For decades, the debate about who carries blame in the event of a dog attack has raged furiously.
Owners of so-called “dangerous dogs” argue that dog bites occur when the dog is poorly treated, or that all dogs will attack when surprised or provoked. On the other side, dog attack victims and skeptics rail against the alleged impracticality of pit bulls and Rottweilers as family dogs; and breed-specific legislation has been considered to combat dog bites in Utah and other states.
Both sides make many valid points: Abused dogs are far more likely to be dangerous; training makes an enormous difference in any animal’s family-friendliness; and there is a high correlation between dogs having a potential to inflict serious harm and dangerously irresponsible people adopting them. However, Centers for Disease Control report that a staggering 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bit by dogs each year—885,000 of these require medical attention. Most of the victims are children, the most helpless possible targets. Without recommending that all dogs go to Heaven, the numbers would certainly suggest that the number of dog bites exceeds the number (or at least the types) of people who legitimately provoke them.
The bottom line is that it is up to the owner of a dog, more than to young children, their parents, the elderly, or any other potential victims, to make sure that the animal in question does not pose a threat except to actual threats. The owner of a dog that is either very large or the member of a breed known for aggression should be well-read in the foibles of the animal they keep—what startles them; how they react to a perceived menace; what sort of enclosure is sufficient to contain them, even when they are agitated; etc. Although the laws governing an owner’s responsibility for their pet’s behavior vary from place to place, dog owners nevertheless have a moral responsibility to take all precautions against dog bites.