A news item in yesterday’s newspaper made me feel extremely sad. A young schoolboy on the terrace of his grandmother’s apartment, is chased by the pet German Shepherd* of another apartment dweller, and falls to his death. A tragedy that should not have happened.
The little boy had come first in his class in the annual exams, and was distributing sweets to his friends and family.
So many questions pop into my mind.
1. How high is the parapet on the terrace? Should it not be high enough to prevent such accidents?
2. How safe are pets? Should not owners hold them on a leash when outside their residence – flat or house?
3. Can flat dwellers keep pets in their flats?
4. Is the dog owner accountable for any act of the dog?
In this case, the dog was indirectly responsible for the child’s death. It speaks volumes for the parents’ magnanimity, that even in the midst of this tragedy, they remembered others. The little child’s eyes were harvested for donation.
I feel very strongly about dogs, pets or not. The main danger from dogs is their natural inclination to bite – and bites from dogs can be fatal. A friend’s son died because of a bite from their own pet.
Many years ago, my son was bitten by a dog when returning from school, barely a nip, but it had drawn blood. It was a pet dog, and its owners assured us that the dog was up to date with its inoculations. Our own doctor (Dr. Ravindra Padmanabhan – a fine person, who unexpectedly died in a car accident) said we should watch the dog for 21 days, and if it died within that period for any reason, even if it was run over by a bus or car, we should follow up my son’s treatment with anti-rabies treatment. Fortunately, the dog did not die of any cause, natural or otherwise. But it was a long 21 days for us.
My second son was bitten by the pet dog of a neighbour in his own apartment complex in Hoboken, New Jersey. It was a pretty nasty bite on his thigh, and only the thick material of his jeans prevented it from being a worse one. Laws being different in the USA, the dog owner was apprehensive of a suit against him for damages, and was relieved when my son did not press any charges. He however hastily vacated the premises soon after.
In the USA I found that dog owners are held responsible for their pets’ behaviour – including cleaning up after them in public places. They are also liable to be prosecuted if it causes injury to person or property.
The stray dog menace is a rampant one in the city, and I have mentioned this in a previous post. Dog lovers hate me for this, because I feel strongly that such dogs should be put down for the sake of young children on the road.
When I was a little girl, my father was Assistant Collector for a while in Trichy, on deputation from Delhi. Once while on a visit to the District Magistrate’s home, his (the DM's) pet dog bit my father on the hand. Fortunately, he was not hurt much. While the magistrate apologized profusely, the wife said, “Our dog is too gentle to bite anyone. But if you insist on putting your hand in its mouth, what do you expect it to do?” And that, I think, takes the cake!
I think I love humans more than dogs – pets or not. When I go to the homes of friends who have pets, I tell them frankly about not liking being licked by their pets. My husband goes one step further – he just won’t visit them.
*** Later reports have identified the dog as a Labrador.