Dog experts have intensified calls for tighter regulation of dog sales, rather than banning the “dangerous” breeds at the centre of vicious attacks.
It comes after multiple vicious rottweiler attacks this week put two people in hospital, including a Perth woman who almost lost her arm and a Sydney man who received bite wounds to the neck.
Nikita Piil, 31, was set upon by her pet rottweilers, Bronx and Harlem, in the backyard of her Perth home on September 16.
Surveillance footage taken from her neighbours property records the moment her painful screams echoed through the street, alerting them to the attack unfolding next door.
Her neighbours described a nightmare scene after rushing to her side gate to find the dogs ripping at her body before she was dragged out of sight.
By the time police arrived, her injuries were so significant they were left with no choice but to shoot to end the attack and save her life.
When dogs turn on their adoring owners
Scrolling through Ms Piil’s social media, it’s pretty easy to see that her dogs were her entire world.
Her profile is filled with snaps of them, including some professional photographs, with captions like: “I couldn’t ask for a more incredible, cheeky, loyal, intelligent & protective little mate.”
Many victims of dog attacks describe the moment their beloved pet simply “snapped” out of nowhere after years of love and affection.
Approximately 95 per cent of dog bites occur between a dog and someone familiar to them, Melbourne-based dog behaviourist and vet Dr Chantelle McGowan said.
“It’s rarely the dog that chases you down the street and jumps up and bites at you, it’s the one that you trust that’s in your home,” she said.
This narrative often leaves dog lovers scrambling for answers, some turning to the owner claiming poor treatment or bad training, while others determine the breed is simply to dangerous and renew calls for them to be banned.
Is it time for a ban on dangerous breeds?
Rottweilers are the centre of attention this week, but give it time and a new breed will be ushered into the spotlight.
“When I first started doing this work 25 years ago, it was the doberman that had a bad name,” dog behaviour specialist Nathan Williams said.
“Then it was the rottweiler, then it was the german shepherd. Then it was the pitbull.”
Mr Williams says there is no such thing as a dangerous breed, that it all comes down to how the dog is raised.
A common feature of dog attack stories are the owners coming to the defence of their pet. They often describe the dog’s loving, gentle, and often calm nature, and lovers of the breed will often join in, confirming their own experience.
Mr Williams says most people don’t even realise they are setting the dog up for bad habits. Take for example, a game of tug-o-war.
“A dog can’t understand the concept of play – that’s a human concept – all the dog understands is biting and ripping,” he said.
Many dog attack victims will say, “it switched just like that” or “I did nothing to provoke it”, but Mr Williams says often the damage is done well before the incident.
“In a normal calm situation, let’s say someone screams or squeals, the dog is trained to react when it hears the squeak,” he said.
“But the dog never snaps for no reason. There’s no such thing.”
Both experts agreed that there needs to be more mechanisms in place to educate dog owners and better prepare them to avoid disaster.
“I would love for every dog owner to be more prepared when it comes to their dog’s behaviour or potential behaviour,” Dr McGowan said.
She said in the Netherlands, they have strict dog zoning laws that require a license and mandatory education in order to raise an animal, with some of the lowest rates of shelter occupation in the world.
She would also like to see the government offer up resources that explain science-based practical solutions for owners to turn to if their dog starts to exhibit dangerous behaviour.
Mr Williams is also calling for mandated desexing before sale, saying there is evidence dogs are much less likely to attack if they are.