Tuesday, 31 March 2009


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.


Unknown said...

Its unfortunate to hear that incident you narrated in this post. And after reading you post its clear why you have such strong feelings towards dogs and pets.

Swarna said...

Sad reading, but so clear that you write from several fist-hand experiences. I agree that owners are (to be held) totally responsible for the physical and emotional well-being of their dogs.
Perhaps apartment associations can make some stringent by-laws to prevent such happenings.

Pradeep said...

I saw this item right in my newspaper office; and instantly felt very bad about it. That the death occurred due to the bite of a pet dog makes it all the more tragic.

I grew up with cats. Literally sleeping and playing with them. I also like dogs. I love to caress them and I simply love the way they look at you so affectionately. I like pets. But pets are only like human beings.

When people are not accountable for their own misdeeds how will ever they be accountable for the misdeeds of their pets? And on top of it all people generally are insensitve about other human beings, leave alone pets.

I was bitten by a dog while I was coming back from work after night shift. More than the wound, it took two days for me to recover from the trauma of seeing a pack of stray dogs barking ferociously at me. I don't want to take life long rabies injections. So, I am unable to use my scooter at night.

What is most repulsive is the exaggerated show of love for animals and the sickening snobbishness.

Think about all this, it's so sickening!

Kat said...

It was heart wrenching reading that news item where the boy fell from the 4th floor as he ran away from the chasing dog.

In general, one important point to remember with dogs is - one should never run. The dog thinks either we are playing a game with it or thinks we are enemies and gives a chase.

more can be read here http://news.runtowin.com/2007/09/26/what-do-you-do-if-a-dog-wants-to-chase-you.html

And I think the dog owner is responsible for the dog.

Devika Jyothi said...

So tragic an incident, Raji

the house owner should be responsible..and by law he could be made...vicariously responsible...

When man/woman loses touch with humans they seem to keep pet dogs and cats...there could be exceptions...but generally I think it works that way...

I like to talk with strangers than to pamper pets....but i have a sympathy for stray animals...and sometimes feed them...what is to happen will happen -- my thought goes that way. :)

though in this case, I agree it could have been avoidable...yet, thinking of it is it really avoidable?

confusing thoughts makes us think of God...all God's creation...who is die or live is decided by Him..and written already...

frankly speaking..I get mad at such thoughts! :)


Kamini said...

I adore dogs, but completely agree with you that the owners are responsible for keeping them under control at all times, and to respect the feelings of visitors who dislike or are afraid of them. I have observed many pet dogs in India and the United States, and (your younger son's incident notwithstanding) I feel that the dogs in America are better trained and disciplined.
What a tragedy about the boy. It was just awful, what happened.


T and S - funnily it is not the dogs I hate, they only do what is natural to them.

Swarna - a good idea, but by laws are not always implemented.

Pradeep - what a terrible experience.

Kat - thanks for the link to the nice article. but children will be children, and fear would propel them into running.

Devika - like you say, everything is predestined.

Kamaini - I am glad you agree with me that the dog owner should be accountable.

Praveen Krishnan said...

Mami, even I am not a patron of pets :-)
I am scared of them, though people have tried convincing me otherwise!!!

Renu said...

I agree to everyword in your post. Even I am very scared of dogs. I dont have any problem with the ppeople loving their dogd, but please put them in your home.
Even in our Apt, someone has a very big dog who has scared many visitors.

Indrani said...

I have been bitten once and chased a couple of times. Thankfully I was on a road.

This incident was horrifying.

Anonymous said...

Frankie is a dachshund in a wheelchair. She is raising awareness for disabled animals. She is donating a portion of April book sales from her book, Frankie, the Walk N Roll Dog to Rolling Dog Ranch.

Chandramouli S said...

So sad to hear about the little boy. I feel the pet owners should train their pets properly. They should definitely be responsible. I too am allergic to dogs though I love to see them being petted by my friends and no sir, no licking at all for me! But I'd say when trained well, pets are really cool.

I myself own two parakeets and are very tame and are very easy going with me and my mom but are not so comfortable when my sister or dad stick their hands inside the cage, but they don't bite. They're trained to know what it is to bite and what it is to nip. Of course, parrots do nip everything because they want to make sure that whatever they perch upon would be safe for them. I'd insist on everyone to train their pets to show them what's their limit. If they can't, my sincere request to them is better not expose them to non-family members.

I've seen bad injuries due to parrot bites! The poor ones can't be blamed, because they were spoiled by their owners and the same applies to other pet owners too.

That was a great post, ma'am, but again I request people not to show their aversion towards pet animals but rather make their owners realize their fault. Talk to them.

Meera's World said...

that is a very very sad incident. i am scared of dogs.i hope the family finds the strength somehow, to survive these days.

Revathi R said...

Here are answers to your questions - http://www.goergo.in/?p=3969
Vandana Gopikumat, founder of The Banyan says she spoke with the owner of the pet, at the prison

kallu said...

Really a tragic incident, Raji. And the parents are really fantastic people to donate the eyes of the child.

To relate my own own dog bite.. I got bitten and had the necessary shots too.. only later on we knew it was the early stages of pregnancy. And we attribute the rather growly nature of one daughter to this:-)))

Another bite.. the owner reacted just as you said.. my dog will never bite ..like moms who will say 'what my child, never !

Nice post Raji.. and its obviously reaching out to many people.


Praveen, Renu, Indrani, Meera - thanks for your views.

Chandramouli, parakeets cannot really be as dangerous as dogs! Your two sound quite sweet, though I wouldn't like to be nipped by them, either. :)

Revathi, thanks for the link.

Kallu, what an experience, and you carrying. So cool of you to write so lightly about it.

ambrosia said...

Hi there, I hit upon your blog by chance through a friend's blog. The incident on which your post is based saddened me a great deal. Extremely unfortunate. At the same time I am an animal lover. The earth belongs to animals too is what I believe in. Sometimes our own fears and apprehensions about something only direct us to look at the negative attributes of the thing/entity we do not understand. There are many aspects about the nature of dogs that are beautiful and exemplary for the human race. It is important to look at both sides of the coin as rational human beings. As parents, we also carry the responsibility to teach our children to respect (and not fear) the creations of Nature/God/Universe while at the same time cautioning them about the potential hazards. Talking of potential hazards, most human beings may be potential hazards for the other – especially those who do not get along with. Interestingly, it is easier for me to trust animals than people. I just took the liberty to barge in, I hope you won't mind.


Ambrosia: I am happy that you took the trouble to visit my blog. Welcome. And of course you are welcome to express your opinions here. I concede that dogs have admirable qualities like devotion. At the same time, as I pointed out, it is natural for them to bite when they feel threatened. And it is highly inconvenient to be at the receiving end.

Nagesh.MVS said...

Nice Post.
Work From Home

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