OC Doggie Style: With Teeth

As we raise our children, so we raise our pets.

Today's Register contains a Greg Hardesty piece on National Dog Bite Prevention Week. Profiled is Klaudia Estrada, an Anaheim Hills mail carrier who has been twice bitten, one attack piercing the "tanned, smooth skin" of her right leg. Sounds like Hardesty wouldn't mind doing some piercing himself.

Estrada was bitten once by a poodle, and once by a cocker-spaniel. Though she said it was "sort of embarrassing" to fall victim to such foofy dogs, keep in mind there's a reason poodles are associated with the rich; they're some funky badass guard dogs. Also, she has nothing to be embarrassed about; after all, she survived. Pomeranians weigh in at about four pounds, but that didn't stop one from mauling a 6-week-old to death.

"The most horrifying example of the lack of breed predictability is the October 2000 death of a 6-week-old baby, which was killed by her family's Pomeranian dog…The baby's uncle left the infant and the dog on a bed while the uncle prepared her bottle in the kitchen. Upon his return, the dog was mauling the baby, who died shortly afterwards."

-Baby Girl Killed By Family Dog, LA Times, Oct. 9, 2000

While pit bulls and Rottweilers are responsible for the majority of dog-bite-related fatalities, any mistreated or ill-trained dog is a bite threat. Also, say you want to get a mean dog to scare people – are you going to pick up a miniature Greyhound? No. Nor Chihuaha neither. Pit bulls and Rottweilers are more likely to be used as fighting dogs based on their reputation, which is both deserved and intimidating, and thus this reputation enhances and fuels itself as the dogs continue to be bred and trained for violent behavior.

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Who cares about dog bites? Only those poor shmoes who have to pay insurance – in 2004, dog bites generated over $320 million in homeowner's insurance liability claims, fully a quarter of all claims (according to the Insurance Information Institute). As far back as 1995, State Farm estimated the annual cost of payments related to dog bites to be two billion dollars—two hundred times what Sheriff Carona asked the County to pay to cover his legal bills.

So why is Orange County so bite-happy? Well, dogs (like people) require months if not years of diligent training before they can be trusted, responsible family members. But California is image-conscious – dogs are pets, sure, but they're also status symbols, chick-magnets, and even stylish accessories to give your Louis Vitton the excruciatingly hip look that comes from cramming a small mammal into a handbag.

I certainly don't remember spending much time training my dog in his youth. Perhaps that's why he would escape from the house whenever he had the opportunity, and sometimes sexually assault people, especially children. As an Australian Shepherd, Taz was a herder by instinct. So, when children saw him bounding down the block and turned to run, he would naturally give chase, bark correctively, maybe nip at their heels, and finally leap majestically onto their thighs, humping away madly.

When we've got parents who ignore their children's moral education until they're forced to confront it in a court of law, as with Greg and Don Haidl, is it really any surprise our dogs have a discipline problem? Trust me, it's nothing compared to the rampages these kids would lead if only they weren't self-medicating constantly with Xanax, Ambien, and marijuana.

At the end of the day, dog bites are still only the 2nd most common cause of admittance to emergency rooms. What's the first? That one American pastime even more prevalent than neglect and abuse – baseball.

p.s. My parents were much better about training their children than their pets. Love you, mom. Hi, dad. Happy 31st Anniversary.


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