Friday, May 25, 2012

Malaysia: Pit Bull Mauling, Death Highlights Need to Prepare for Dog Attacks

On May 8, an elderly Malaysian man was viciously mauled and killed by a dog whose breed line was not verified, while jogging in Subang Jaya, an affluent suburban city of Klang Valley, across the state line in Selangor to the west of Kuala Lumpur. Consequently, authorities are still awaiting the DNA analysis results to determine the species of the dog in order to ascertain if it is a banned or restricted breed.

Police have classified the case against the dog owner, a 25-year-old accountant, as one of "causing death through negligence" under section 304(a) of the Penal Code, which provides for up to two years jail, a fine or both. The case is actionable under section 15(1) of its Dog Licensing and Kennel Establishment By-Laws 2007 which state that "an owner is guilty of an offense if a licensed dog chases, bites or attacks any person, whether or not any injury has been caused."

In the May 8 attack,  witnesses report said the attack went on for three to four minutes, during which the victim suffered multiple bite wounds on his neck and back, and had part of his left ear ripped off.

It should be noted that last September [2011], Irish tourist Maurice Sullivan, 50, was killed by a pit bull in Penang, while Mr. Sullivan and his girlfriend had wandered onto an organic farm.

COMMENT: One security threat that many foreign travelers do not stop to consider when planning a trip abroad is the potentiality of being bitten or attacked by dogs who run free, which is often commonplace in many countries.

That said, permit me to make a few observations concerning man's best friend. I've had dogs all my life and can honestly say that most breed are not genetically mean, unless they are strays or street dogs, or trained to be aggressive.

Admittedly, pit bulls, because of their physical characteristics and the manner in which they have been socialized by humans who train them for aggressiveness, often are involved in injuries or death to people.

Yet, there are many exceptions. My oldest daughter, Vicki, for example, is on the board of a dog rescue group in Oregon. While visiting both of my daughters last year, Vicki was serving as a foster Mom for an eight-week-old pit bull, Penelope, who has turned out to be one of the most lovable and affection dogs one might find anywhere.

In Australia, following the death of four-year-old child, who was mauled by a neighbor's pit bull mastiff in August 2011, the state of Victoria passed a law prescribing that dog owners that kill people will face up to 10 years in prison.

It has been argued that in many Western nations, singling out and prohibiting specific breeds such as the pit bull does not necessarily reduce dog attacks, largely because any large breed can be dangerous, and people who want an aggressive dog will simply train another large breed that is not banned.

The UK introduced the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991, and outlawed four breeds: the pit bull terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Brasileiro, as well as their cross breeds, leading to thousands of them being impounded and put down. The law was, however, amended in 1997 to give the courts discretion to allow dogs with good temperament and which pose no danger to the public to be kept, subject to tight restrictions.

Other options that many countries are examining include: (1) public muzzling of dangerous breeds; (2) mandatory leash laws; (3) insuring against third party claims in the event dogs bites and/or injures someone; (4) neutered to prevent undesired breeding; (5) monetary compensation for serious injury and or death; and (6) and mandatory microchip implanting with information on the dog and its owner.

One question that always comes up whether travelers should obtain the three-dose pre-exposure series of vaccinations against rabies. Generally speaking, only travelers who will be operating in isolated areas where emergency medical treatment is not accessible should consider the vaccinations, for if someone is bitten by any dog, they should seek immediate medical treatment within 24 hours, whether or not they have had the pre-exposure series. If the animal is not in custody, most medical providers will assume that the dog was rabid and administer post-exposure vaccinations. If the dog is in custody, the necessary tests will be conducted to corroborate or rule out rabies.

Obviously, dog lovers should not approach dogs while abroad, because they don't whether or such animals have been exposed to rabies.