When The Dog Bites: Westchester's Strategy For Dealing With Dangerous Dogs

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After two gruesome dog attacks made headlines in Westchester recently, the seemingly pleasant pooch next door might look like public enemy No. 1.
After two gruesome dog attacks made headlines in Westchester recently, the seemingly pleasant pooch next door might look like public enemy No. 1. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The following is the first of a two-part report.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- After two gruesome dog attacks made headlines in Westchester recently, the seemingly pleasant pooch next door might actually be public enemy No. 1. 

In April, a 6-year-old Lhasa Apso named Lulu was taken to a Yonkers animal hospital where she died after another dog attacked her near Secor Place. 

Just months before, last November, a 5-year-old Yonkers boy faced multiple surgeries after his grandmother's dog attacked him and bit off his genitals.

What does Westchester County do to intervene in cases of aggressive dogs, and what turns friendly Fido into a frenzied attack dog?

Most, if not all cases, are dealt with within the municipality the dog resides in, according to Westchester County Department of Health Assistant Commissioner for Public Health Protection Peter DeLucia.

If they are not euthanized by court order, they are registered in the county's dangerous dog registry, which was created after New York State Law required that all dangerous dogs be reported to the municipality where the dog resides.

Only dogs that have been deemed “dangerous” by a judge as defined in section 209-cc of the General Municipal Law, following a hearing, are included in this registry.

As of this article's publication, only four dogs are registered. All of these dogs fall under the diverse group known as, "pit bulls."

Additionally, the aforementioned incidents, both in Yonkers, involved pit bulls - which have become the subject of public scrutiny in recent years for what some people believe to be an inherently vicious disposition.

Dot Baisly, behavior and enrichment coordinator at the SPCA of Westchester, said dogs become aggressive because they have irresponsible owners and are not socialized properly, regardless of breed or background.

"As for the situation in Yonkers, the dog was left in a house for months without any contact with the outside world," she said. "It was undersocialized, and its owners were aware it was reactive. Dog aggression depends on so many factors. Saying any breed is one way or another is gross generalization."

Shannon Laukhuf, executive director of the SPCA of Westchester, said all dogs brought to them are are behaviorally evaluated before being put up for adoption.

"We're very serious about dog bites," she said. "We won't put a dog out into the community if it is vicious. A committee meets to assess each situation and works with previous owner. We try to work out rehab plan, and we have a unconditional return policy."

Laukhuf said if they feel a dog is extremely dangerous, they will humanely euthanize it.

"That's usually the one time we do that here unless they're terminally ill. It's a very rare situation," she said.

@suzannesamin

ssamin@dailyvoice.com

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Comments (15)

Of the 4,807 dogs involved in fatal and disfiguring attacks on humans occurring in the U.S. & Canada since September 1982, when I began logging the data, 3,274 (68%) were pit bulls; 551 were Rottweilers; 4,104 (85%) were of related molosser breeds, including pit bulls, Rottweilers, mastiffs, bull mastiffs, boxers, and their mixes. Of the 557 human fatalities, 293 were killed by pit bulls; 87 were killed by Rottweilers; 421 (75%) were killed by molosser breeds. Of the 2,900 people who were disfigured, 1,985 (68%) were disfigured by pit bulls; 322 were disfigured by Rottweilers; 2,462 (84%) were disfigured by molosser breeds. Pit bulls--exclusive of their use in dogfighting--also inflict more than 70 times as many fatal and disfiguring injuries on other pets and livestock as on humans, a pattern unique to the pit bull class. Surveys of dogs offered for sale or adoption indicate that pit bulls and pit mixes are less than 6% of the U.S. dog population; molosser breeds, all combined, are 9%.

So what would you like to do about it?

How many pit bulls were involved in fatal and disfiguring attacks that were adopted when they were puppies, and were raised by nice families; the way nice families raise golden retrievers?

Based on the experience with my recently dearly departed pit bull, who always welcomed strangers into the house with not just a wagging tail buy a wagging body, and who loved to be greeted by strangers when she was walked, and based on EVERY pit bull I have met that was owned by a loving family, I would say ZERO.

That is why New York, Connecticut and other states passed laws prohibiting breed banning.

If you want to do something useful, press for increased penalties on the humans who turn pit bulls into monsters.

Otherwise, get another hobby.

VICTORIA STILWELL, celebrity dog trainer

Presas are not to be fooled with, they're dangerous. You've got a fighting breed here. You've got a dog that was bred for fighting. You've got one of the most difficult breeds to handle.

KEVIN COUTTS, Head Dog Ranger, Rotorua, New Zealand

There was concern among dog authorities about American pitbulls being allowed into New Zealand as they were dangerous, unpredictable animals, Mr Coutts said.

"A lot of people in this town get them because they are a staunch dog and they will fight. They are perceived as vicious ... It's frustrating they were ever allowed in the country ... we can't go back now though," Mr Coutts said.

COUTTS' comment on a pit car mauling

This sort of thing happens when people own this breed of dog and then don't look after them.

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO IDENTIFY A PIT BULL

The Myth:
No one can correctly identify a pit bull. Fighting breed advocates claim that most people shown a collage of dog photos online can’t tell which one is the pit bull.

The Reality:
Many pit bull advocate groups post a collage of dog pictures online and ask the public to “identify the pit bull”.

What the public does not know is that the majority of dogs pictured are shot from camera angles deliberately designed to mislead. In addition, they show heads only, so size cannot be considered—this would not be the case when seeing the dog in real life.

They also feature many rare breeds that are related to pit bulls, but which are extremely uncommon in the United States (e.g., the Dogue de Bordeaux, Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog, and Ca de Bou).

And one of the dog breeds that is included is an American Staffordshire Terrier which is the exact same breed as the American Pit Bull Terrier, but registered with another organization. Click here for an in-depth, illustrated article about this misleading test.

It should also be noted that many humane societies offer discounts on spaying/neutering of pit bulls. If pit bulls are so difficult to identify, then how do shelter workers identify who qualifies for the discount?

There are also many pit bull rescues with the term “pit bull” in the organization name. How do these groups know which dogs to rescue?

People are Civil and their dog counterparts must be civil as well...keep attack dogs with the police department and off of the streets....if you must have some sort of protective dog make sure you have the land and property to keep him on and off of public streets!!!!......I have a small breed "American Hairless Terrier" one of only 2 dogs in the state of NY and would like to keep him in one piece!

This is a questionable "news" article. That pleasant pooch next door might be public enemy number 1? Really? Was the point of the article to stir up irrational fear? Statistically speaking, there is a far, far greater probability that the pleasant middle aged guy next door is a pedophile or sex offender, but we don't see any articles that begin with that kind of inflammatory sentence.

And linking the fact that all four (yes, only 4) dogs on the dangerous registry are "pit bulls" (whatever that is) to some kind of assumption that this "breed" is dangerous, is even sloppier.

Why is it that when an article deals with animals, anything goes? Would you look at the crime registry, point to the race or gender of the perp, and then deduce that the whole lot of them was dangerous? No. didn't think so. These wild, illogical assumptions only occur with animals. Like the baby raccoons in the news that were assumed to be "rabid" absent any symptoms, merely because they were raccoons. Have we all lost our logic when it comes to animals? Or are we just projecting our fears on to them?

Write an article about the REAL dangers we face in Westchester County. Like the person who was beaten to death in a CVS parking lot in New Rochelle last night. Gun violence. Or the pedophile child porn ring that was just busted up with rabbis and police chiefs. Or the fact that people can't earn a living wage, and million dollar apartments are being built next to homeless shelters in White Plains (stepping over the poor on the way to Whole Foods). Leave the animals alone.

Hear hear Naturelover!

Any dog can become vicious and attack, because of health issues, environment, etc. But pit bulls (and some other large dogs) are deliberatly bred by their owners to be vicious. The owners should be dealt with harshly. If their dog attacks someone, unprovoked, then if the court orders the animal to be euthanized, the owner should be placed on a list of people who should not be allowed to have dogs.

How do they deal with the DANGEROUS OWNERS????

Exactly. No mention was made of the owners who locked their dog up in a room without any human contact. What kind of people do that? And if they do it to a dog, what kind of parents must they be? No. We only look at the poor animal, who is most often a victim.

See this excerpt here:

Dot Baisly, behavior and enrichment coordinator at the SPCA of Westchester, said dogs become aggressive because they have irresponsible owners and are not socialized properly, regardless of breed or background.

"As for the situation in Yonkers, the dog was left in a house for months without any contact with the outside world," she said. "It was undersocialized, and its owners were aware it was reactive. Dog aggression depends on so many factors. Saying any breed is one way or another is gross generalization."

IT'S NOT THE PIT BULL'S FAULT. IT'S THE THUG OWNER'S FAULT.

You and Dunk are so right..it's the owners who train them that way.Pits are wonderful family dogs when trained and socialized properly.