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How to stop a dog attack or break up a dog fight without getting bitten
By BL Ochman
This post first ran in 2009, but it keeps getting comments and we thought we should run it again so you’ll know what to do if you ever find yourself in this situation.
Would you know what to do if you were alone and your dog’s leg was being ripped apart by another dog? After a friend’s dog was attacked in Central Park, we decided to find out and share what we learned with Pawfun Blog readers, hoping you never need to test the advice. This post is long, but it’s important reading that could save your dog’s life and keep you from being seriously hurt.
Pit Bull attack in Central Park
Although dogs are allowed off-leash in the park from 9 pm to 9 am, Texas was leashed.
Suddenly, an off-leash white and tan Pit Bull came “from out of nowhere” and attacked Texas. It locked its massive jaws on Texas’ leg and wouldn’t let go. The result is pictured.
Trying to save her dog, Elizabeth kicked and screamed at the Pit Bull, but it wouldn’t let go. She knew not to put her hands in the middle of the attack, but didn’t know what else to do besides scream and kick the Pit Bull – neither of which had any effect, and which only intensified the Pit’s frenzy. The owner of the Pit, a man we’re told is in his 80s, and a friend who was with him pulled the dog’s hind legs up, trying to get him off Texas, and that had no effect.
(Please note that we are not categorically anti-Pit Bull. But the attack that is the subject of this story was by a Pit.)
Thankfully, two park workers (“I wish I had gotten their names!” she says) pried the Pit’s mouth open with a steel rod from their truck and it let go of Texas.
Elizabeth managed to get her badly hurt dog to the vet, where he underwent immediate and extensive surgery on his mangled leg. That has so far cost $1500, and she has no pet health insurance. Texas has drains in the wounds; the dressing has to be changed daily, but he’s recovering.
She and Texas usually run a couple of miles every day, and up to five miles a day on weekends, so Texas is in great shape, which the vets says is helping him rebound.
Update: Nov. 28 – The owner and the Pit Bull were encountered in the Park this morning, on the path around the Great Lawn, near the East Side basketball courts – the scene of the attack on the 19th – and the dog still is not muzzled. This clearly is a dangerous situation, with another attack a very real possibility.
The massive white and tan Pit’s owner, who told Elizabeth he is 84 years old, is approximately 5’7″ tall, sandy hair, slight build, looks rather frail, with “sort of rheumy eyes” according to one person who met him. He had on a bright blue rain/wind jacket today with a hood.
Update Nov. 26: Elizabeth commented on this post:
“…Texas, … did not ask for the hell he’s gone through. Ultimately dog owners must assume responsibility for their dogs…and until the law changes where dog on dog attacks are a crime, we’ll all suffer from the few irresponsible dog owners with dogs who prey on the innocent.” Her comment continues here.
What to do if your dog is attacked or in a fight when you’re alone:
I always carry bottled water when I’m out with Benny. Sometimes he and his buds play in an overly rambunctious way, and it escalates to a fight. A quick squirt will startle them enough to break it up. It has also worked when a strange dog has come into Benny’s friends’ pack and they’ve chased the outsider. But Texas was not in a fight: he was attacked. Stronger measures were needed!
Anna says: Dog fights and even attacks happen. Whether we feel prepared to handle them or not, any time you take your dog somewhere other dogs are present you risk the chance that a dog fight or attack can occur. One important thing to keep in mind – dogs who are fighting and are interrupted will often re-direct. This is when people get hurt. That being said, these are the things that have worked for me in the past:
I understand that many people recommend carrying mace or pepper spray. I usually recommend a small squirt gun or spray bottle filled with straight white vinegar. Vinegar will sting when it hits the mucus membranes (eyes & nose), but will not cause any permanent or long-term damage to the animals. Usually it is enough of a distraction that you can separate the animals. [Pls note: If you elect to carry pepper spray, make sure you try it out in a safe location so you know how it works in the event of an emergency!]
If you are by yourself, I do not generally recommend trying to break up a dog fight. It is simply too easy to get seriously hurt. Scream for help or pull out your cell phone & dial 911. But don’t try to get in between two dogs that are intent on doing damage.
Elizabeth had no choice. She was in the middle of Central Park and her dog would have been killed by time police could have found her location. She was lucky park workers reacted quickly and knew what to do.
Other things you can try without getting yourself in the middle of the fight: If there’s a hose available, spray the attacking dog in the nose and eyes and hope it’ll let go long enough for you to get your dog away.
If there’s a fire extinguisher nearby, aim it at the nostrils and eyes and get your dog out of there while it’s startled..
How two people can break up a dog attack or fight:
Anna says “If there are two of you present (preferably the owners of both dogs), you can grab the back legs of the fighting dogs and pull them apart. (Like I mentioned before, be careful, the dog could easily turn around & come after you).
Ed Frawley of Leerburg Kennel (which is certainly NOT a holistic training facility) has a free ebook about dog fights on his site. Frawley advises:
• Never put your hands in the middle of a dog fight by trying to pull the dogs apart by the collar. You WILL get bitten, quite possibly by your own dog.
• Don’t scream. It just adds to the frenzy, as does kicking and hitting them.
• Each person grabs the back feet of one of the dogs and lifts it like a wheelbarrow. With the legs up, both dogs are pulled apart.
• It is then critical for the two people to keep holding the dog’s legs up, and turn slowly in a circle or even swing each dog slowly to prevent the dogs from curling back and biting them.
• To insure that the fight won’t start over, or the dogs come after you, one dog needs to be dragged to an enclosed place like a kennel or garage, or tied to a fence or tree.
Addendum: Incredibly, when Elizabeth reported the attack – by a dog who is still free to attack again – to the Police Precinct, she was told that dog on dog aggression is not a crime and they refused to write a report of the incident. This brings up the issue of how to change the law. We’re going to get involved in that battle, and we will keep you posted on progress in that area.
Tags: break up a dog fight, Pawfun Blog, pit bull fight, prevent dog bites
January 2, 2012