Dogs Can Quickly Become Aggressive Under Right Conditions

By Shannon Davidson

(LOUISVILLE, August 17th, 2004, 8:30 p.m.) -- In the last two weeks, three people in Kentuckiana have been attacked by dogs, and one attack in Owensboro was fatal. Local animal control officials are urging people, especially parents, to be on guard. As WAVE 3's Shannon Davidson reports, officials say under certain conditions, any dog can become vicious.

Stories about dogs attacking people have been in the news a lot in recent weeks. Four-year-old Jada Wilson was attacked by a dog this past weekend. Eighty-year-old Lawrence Vaughn was attacked by two dogs on August 9th as he walked down the street. In Owensboro a woman was killed when she was attacked by six dogs.

And residents in the Newburg neighborhood had to buy new mailboxes to line their streets because mail carriers were too afraid to approach homes because of worries they might be bitten.

Louisville Metro Animal Control officials say dog attacks aren't necessarily on the rise, but it's an issue everyone should beware of for their own safety.

So why do some dogs attack? "The owner creates the Frankenstein, the monster does the rest," says Louisville Metro Animal Control Director Eric Blow. He says certain breeds are more likely to become aggressive, but how an owner trains -- or doesn't train his or her dog determines the dog's actions.

"It's how you keep the dog, it's how you socialize the dog, it's how you maintain the dog that dictates how its behavior is going to be."

To reduce the chances that your dog will become aggressive, have it spayed or neutered. And try not to keep your dog chained up for long periods. Blow says a chain programs the dog to defend its space anytime a person comes near. "They learn very quickly on the end of a chain they can't run away. So they learn that they must be aggressive all the time."

Blow says another thing you can do as a dog owner is to start the socialization process young. If they know at a young age what it's like to be around people, they're less likely to attack as adults.

Blow says people who ignore the warning signs need to address them now. "Can you bring anyone around your dog? Well, if you can't, you've got a problem."

So far this year there have been almost 600 reported dog bites in Jefferson County. Of course, not all dogs are aggressive, but Blow says you should always treat a dog you don't know as if it is aggressive. Never approach a dog; instead let it come to you. And don't reach out to it, especially while it's eating, many dogs are territorial with their food.

Online Reporter: Shannon Davidson

Online Producer: Michael Dever