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Guarding Against Fatal Dog-Bite Tragedies

Two babies in Connecticut died in the past month from dog bites. The horror and pain in that simple sentence does not escape us. No one should have to lose a child under those circumstances.

This is not a defense of dog attacks. They should never happen.

But they do. Only they don’t come “out of the blue,” nor are they “totally unprovoked,” words most often used by owners after an attack.

We like to think our pets have human traits. But they are not humans and they can’t always read the room appropriately. A playful tug on a tail or a delighted shriek in an ear may be a trigger for some dogs, particularly those who have suffered trauma and abuse.

Dogs rarely attack for no reason, according to dog-behavior experts. They give us warnings. They growl, snarl, or bare their teeth to say, “Back off.” We just have to pay attention, something that young children, unfortunately, are not equipped to do.

Parents have to do it for them.

Neither of the two families who suffered these tragedies has blamed the dog and we are not writing here to judge. According to reports, in one instance, a mother and one-year-old boy were playing on a trampoline when the dog jumped on; a family member said, “never in a million years would we have seen (an attack) coming.” (Two dogs have been removed from that home.) In the other instance, family members called the baby’s death, “a tragic accident,” but provided no details of the attack. That dog was euthanized.

According to, almost 30 percent of fatal dog attacks involve a child between the ages of one and four. This demographic is mostly likely to be the victim of a dog attack, Forbes reports, “because of their inability to recognize cues signaling potential aggression in canines and their childish propensity to engage in behaviors that can be triggering to dogs, such as running and squealing."

It is critical that adoptive families understand and are truthful about the ages, behaviors, and capabilities of their youngest children when thinking about adopting a shelter dog.

Where the Love Is volunteers work hard to match available dogs with adoptive families by being mindful of a dog’s history and personality and in some cases will steer a family with children to adopt a dog other than the one they chose. Volunteers also spend countless hours training puppies and rescued dogs how to interact appropriately with their new owners. Finally, our amazing foster families take in some dogs with the most challenging behaviors so that they can learn how to live in a loving environment.

But even with those protections and protocols in place, things may go wrong. When a dog adopted from Where the Love Is doesn’t work out with its new family for whatever reason, we insist the dog be returned to us so we can find a better fit or continue to work with the dog.

In return, we hope adults who bring a new baby into a home with an established

dog – or bring a new dog into a home with a baby or young children – to do their best to keep both safe and happy. Keeping an undistracted eye on both dog and baby at all times could prevent a terrible, senseless tragedy.



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