By Jes Abeita
The dog’s owner was more freaked out than the dog. She was breathless and her wide eyes looked ready to burst into tears. I was shadowing a vet in his emergency room for a story, and he was checking out a Shar-Pei that had been attacked by another dog at the dog park.
The dog was fine, but later that evening Dr. Carlton Huitt, the vet I was shadowing, went off about the injuries he saw inflicted at dog parks. Huitt said that owners need to be better-informed about what to do if their dog is the victim of an attack
Vancouverites filed 209 reports of dog aggression toward other dogs and humans with Animal Services in 2009.
Sarah Hicks, manager of Vancouver Animal Services, said your first priority should be getting medical care for yourself and your dog if needed. A dog attack is “like a car accident, get as much information as you can,” she said. Any information that could help track down an aggressive dog and owner is useful. “We’ll go do the scouting,” to track them down Hicks said.
If you think your dog might be too aggressive for the dog park, don’t go. Seriously, just don’t. If you’re worried about socialization, obedience class may be a safer, saner start for you and your dog.
Luckily, the number to call to file a report on an aggressive dog and/or owner is the same one Vancouver’s residents already use for a lot of other things, 311.
Hicks said she wants dog park visitors to call her department “before an incident even happens.” Animal Services officers can go directly to the park and talk to an owner to hopefully correct the situation, if the owner is still around.
If you witness aggression at your local of-leash area without being directly involved, you can also call 311 to file a report.
In the meantime when you’re in the dog park you should watch your dog and the other dogs in the park. Hicks advises owners to leave if they feel uncomfortable letting their dog interact with other dogs in the park.
Sometimes other owners tell me I’m an awful “parent” for not letting my own dog run around off-leash with their bigger, rougher dogs. But aside from avoiding possible trouble, it’s embarrassing when Brin runs behind me to get away from the pack of other dogs at the off-leash park.