Sadly, we are waking, on this Bank Holiday Monday, to the heart-breaking news that, overnight, an infant was killed by a dog in Waterford.
A helpless infant dying is devastating and I can’t imagine the pain this baby’s family and loved ones are experiencing. AniEd extends our sincerest condolences to family and friends of this little one.
As is usual in these cases, there is scant verified detail available at this early time, and as is also usual, there is a myriad of speculation and sensation already generating on the back of this baby perishing. We will not engage with this, or in blaming any party involved.
Our remit is canine behaviour, rather than speculation and sensation. Due to the rarity of fatal and serious dog attacks, data is incomplete, especially here in Ireland. The most reliable research on this topic is from the US, looking at 256 fatal dog attacks over a ten-year period (Patronek et al, 2013).
This work identified co-occurrent factors involved in such incidents, including, a vulnerable victim without able-bodied supervision, victim unfamiliar to the dogs, dogs who have been kept isolated from regular human interactions and prior concerning incidents involving the dogs.
Breed or type is not predictive of involvement in serious incidents.
Some combination of these risk factors is present in most incidents involving serious injury and are preventable through environmental management and modification.
Dog behaviour is expressed in response to environmental stimulation: what goes on around the dog determines their responses. Even though dogs inherit characteristics, both physical and behavioural, these genetic effects will be expressed relative to the dog’s environmental conditions. This is generally determined by the humans who produce the dog, who rear the dog, who care for the dog, who are responsible for the dog.
Widespread education is needed to help ensure people can care for their dogs in a manner that promotes safe and welfare-friendly interactions with dogs, so that dog behaviour is adequately managed and the canine-human relationship is enhanced.
Try to resist sharing posts, stories, individuals and so on that continue to speculate and sensationalise, and essentially monetise, a sad incident.
If given the opportunity, we can learn from these tragedies and help prevent further heartache in the future.