sensationalism, do little to contribute to what should be a rational debate. Unfortunately, they are typical of the extreme viewpoints that can occur when emotion blinds the ability of a person to actually observe the world in front of them.

While I can sympathize with someone who has a fear or dislike of dogs, I must object to those who would distort truth based on these emotions. It becomes a very touchy subject and I don’t want to appear insensitive to what is no doubt very real to this woman. I am certain that she believes she is acting in the best interests of all children and seniors.

But is she? Most children love to play with dogs and many seniors enjoy the companionship they provide.

Let’s deal with actual facts.

Yes, of course dogs bite. So do people. So do raccoons. So do mice. They all have teeth and thus the ability to bite. But having the ability to do so is far different from an inclination to use teeth to attack.

In putting this in perspective, I think everyone would agree that wild animals are potentially much more dangerous than dogs. Yet wild animals in general tend to avoid humans and would flee rather than fight. It is only when cornered and threatened that they will use the only weapons they have – teeth and claws. Even then, they will give plenty of warning to back off and leave them alone.

Even those wild animals that have become habituated to living around humans (such as raccoons) keep their distance. A few years ago, I was working in the back yard at night when I looked up and found myself surrounded by three raccoons, each one about ten feet away. Not wanting to provoke them but also letting them know that I was aware of their presence, I continued what I was doing; after a few moments, they ambled off into the night.

Dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years. They are naturally social animals and enjoy being in the company of humans. Rather than being a threat to human survival, they have proved themselves to be, as they say, Man’s best friend.

As mentioned in an earlier Petitorial, there were 896 reported dog bites in the city of Toronto in 2006, of which a mere 44 occurred in parks. (Admittedly, there will be others of a minor nature that would not have been reported, but this still confirms that most dog bites occur in the dog’s home territory and not in neutral places like parks. And remember, also, that the vast majority of these dog bites would have resulted in minor medical treatment, if any at all.) Based on the fact that there are about 250,000 dogs in Toronto, one would have to interact with over 5,500 dogs on average to get bitten even once. This is a far cry from "the children will probably get bitten if they go to the park" or dogs "will attack seniors for no reason at all".

In the last five years of dog ownership, I have been in almost daily contact with many different and varied dogs running loose in leash-free dog parks. And I freely admit that I have been bitten twice on the leg. Both times there was a bit of blood, but the damage was minimal and similar to a minor scrape; no stitches, no bandage, just a bit of disinfectant. One of the incidents was my fault – I used a ball thrower near a dog that I knew had been badly treated by his first owner; the dog no doubt misinterpreted my throwing action as a threat with a stick and reacted out of fear. The other incident remains a mystery; I guess the dog just didn’t like me getting near him.

Does either of these incidents make me nervous around dogs? Not at all. For me, the rewards of association with dogs far outweigh any potential danger.

And for those who are afraid of dogs, the best advice I can give is to react as I did with the raccoons – ignore them. They will tend to ignore you in return. After all, dogs would much rather associate with people and other dogs that want to play with them.

Previous "Petitorial" articles by David McKague:

Editor’s note: I would like to encourage dog lovers everywhere to start a PETITION to have this law thrown out or revised to such a form where justice prevails. SFR.

Email to David McKague
David McKague talks about the pit-bull or pit bulls, pets, dogs, the duress put upon dog and the owners, especially through laws in Ontario, Canada, that affect and encroach on rights and freedoms of the individual, human rights, reputation of individuals and owners. David stresses the importance of being responsible and understanding when dealing with pets.

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