Guest Column: Aggressive dogs

DAVID B. SHOARGuest Column: Aggressive dogs

David B. Shoar, Sheriff
St Johns County

The topic for this column was suggested by a reader. They are concerned about aggressive, unleashed dogs that are allowed to roam in their neighborhood.

They wrote :

“There have been so many incidents in our county with Pit Bulls and dog attacks recently that I thought residents would benefit from your advice on this subject. I know this really is an animal control issue, but many people (including myself) contact the Sheriff’s Office for help with this type of problem. From my own personal experience over the past few months in dealing with a Pit Bull that runs loose through our neighborhood, your department has been so helpful in doing what they can”.

The owners of those dogs are in violation of the St. Johns County leash law ordinance and likely are soon to have their pets classified as dangerous and thus can be charged with another misdemeanor.

In this case, the reader called to my attention the dogs in question are pit bulls. This breed is often involved in vicious attacks although responsible owners of pit bulls will tell you they can be docile and are wonderful pets.

As the reader suggested the enforcement of ordinances involving dogs and cats is the responsibility of St. Johns County Animal Control. Those trained officers have as a major part of their job description the safe return of healthy pets to their rightful owners but they also issue citations to pet owners who are repeat offenders of the county ordinances regarding dogs and cats.

That said, a call to the Sheriff’s Office is appropriate when a dangerous situation regarding aggressive dogs, or any other issue, threatens public safety. We will respond as promptly as possible. These situations can be very serious.

As you probably recall last June in neighboring Putnam County a 76-year-old man died from injuries he sustained in a pit bull attack. The owner of the two dogs involved was recently indicted by a Grand Jury and faces the likelihood of stiff fines and jail time. No fine or jail time however will compensate for the loss of life as a result of their alleged negligence.

Nearly one thousand people in the U.S. go to emergency rooms for treatment of dog bites each day. Many of those victims are children and most of them have been bitten in the face.

Here are some recommendations from animal control experts to help prevent a dog attack:

Keep on the lookout for aggressive dogs when you are walking or jogging. If you spot one in the distance, try to alter your route or simply cross the street. If you see a dog in the distance, be sure not to surprise it. An unknown person entering a dog’s space can be interpreted as threatening, especially if the dog is unaware of your approach. Don’t be afraid to say something to the dog when you are heading its way.

If you spot an aggressive dog off leash and approaching you, stop walking or running. Even though this goes against your instinct, it will stop the “game” in which you are the prey and it is the hunter. Avoid eye contact with the dog. Do not strike the dog unless he has already attacked you – but also do not put your hand out to the dog if it is snarling or acting aggressive in any other way. If the dog does attack you, try to get something in its mouth that is not a body part – such as a shirt or jacket or even a water bottle or iPod.

Report the incident to our office or animal control right away.

I hope that this information assists you in the event an aggressive dog confronts yourself. If you have a suggestion for a future column or a comment or just wish to contact me on any matter involving county law enforcement please e-mail me at dshoar@sjso.org. As always thank you for taking the time to read my monthly comments.

Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News staff photographer

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