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« Good Press to end the week | Main | The Citizens of Ontario get their court date »

April 12, 2008

Comments

Myra

"although I think at this point convicting King of manslaughter is adding insult to injury. His wife and three children have been through enough already"

Brent, you can't be serious? It's not "adding insult to injury" - it's making him accountable for his actions towards the dog(s) and his son.
The owners of the dog that killed Diane Whipple were convicted of murder/ (then manslaughter) and they did not have their dogs tied to a basement pole sitting in its own waste and had not left their dogs unsupervised with a child.
If anything this parent had a GREATER responsibility because it was HIS child and HIS dog(s) and therefore he should be even more accountable for their tragic deaths.
Insult to injury? Hardly. It's called personal responsibility and culpability.

Brent

I guess I look at it differently Myra. King has already had a penalty dealt to him that is harsher than anything the state of Minnesota was going to dole out to him. Every day for the rest of his life he's going to look at his three children and know that he used to have a fourth, that died, because of his own ignorance and stupidity. That's a far great punishment than the manslaughter charges as far as I'm concerned.

As for the rest of his family, they've already lost a brother and child. What would losing their father/husband for two years while he served his prison term do for the rest of the family? Would that ease their pain?

But the difference between the person convicted in the Diane Whipple case and Zach King is that the owners in of the dog in the Diane Whipple case have a much lighter sentence...because once their prison sentence is over, they get to go on with life as usual. There will be no life as usual for Zach King Sr ever again.

I'm not against responsibility and cuplability. Not by any stretch. But at this point, I think he has been dealt plenty of punishment. In my opinion, compassion for his already suffering family is more important than charging him on top of that.

Myra

"King also railed against the media for percieved unfair treatment. "I feel like the media and public are trying to playing it like I was some kind of thug, some kind of gang banger or something," King complained. "Trying to smash me, step on me... it's not like that."

Yeah, OK, Brent, I see how devastated he is - as he whines about his unfair treatment and as he repeatedly talks about
I,I,I,I and Me,Me,Me,Me,Me.....
Sorry, I'm not seeing a guy whose going to be blaming himself and having to live with "guilt." I'm seeing a guy who will continue to live his life exactly like it was - thinking about himself, first and foremost - with his kids and animals coming in a distant second and third.
I believe he is due a lot more punishment, in the form of a 10-year-sentence for child endangerment, involuntary manslaughter and animal cruelty.
Please spare me the "he has already suffered enough" argument - I'm not buying it.

Caveat

There is no similarity between this case and the Whipple case that I can see.

This person should obviously not have owned a dog, especially one he couldn't train and control. Duh.

However, why were previous reports basically ignored?

We are always hearing about proposed bans on 'pit bulls', whatever they are, because of problems related to dogs running at large. I don't see how that connection is ever made, when it's so obviouly a problem of lax enforcement, inadequate resources and failure to prioritize.

This case is a very odd one, no doubt. The man is obviously missing a few cards from the deck.

I agree with Brent more on this but I see both points.

It's a tough call and I wouldn't have wanted to be the judge in this case. I guess another question is, do we want dogs to be perceived as weapons, which is what a manslaughter charge could imply? They are, after all, one of the safest things around.

I agree with the Whipple decision and I felt that they should be held fully responsible. I was disappointed when their sentence was reduced.

As I say, it was an entirely different kind of situation - the Whipple defendants' actions were deliberate and negligent in the extreme.

This person was extremely negligent but I don't think it was deliberate - he's just not very intelligent or educated.

Brent

Myra, that's a pretty harsh judgment to cast based on one quote in a newspaper. I think it's reasonable to assume that the man feels remorse for his lost child. I'm not going to let one newspaper quote turn me to thinking that King is a vindictive man that feels no remorse for his child. I've seen more than enough quotes taken out of context, or only partially supplied, to know that there's a lot more to this story than that one quote.

Again, not saying he's not responsible for the actions of his dog. But I don't feel like the rest of his family is in danger with him not getting sent to prsion...

Marjorie

After I essentially stopped researching dog biting incidents, I spent about a year researching the disposition of dog bite cases.

Now, granted, even that was a few years ago, at this point. But what I found was very little in the way of punishment for negligent dog owners.

The main reason why? Most dog bite victims are bitten by a dog they know. Most often, it's the family pet. If it's not the family pet, the dog is owned by a relative, friend, or neighbour.

Total stranger bites (especially where the victim was not voluntarily interacting with the dog) are in the minority.

A person is even more likely to be the victim of his/her own dog, if the outcome is fatal. Overwhelmingly, the dogs involved in fatal attacks are owned by the victim (or a familial relative, with the dog living in the home at the time).

Most of the time, this is the reason authorities don't seek punishment. They feel the dog owner has "suffered enough" based on his/her association to the victim, or even that it may cause more distress to the victim, to see a loved one charged with an offence.

Case in point, the New Mexico legislator responsible for passing tough, new penalties against the owners of dangerous dogs wasn't charged when his own (non-'pit bull') dogs mauled him. "He'd suffered enough," would be the response, I suppose. (Colour me incredulous, but when your meth lab catches fire and you're burned, the cops still come a-knockin' once you're healed enough to face charges.)

I strongly support tough legislation targeting acts of irresponsible dog ownership, knowing full-well that most of the dog biting incidents legislation is (ineptly) meant to address, involve sympathetic victims and dog owners who'll likely never be charged with any wrongdoing, specifically because they're so sympathetic.

I most strongly support educational initiatives that promote truly responsible dog ownership, and thus try to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Any law that first requires a bite to take place is probably not going to be especially effective at reducing the number of dog biting incidents.

s kennedy

I hope everyone who has an interest in the educational aspects designed to prevent the dog incidents/biting will stay tuned to our upcoming non profit dog safety education program. am working on it, and need to talk to marketing person re the target market. I was thinking dog owners (of course) but which ones--I remember B saying that the incidents of biting were higher in lower income areas. Any ideas, would appreciate. Am trying to make this a statewide (CA)education approved program, it has been approved in WA by Dept of Education. I know for sure that many adopters of shelter animals have few resources for little cost. Will later comment on the dog-in-basement case. The judge's ruling leaves out a lot but I will put in my 2c worth. :-)

Karen

A person is even more likely to be the victim of his/her own dog, if the outcome is fatal. Overwhelmingly, the dogs involved in fatal attacks are owned by the victim (or a familial relative, with the dog living in the home at the time).

This is NOT true. The dogs involved in fatal attacks overwhelmingly have attacked persons that they do NOT have a familiar bond with. Some fatal attacks may involve "family" members, but these are usually individuals who are visiting (and hence have no true relationship to the dog) or owners who have recently acquired the dog and the familiar bond has not been established.
It is very rare indeed for a dog to kill a person with whom the dog has been owned for any significant amount of time or has been humanely maintained.
The devil is in the details, and these details are important.
Karen
National Canine Research Council

s kennedy

Delise is saying fatal attacks are to people the dog is not readily familiar with, even if owner or family or relative.

Marjorie is saying fatal attacks occur mostly to family/relatives/neighbor, someone the dog is sort of familiar with, not a total stranger.

So both are really saying fatal attacks are to people not close to the dog, BUT they are not complete strangers. Since most kids are bitten by dogs they know (familiar with, but not necessarily known on a close level), it makes sense. Which is why we are doing the safety program. Now can I please have some needed suggestions,re the safety program... pretty please? Thank you.

Caveat

My research shows that in the majority of cases, the victim knows the dog, be it a bite or a fatality. These events usually seem to take place on the owner's property or adjacent to it, ie, it's a neighbour's dog.

In Canada, that seems to be the case with the exception noted by Marjorie of a couple of problem reserves where dogs run in packs - this is certainly not typical for reserves here either.

It's a neighbour's dog, a relative's dog, another tenant's dog, or the owner's dog in almost all cases. Police dogs are one exception.

That's why I always laugh about silly rules such as muzzling because of breed when in public - because in public is where you are least likely to be bitten - it happens, but is extremely rare and almost always involves interaction with the dog, ie, it doesn't come out of nowhere.

Caveat

S. Kennedy - one target audience in Calgary is utility workers - mail carriers, electrical meter readers, etc. They can always benefit from advice on how to behave safely around dogs.

You might also try to get into the schools to teach the kids how to behave safely and how to treat dogs properly.

KC KS Kills Dogs

S. Kennedy call Bill Bruce Head of Animal Bylaws in Calgary, Alberta Canada. The city has a website that mentions a little bit about their program. At a Canine legislative Conference I attended he spoke about their educational programs in the school and their effectiveness.

I don't know what the curriculum consists of, but they start with their kindergartners and up.

s kennedy

I have done no authoratative personal research on my own, however I have read a lot of research by others. My understanding is as Marjorie describes. I believe it is semantics as to delise/marjorie, since a dog (in dog's mind) may not truly "know" many people at all; however if the people who were familar but not close to the dog were more versed in safety behavior, they might be alive, or unbitten today. That is what I am trying to decrease---people who don't know how to assess canine behavior. Mostly kids.
I believe dogs bite/or harm people they know to a higher degree, as opposed to strays on the street, for dog bites,[since I do know most bites are done by dogs known to children.]
Does anyone have any suggestions as to what should be taught to kids, outside of learning the behavioral signs of potential danger. I'm just trying to improve the program, if it's possible.

Brent

I've edited a couple of comments. I don't really do that very often, but kind of felt it was necessary. It was disappointing to to see two people, who's opinions and research I respect a great deal, get into a disagreement over mostly semantics. I decided it wasn't in anyone's best interest to leave the comments up here. I hope you both understand and continue to stick around.

If anyone disagrees with the decision, let me know and I'll be open to reconsidering.

s kennedy

LOL B you do a good job on here. If you were ever in court and heard the bashing of semantics that goes on you would soon wear earplugs LOL....just look at Ohio
S Court. Whew.
-------------------Re Dog-in-Basement:
I should point out the Judge said that defendant had clergy, guardian ad litem and CPS worker. all of who probably had to submit some kind of report.Kids enrolled in private school.No criminal record.Mom worked/dad did some kind of home business involving music.
an interesting note: Judge says defendant had belief about dogs,as do many others, that dogs are less likely to bite the people they live with. Then, he says, "In fact, that is not true."
Expert witness testified that "territorial bites do not predict aggressive bites." [I do not necessarily think that is true myself]
Defendant was charged w/violating a law which basically said if one knew a dog had vicious propensities or the dog had caused great or substantial bodily harm in the past, and it ran uncontrolled off the owner's proeprty OR one negligently failed to keep dog properly confined.
Judge further said there was no allegation that the dog (despite prior bites) had ever caused great or substantial bodily harm.
there was no evidence proferred which showed that AC ever sent defendant a warning letter, and AC did not label the dog dangerous or potentially dangerous on the prior bites. AC did not recommend putting the dog down. No evidence was offered to show defendant's insurance was cancelled due to the dog's actions.
In summary, Judge could not find sufficient evidence that defendant most definitely knew the dog was or had vicious propensities.
My take on it is that a dog that bites 3 times is a VERY clear signal of big problems. And the recent study done which showed that 93% of dogs which bit kids were already altered when they bit--but nearly all of them had already bitten BEFORE, several times---pretty much confirms that several bites indicates something is very wrong, whether it's the dog, the improper training, the lack of training, or the improper response to bad behavior [or failure to even notice it], or a combo of all of the above.
I wasn't there, so I can't say anything about the dog on a 3ft lead in basement, or why it was even IN the basement. But even if the 3ft lead/basement sounds dumb/inappropriate---I think the dog was an accident waiting to happen, and if the child had been safety trained, and the parent a better supervisor, the child might have lived.
As for court decision, under the evidence given in Judge's ruling, I can see why he did not convict defendant. In CA he might have been found guilty of child endangerment. But even the Fabish kid's parent was not found guilty of that (the case that spurred SB861)...I am sort of surprised that Judge ruled this way, but in a way, it helps show that the beyond a reasonable doubt requirement for all criminal acts is used, despite the fact that most courts can't seem to help us on the fact that the dogs are not all vicious. Had this case been in a place where the "vicious" designation is automatically assigned (prima facie, as in Toledo,Ohio) then the defendant would have been more likely to be found guilty in my opinion. Even if the dog was not actually vicious, defendant would have been expected to "know" the dog was designated as such. It would be interesting to see a prosecutor show beyond a reasonable doubt, that the dog was vicious (without any prior incidents.) I can hear it now, like K Nelson..."Sir, these dogs are actually sharks..."

Marjorie

Brent, this isn't semantics. Semantics are when two different terminologies are essentially describing the same thing. That's not what's going on here.

I wrote that (my years of credible dog bite research) found, "Overwhelmingly, the dogs involved in fatal attacks are owned by the victim (or a familial relative, with the dog living in the home at the time)."

Karen Delise, of the web site she created, the National Canine Research Council, quoted that phrase, and stated unequivocally, and emphatically no less, "This is NOT true."

To that I offer the most recent U.S. dog bite-related fatality cases. (I posted this information, but you chose to delete it, Brent.)

1. neighbour’s dog
2. son’s dog
3. family dog
4. temporary ownership (same day, not counted)
5. visiting relative’s home
6. adult, own dog(s)
7. family dog
8. family dog
9. non-resident dog broke into victim’s home
10. neighbour’s dogs suspected
11. adult, own dogs
12. neighbour’s dogs
13. adult, own dogs
14. adult, brother-in-law’s dog
15. family dog
16. family dogs
17. family dog
18. family dog
19. family dog
20. family dog
21. family dog (previously a stray)
22. neighbour’s dogs (at large)
23. neighbour’s dogs (at large)
24. neighbour’s dogs
25. adult, own dogs
26. adult, own dogs
27. victim’s son-in-law kept the dogs, allowed to run at-large
28. family dog
29. family dog
30. at friend’s residence, friend’s dogs
31. relative’s dog
32. relative’s dog
33. neighbour’s dog(s) (at-large)

Kind of speaks for itself...

Caveat

I'm with Brent. Arguing over facts, opinions and ideas is one thing but I'm not a fan of personal attacks and vitriolic responses on blogs - there's enough of that going around in the 'sphere.

I do believe, and my reading through the scientific literature, my firsthand observations and even media reports support it, that most incidents occur on the owner's property or nearby and in most instances the dog is familiar to the victim.

That's been the experience in Canada, anyway, with a few blips here and there which have been pointed out.

Too many people give dogs too much credit - not that they don't deserve a lot of that since they are the safest domestic animals around. However, it is generally either deliberate shaping by the owner to create a neophobic, reactive dog which they believe will 'protect' them, or it is owner complacency and lack of understanding about safety around dogs that leads to bite, attacks and fatal maulings.

S. Kennedy should contact Bill B for info. Brent likely has his email addy, as do I. Brent, you may give my email address to S. Kennedy if you wish and I can put her in touch with Bill. I also have samples of the kinds of pamphlets Calgary hands out for regular people, kids and for utility workers which I'd be happy to share.

He can probably tell you how to hook up with the schools - I'd suggest that aligning yourself with an SPCA branch might help you make the contacts to do that. I'm sure they'd be willing to help you to put on workshops/presentations at their facility also. That's probably how I'd go about it, unless I already had some contacts on the school board or knew some primary school teachers.

PAMM - People Against Mad Mothers

I'm not big on sending folks to jail that don't pose a threat to society. This guy is not a threat to me so putting him in jail and leaving his family without an income would put an undo burden on them. I can't freakin' believe the Fabish mom didn't get hammered - this guy showed 1000% more remorse that the scum ever did. I know at one time the man was blaming the dog - when he even admitted he got it for protection. Both of them should have been convicted of child endangerment and required to take parenting, animal care/behavior and personal responsiblity classes.

s kennedy

I believe both delise/marjorie still are saying essentially the same thing, but i do think delise, when she said "untrue" was not exactly on point. However that is semantics to me,in final analysis; and I agree w/marjorie. As long as we agree dogs on property, in home, etc are biting those they may be familar with? The newspapers will print stories no matter if it was a known dog or stray. The relevancy isn't an issue probably unless it's something like the safety program one is trying to implement. And thank you to those who made suggestions. The SPCA probably would be more receptive but it's the shelters that I noticed do not have any info for adopters. PS The status of dogs as UN-altered is not a causal factor in dog-human aggression. It is more like a dog which has not been trained appropriately, socialized or treated correctly, is more apt to have an owner who does not wish to, or believes that altering the dog is wrong. One only has to look at show dogs to see this. Most winning show dogs are males, intact.

Caveat

No, they weren't saying the same thing and only one of them was correct.

Nuff said.

Karen

Well thanks all. I'm so glad I will not have to spend 20-40 hours a week doing this research anymore, all I have to do is go to you all to get the facts on these cases.
I wish I had known this sooner, I could have saved myself a decade or so of work.

Oh, and guys, remember that case back in Aug. 1999 with mixed breed in Texas, was that the neighbor's dog down the block or the father's dog? And how about the Rottie in FL, May 1995, was that the neighbor's dog or was the kid visiting at his grandmother's?

I've forgotten, but I'm sure you guys must have that info. Let me know.
Thanks.

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