As I type news is breaking that Police investigating the death of a baby in Pontyberem, Carmarthenshire, South Wales , have seized the family's Alaskan malamute dog. As reported in the Guardian "The Alaskan malamute is not one of the breeds identified by the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, which prohibits ownership of animals including the pit bull terrier, the Japanese tosa, dogo Argentino and the fila Brasiliero (Brazilian mastiff)." This is the second dog bite related death in just over a week with Ava-Jayne Carless being mauled by the family pit bull "Killer" last Monday. The pit bull is on the banned list, the Malamute isn't. One is apparently a dangerous dog and yet the other isn't. The tragic news just highlights the problem with the current legislation and again confirms that banning breeds is not the answer whereas greater control and more responsible dog ownership is. The following is a description of the malamute breed from Wikipedia: "The Malamute retains more of its original form and function than many other modern breeds. The Malamute personality is one of strong independence. If a dog owner cannot cope with a dog that will not comply with the owner's every command, a more compliant breed should be selected. This dog has a long genetic foundation of living in the harshest environment imaginable, and many of its behaviors are evolved to survive in such environments. Independence, resourcefulness, and natural behaviors are common in the breed. Because of their intelligence, they can be difficult dogs to train. However, if the trainer understands Malamutes and how to keep them motivated, success is possible. Malamutes sometimes cope poorly with smaller animals, including other canines; however, this has been difficult to document in detail beyond observational data. Many Malamute owners have observed this behavior with smaller animals. Due to their naturally evolved beginnings, Malamutes tend to have natural hunting instincts which often leads them to chase smaller animals, such as rabbits, squirrels, and cats. So while Malamutes are, as a general rule, particularly amicable around people and can be taught to tolerate other pets, it is necessary to be mindful of them around smaller animals. Malamutes are quite fond of people, a trait that makes them particularly sought-after family dogs but unreliable watchdogs. Malamutes are nimble around furniture and smaller items, making them ideal house dogs, provided they get plenty of time outdoors meeting their considerable exercise requirements. If they are year-round outdoor dogs, letting them play in a baby pool filled with cold water in summer keeps them cool. In the winter, they love snow." One would hope that a responsible dog owner would at least carry out some basic research before settling on a breed suitable for them. One would hope that rather than picking a dog which is undoubtedly beautiful they would think "Do I have time to train this dog properly?" "Do I have time to exercise this dog properly?" but unfortunately more often then not they don't. Reading those character traits makes it clear that this is a dog which requires time, patience and understanding and which chillingly (in light of this attack on a young baby) "have natural hunting instincts which often leads them to chase smaller animals, such as rabbits, squirrels, and cats" might not be suitable as a family pet…such traits should make the responsible dog owner stop and think…but clearly it doesn't. I am currently acting for a child who nearly had their throat ripped out by a malamute and will be left scarred for life as a result. This was a dog they were encouraged to stroke by the dog owner who has described what happened as "entirely out of character." But was it really? If that dog was untrained and unexercised and was left tied up on a hot day as in the case I'm dealing with wasn't the aggressive response entirely in character? But does that mean malamutes are dangerous dogs and should be banned? Of course not, it means that the dog owner who choses that breed needs to be responsible and it means that legislation that targets one dog type over another rather than addressing the issue of dangerous dog owners is a nonsense.
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