The news out of the small Bladen County town of Clarkton is horrific this week. Too bad it isn’t unique.
A 9-day-old child died Tuesday when she was mauled by five dogs — a pit bull, bulldog, Alaskan malamute, German shepherd and a German shepherd mix. Investigators haven’t said much, and the questions, while not plenty of them, are obvious.
— Who needs five dogs?
— How was a child just 9 days old left at the mercy of five dogs, especially considering all were well-teethed and from breeds generally considered aggressive?
The child’s death will resurrect the perpetual debate on who is to blame: dogs or humans. And although the temptation is to declare both guilty, blame the humans. They are the ones assigned the task of taking care of the child. That the parents are each 17 years old makes the case no less tragic, but a tad bit easier to understand. Seventeen-year-olds, with essentially no exceptions, are not ready for the responsibilities of parenthood.
When news of a dog mauling first surfaced, who among us didn’t quickly assume that the culprit was a pit bull? No breed of dog has ever had more defenders, and none has ever needed more defense. They and Rottweilers are the breeds most likely to kill, according to dogbite.com.
According to dogbite.com, about 1,000 Americans are treated every day — yes, every day — at hospitals for dog bites. Most of them are children, and they are most likely to be bitten on the face. Last year, there were 34 fatal dog attacks in the United States.
Following are some tips to avoid a dog bite from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
— Consult with a professional — veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or responsible breeder — to learn what breeds of dogs are the best fit for your household.
— Dogs with histories of aggression are not suitable for households with children.
— Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog. If a child seems frightened by dogs, wait before bringing a dog into your household.
— Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into a household with an infant or toddler.
If you decide to bring a dog into your home:
— Spay or neuter your dog to reduce aggressiveness.
— Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog.
— Don’t play aggressive games with your dog.
— Properly socialize and train any dog entering your household. Teach the dog submissive behaviors.
— Immediately seek professional advice if the dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.
We will add our own thought: Dogs are only potentially man’s best friend.