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OPINION – We need to stop blaming the victims of dog attacks

After vicious dog attacks in Logan and Layton have both resulted in people cyber-bullying the victims, Dave Noriega says it's time we rethink how we react to dog bites. (Photos courtesy of Hope Brown and Alicia Garcia)

We have a new rule in the Noriega home: absolutely no petting of strange dogs.

I don’t care if the owners say it’s okay. I don’t care if they swear they’ve got the sweetest dog in the world who would never hurt anyone. There’s no way I’m letting my kids touch these dogs now that I’ve seen what happened to this guy in Logan:

Parley Goodrich dog attacks

Parley Goodrich after receiving stitches to help him recuperate for a dog attack in Logan on Friday. (Photo: Alicia Garcia / GoFundMe)

That’s what Parley Goodrich looks like now, all because he decided to bend down and pet a stray dog. The dog, in his sister’s words, “latched onto his face,” and now Goodrich is in the hospital getting 300 stitches and a skin graft to replace his torn-off lip.

That’d be bad enough on its own, but it’s far worse knowing it’s coming right on the heels of the horrific dog attack in Layton that ended with a little boy named Austin Brown losing most of his arm from the elbow down.

Austin Brown dog attacks

Austin Brown recovering in the hospital after losing his hand a large part of his arm to an alleged dog bite. (Photo: Hope Brown / Facebook)

What really makes me sick to my stomach, though, is that every time this happens, we don’t stick up for the victims. We stick up for the dogs.

Goodrich’s sister has already gotten e-mails bashing her brother and telling her his attack “wasn’t that bad”, and little Austin’s mother has gotten messages so obscene that I can’t even repeat what they say.

I want to know. Why are we defending this? Why are we so comfortable with dogs biting people?

4.7 million dog bites a year

CDC on Dog Attacks

There are about 4.7 million dog bites a year, the CDC says, and most of the victims are young children. (Image: Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

I know what every dog lover reading this is thinking. “My dog’s not like that. My dog’s the sweetest. He would never, ever bite.”

And I’m sure that’s true of every dog – until they do.

Dogs bite people way more often than you might think. I did a little digging, and when I saw the CDC’s stats on dog attacks, it made my jaw drop.

In the USA alone, every year, there are:

  • 4.7 million dogs bites
  • About 800,000 dog bites that require medical attention
  • Nearly a billion dollars in medical bills for dog bites
  • A 20 percent chance every dog bite will become infected
  • Every 75 seconds – chomp! – somebody in the U.S. is bitten by a dog.

    Let’s put that in perspective. In the U.S., there are about 2,000 unintentional gun injuries each year. That means that, for every person injured by a gun, more than 2,000 people get injured by dogs.

    But we definitely don’t treat them the same way. I can tell you, because I’ve been in the news business for a long time: if there’s an accidental shooting, we’re going to cover it. But if it’s a dog bite, odds are, you won’t hear a word about it.

    When there’s a bite we’ll minimize the attacks or just gloss over them. We’ll say: “They’re so cute, though.”

    And more than 250,000 of us will sign a petition to save the lives of dogs that allegedly tore off a young boy’s forearm.

    Dog attacks aren’t treated like other crimes

    Layton Dogs Polar and Bear dog attacks

    Polar and Bear, the dogs that allegedly attacked Austin Brown, who lost his arm below the elbow. More than a quarter of a million people signed a petition to save their lives. (Photo: Nikki Preece / GoFundMe)

    Even our laws treat dogs act attacks differently from attacks by human beings.

    If a dog attacks you, standard procedure is that it’s going to be investigated by Animal Control. It doesn’t matter how serious or how brutal the attack was – usually, the police won’t get involved.

    That was the case when Austin Brown lost his arm to a dog attack in Layton. This boy didn’t just lose a small little finger – these dogs tore off his arm from the elbow down.

    But still, the police didn’t give it a full, formal investigation. Animal control was put in charge of it, and it is as clear as day to me that they were in over their heads.

    The investigators couldn’t even find the boy’s arm. They just said: “Yeah, we’re not quite sure what happened,” assumed the dogs ate it, and – as far as we’ve been told – never figured out what happened to it.

    Did these people seriously not think to give the dogs an X-ray? I mean, I’ve seen my cat’s X-rays. They show bones. It never occurred to anyone to give that a try?

    This investigation needed to be handled by professionals. But because dogs were involved, it wasn’t.

    I just don’t understand that. When dog attacks are as serious as these ones are, why don’t we take them seriously?

    And why are we still defending the dogs over the victims?

    More to the story

    When my co-host, Debbie Dujanovic, and I talked about this story on the air, she brought up a great point. What if, instead of reporting these attacks as dog bites, the victims just said they didn’t know what had happened?

    What if little Austin Brown had forgotten who attacked him? What if he’d told the doctors that all he could remember is playing out the yard and, the next thing he could remember, his arm was gone?

    How would we react then?

    Listen to the Dave & Dujanovic podcast to hear Debbie’s perfect break down of just how much better these attacks could have been handled.

    Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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