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Untrained, unsocialized dogs dangerous

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Five dogs. Zero socialization. One unsuspecting little boy. The result, however tragic, is no surprise.

When 2-year-old Jacob Bisbee opened the door to his grandfather's garage, he had no idea of the danger that waited just on the other side. His grandfather, however, did.

Steven Hayashi, 52, of Concord, Calif., was charged with felony child endangerment and possession of mischievous animals after three of his five dogs fatally mauled his grandson. Hayashi told police he "ignored the warning signs" after one of the dogs killed his Chihuahua.

All five of Hayashi's dogs were destroyed after the incident. Unfortunately, all five were pit bulls.

It's unfortunate because it's a distraction. Once a person reads that a dog attack involved a pit bull, they tune out: This information doesn't apply to me. Whatever the dog owner's contribution, it doesn't matter, because pit bulls are inherently vicious. I don't and never will own a pit bull, so this could never happen to me. Those dogs should be banned.

But say Hayashi had five Labs, America's do-no-wrong breed. Say those Labs, like his pit bulls, lived in a garage, were sometimes tied up in the yard and had little if any socialization with people. Say those Labs, like his pit bulls, were not neutered or spayed, lived as a pack and had zero training. At this point, save three hots and a cot, what's the difference between the hypothetical Labs and a pack of wild animals?

More to the point: Would you bet everything on the door that stood between your child and that pack?

For whatever reason, people are determined to make this a breed issue. In that case, it's a poodle issue and a dachshund issue and a shepherd issue and a beagle issue and a husky issue, as well as a pit bull, Rottweiler and Doberman issue. It's a dog issue. More than anything, it's a dog owner issue.

Dog owners the world over refuse to educate their dogs. They don't have the money. They don't have the time. They don't have the motivation until it's too late. And untrained, unsocialized dogs of all breeds inevitably develop problems.

The question is no longer: What can we learn from this incident? There have been so many incidents, so many "teachable moments" that sparked media frenzy and breed hysteria but little in the way of discernible progress.

The question now is: When are we going to learn?

Almost a decade ago, a 4-pound Pomeranian killed an infant in her crib. Just last week, I got a call from a reader with two Chihuahuas — one had just taken out the eyeball of the other in a dogfight. If we banned every breed that had ever been involved in the biting of a child or another dog, the domesticated canine would find itself on the endangered species list.

When are we going to learn that an untrained, unsocialized animal in the house is the equivalent of a loaded weapon in the cookie jar? Maybe your child gets away with a little shrapnel in the leg. Maybe he's not so lucky. Do you take the chance?

If a person were to chug a bottle of Jim Beam before driving their car through the world's busiest intersection, most of civilized society would concede that the driver had grossly shunned his responsibility to consider the reasonable expectation of danger inherent in his actions. If no one gets injured or killed, it's extraordinary luck or divine intervention. If someone does, it's no surprise. But no one yells, "Ban the Camry!"


Dog trainer Matthew "Uncle Matty" Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life!" Send your questions to dearuncle.gazette@unclematty.com or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619. © Creators Syndicate Inc.