(DOGS/ANIMAL BEHAVIOR) In light of the viral video of Tara the “hero cat” saving her family member, a four-year-old boy, from a dog attack in Bakersfield, California, dog aggression has become a hot topic of debate.

Dog bites are not uncommon, but it’s also important that the general public receive information concerning violent attacks from reputable and reliable sources.

Recently, Dogsbite.org has become a common go-to source, but the site is heavily biased as it was created by a dog-bite victim, Colleen Lynn, who was attacked by a pit bull on a morning run and hospitalized for a severe bone fracture.

Dogsbite.org is a clear-cut example of breed discrimination in action as it spotlights specific breeds—especially pit bulls—as dangerous, untrainable, and ban-worthy.

The “About Us” section of Dogsbite.org reports:

“A breed ban is the most proactive policy that can be undertaken concerning the pit bull problem. A ban saves the most human lives by preventing attacks before they occur.”

The truth is dogs—especially dogs younger than two-years-old—who are not spayed or neutered are much more likely to exhibit violent behavior than dogs who are fixed.

Tara the "Hero Cat" will throw out the first pitch at Tuesday's Bakersfield Blaze game./Photo credit: independent.co.uk
Tara the “Hero Cat” saved her four-year-old guardian from an aggressive dog attack. Photo credit: independent.co.uk

The eight-year-old Labrador-Chow mix who attacked the young boy and was warded off by Tara the “hero cat” was immediately relinquished by his guardians after the attack, put into quarantine, and ultimately euthanized. But how could the attack have been prevented in the first place?

Not only is spaying and neutering proven effective in preventing aggression in dogs, but so is being an educated caretaker and having family rules around young, unfixed dogs.

According to the American Veterinarian Medical Association:

“Intact (unneutered) male dogs represented 90 percent of dogs presented to veterinary behaviorists for dominance aggression, the most commonly diagnosed type of aggression. Intact males are also involved in 70 to 76 percent of reported dog bite incidents.”

Elle's win as the 2013 American Hero Dog defies misconceptions about pit bulls. Photo Credit: Vimeo
Pit bulls have long been stereotyped as dangerous and violent animals. Photo Credit: Vimeo

Potential dog guardians and those interested in more information about pet safety should seek out information from more reliable websites run by trained and educated professionals, such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

According to the HSUS, the most important thing to remember when dealing with an aggressive animal is that every single animal is different, so treatment must always be administered after examining the specific needs of the dog.

Here are some basic tips the HSUS recommends in the event you find yourself dealing with an aggressive animal:

  • First, check with your veterinarian to rule out medical causes for the aggressive behavior.
  • Seek professional advice. An aggression problem will not go away by itself. Working with aggression problems requires in-home help from an animal behavior specialist.
  • Take precautions. Your first priority is to keep people and other animals safe. Supervise, confine, and/or restrict your dog’s activities until you can obtain professional guidance. You are liable for your dog’s behavior. If you must take your dog out in public, consider a cage-type muzzle as a temporary precaution, and remember that some dogs are clever enough to get a muzzle off.
  • Avoid exposing your dog to situations where he is more likely to show aggression. You may need to keep him confined to a safe room and limit his contact with people.
  • If your dog is possessive of toys or treats, or territorial in certain locations, prevent access and you’ll prevent the problem. In an emergency, bribe him with something better than what he has. For example, if he steals your shoe, trade him the shoe for a piece of chicken.
  • Spay or neuter your dog. Intact dogs are more likely to display dominance, territorial, and protective aggressive behavior.

The bottom line: no breed should be discriminated against or redlined as undesirable because of false or lack of information.

— Kayla Newcomer, exclusive to Global Animal