Attacks by stray dogs are usually more of a Third World dilemma, but such attacks are not unheard of in the United States. A 52-year-old South Dallas, Texas woman was mauled to death by a pack of stray dogs in May of this year and suffered more than 100 bites to her body.
The Dallas Morning News reported that the city had been contacted at least 11 times over a three-year period about dogs roaming loose. These dogs allegedly came from a home near where the victim lived. The owners were issued citations, had their dogs removed and promptly acquired more dogs which they also allowed to run loose. A New York Times story about the attack said people in this part of Dallas have been complaining about the stray dog problem for years.
The city commissioned an outside consulting firm report on the stray dog problem which was published September 16. The consulting group who researched the issue found out there are an estimated 8700 loose or stray dogs in south Dallas. At least 80-85 percent had not been spayed or neutered, multiplying the problem. The report also noted that dog bite incidents in South Dallas had gone up 23 percent between 2013 and 2015 and that people living in areas of low economic status are bitten and attacked by dogs more frequently than people in neighborhoods of greater affluence.
Roaming City Streets
Packs of dogs exist in all heavily populated areas of the U.S., including Detroit, according to a study done by Richard Colby, a dog bite expert and animal behavior specialist from California. The fact that dogs form packs, rather than roam singly, poses an additional danger to the public. One does not have to be bitten to become infected with rabies, it is transmitted through the saliva of the animal. Once symptoms manifest, the disease is almost 100% fatal in humans.
The stray dog problem has reached global proportions in many areas of the world. In Bulgaria—especially the capital city of Sofia—there were more than 400 dog bites a year and 10,000 strays in 2013. The government has tried to control the problem with neutering and spaying but control measures have not kept up with the number of strays.
As various animal protection acts have been passed in Europe, certain measures previously used to reduce the stray dog population are no longer permissible. Euthanasia as a means of controlling the population is not permitted in many areas.
Other countries besides Bulgaria have reported aggressive stray dogs in their cities including Ukraine, Poland and Istanbul. Albania, Armenia, Moldova and Serbia also have reported increasing stray dog populations. The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) highlights other areas where stray dogs pose a serious risk:
• India—This country experiences 20,000 human deaths from rabies per year, according to WSPA. In May 2012, a British tourist died from rabies after having been bit by an infected dog. The North Delhi Municipal Corporation conducted a survey which showed they were 30,608 dog bites in areas under its jurisdiction from 2012-2013.
• Mexico City—A recent study estimated 120,000 stray dogs lived in the city. In January 2013, a pack of dogs mauled four people to death in a park in eastern Mexico City.
• Morocco—After an increasing number of human deaths from rabies, a law was passed to limit the number of dangerous dogs. There were a reported 50,000 dog bites a year in 2013.
• Africa, Asia and China also experience many human deaths from rabies.
Other countries where rabies vaccinations are recommended for tourists and those who have high occupational risks such as veterinarians include: Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Kosovo, Latvia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Slovenia and Turkey.
What Is A Stray Dog?
Stray dogs are also called street dogs, village dogs, free-ranging, or free-breeding dogs, and are sometimes confused with feral or wild dogs. There is also another term, pariah dogs, which overlaps with some of the other designations and has some of its own characteristics.
Stray dogs generally refers to lost and abandoned pets, or others, that had socialized to humans before taking to the free-ranging life. Feral dogs are those that have escaped domestication and have lived all of their lives apart from people. They may have formed pack communities. In some cultures both feral dogs and dogs that have strayed from their owners are put into one classification. For example, in India which has the highest number of stray dogs in the world and 20,000 people per year dying of rabies, they do not spend a great deal of time arguing over semantics.
In their new book, “What is a Dog?” Raymond and Lorna Coppinger have another name for what one may call strays. The Coppingers, who were profiled in a recent New York Times article, argue these dogs are not lost pets, but “superbly adapted scavengers”—the closest thing to the dogs that emerged thousands of years ago.
The Coppingers are experienced dog people having spent their entire lives studying the origin, evolution and behavior of dogs. They have studied and owned sled dogs, and sheep guarding dogs. They traveled the world in a quest to find the best dog for sheep herders and helped develop an Anatolian shepherd breed in the United States. Raymond Coppinger is a zoologist and professor and Lorna Coppinger is a wildlife biologist.
In the process of studying certain types of canines, they began to notice dogs in the street wherever they went. They began to study the social behavior of the dogs which they found were most often referred to as village dogs, street dogs and free-breeding dogs.
The Coppingers’ solution to what to do about the village dog problem is not to kill them or rescue them and make them pets as is happening in the Caribbean and some other parts of the world. They point out that these dogs survive on garbage and that it takes about 100 people to support seven free-living or village dogs. If humans produced less garbage, it would help curb the street dog problem, they contend.
How to Avoid Stray Dogs
According to a home dog training website, barkbusters.com, homeless dogs or dogs running loose are a growing problem nationwide. Estimates indicate about 10 to 12 percent of the 800,000 human dog bites per year, serious enough to require medical attention, involve these stray dogs.
It is always a good idea to know who or what is around you. Even in familiar surroundings, scan the area nearby and far away. Are strangers approaching? Do they have a dog with them? Is the dog leashed?
For safety reasons, bring a mobile phone with you when you go for a stroll, especially in unfamiliar territory.
Never approach a stray dog.
Strays are almost always hungry and thirsty. Sometimes they are injured and often they are frightened. They sometimes carry disease. Despite how sorry you feel for the dog, do not abandon your common sense. Steer clear of any animal you don’t know.
Seek a Safe Place
If you see a stray dog approaching, look for a place to go that’s secure. Step inside a fenced area, enter a place of business or knock on a neighbor’s door.
Carry Food As A Distraction
Take treats or a pocket full of kibble with you. You can use the food to take the dog’s attention off you. Throw the food farther and farther away from you so the dog focuses on the food while you find a place of safety.
Never Run From A Dog
It is instinct to flee when threatened, but more than 90 percent of aggressive dogs are acting based on their fear of the situation. If you run, fear can escalate and the animal may chase you and attack you. Your goal is to eliminate yourself as a perceived threat or remove the opportunity for the dog to attack.
Best Thing To Do If Dog Is Attacking
Stand still. Don’t move. Keep your eyes focused downward and watch what is happening with your peripheral vision. Don’t stare at the dog. He may interpret this as a threat. Let the dog sniff you but don’t stick your hand out as this, too, may be interpreted as a threat. If it seems that the dog may be leaving, back away from the animal slowly. Do not turn your back on the dog.
If you have been knocked down, don’t try to get up and run away. Roll into a ball. Cover your face and head with your arms. Keep your legs together and pull your knees up to your chest. Don’t get up and don’t move until you are sure that the dog has left.
What To Do If You Are Bitten By A Dog
If the worst happens and a dog does bite you, seek medical help immediately if there is any doubt about the seriousness of your injury. Keep a record of your doctor or emergency room visit and try to discover who owns the offending animal. Your local Animal Control or dog warden may be able to help you with this.
The dog’s owner should offer to pay your medical bills at a minimum. If things are more complicated than this, you may need to seek the services of a dog bite attorney. At Slater & Zurz LLP, we have attorneys that will help. They are willing to talk with you about the circumstances of your dog attack and, if necessary, are prepared to file a lawsuit against the other party. Contact us for a free consultation by calling 1-888-998-9101, chat with one of our 24-hour live chat representatives or send us a website message.