The issue of dangerous dogs is back in the spotlight after a pair of twin sisters and a Good Samaritan were viciously attacked by a rottweiler-husky cross in Richmond last week.
The incident left one of the 21-year-old victims with more than 100 bites, a fractured arm, and a detached bicep. The city of Richmond is still investigating the cause, and hasn’t decided the dog’s fate yet.
But can we ever understand what causes these incidents?
Langara College animal behaviour and welfare scientist Dr. Rebecca Ledger says absolutely.
But she notes attacks of this severity are extremely rare.
“This certainly is one of the most extreme cases I’ve heard of.”
Ledger says to really know what happened, we’ll need look at the dog’s medical history.
“There are actually a fair number of medical disorders that can cause dogs to act spontaneously aggressively.”
Those include rabies, seisure disorders, and neurological diseases.
Alternately, she says it could have been exposed to something that made it react.
Ledger says eating toxic materials or medications like Ritalin have been known to cause dogs to react violently.
She says when dogs act aggressively, it’s usually because they are feeling defensive.
“Typically because they’re scared or because they want to prevent something being taken from them.”
Of course abusive owners can be a factor, but Ledger says dogs have been known to bite for something as simple like being kicked off the couch – not something we would consider violent, but that the dog considers a challenge or threat.
As to whether being drunk or stoned could provoke the animal? She says there has been no research proving dogs react aggressively to people who are impaired, though she says she’s heard plenty of anecdotes from her clients.
As for the dog involved in last week’s attack and its chances of rehabilitation…
“I think we need a diagnosis first. We need to know what happened and why this dog reacted the way it did. If it was because it ingested something toxic there’s a good chance this dog won’t ever do this again. But if it’s more complicated than that… I suspect the road to recovery is going to be quite dangerous.”