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Notes and Essays

Dissecting the Attacks in California

June 3rd. A shocking story in San Francisco - a twelve-year-old boy is fatally mauled by the family's two pit bulls. The media coverage of this incident has yet to die down over two weeks later. June 14th. Yet another pit bull attack, this time on a senior woman, in Rohnert Park (near S.F.). What is going on? Two pit bull attacks in as many weeks?

Facts in the case of Nicholas Faibish, the twelve-year-old, continue to come to light, revealing new insight into the attack. This was not a situation where the dogs suddenly "snapped". Both dogs were not altered, and the female was in heat. Nicholas had already been bitten by the male dog earlier in the day. The mother, Maureen Faibish, realized something was wrong and acknowledged that she was concerned about the dogs' behavior, but rather than take meaningful steps to ensure Nicholas's safety, she chose to leave him alone at home with the dogs. She felt he would be safe if she shut Nicholas in the basement and "propped a shovel against the door".

Needless to say, this flabbergasts me. It seems very clear to me that Maureen Faibish brought this on herself and, unfortunately, her son. She needs to be held accountable for her inexcusable actions. At the very least, her "brilliant" idea to shut her son in the basement was a gross mistake. Assuming the shovel did its job, she had just trapped a young boy into a small space all alone with no phone or escape. Anything that went wrong - fire, earthquake, severe injury - would almost certainly be a death sentence for him since there was no way for him to get help. But clearly the shovel was useless (I can't think how a shovel propped against a door would keep it shut in the first place). Nicholas left the basement for some reason, where he came face to face with two behaviorally compromised dogs.

This leads me to wonder - why was Nicholas was put in the basement instead of the dogs? Why weren't the dogs safely contained? The mother could have put the dogs in the back yard, shut them in a room in the house, or closed them in the basement (instead of Nicholas). I only see two logical reasons why the dogs were allowed to run loose in the house. One, like something out of a creepy horror movie, the dogs could somehow turn doorknobs, so shutting them in a room was pointless. Or two, the dogs were guard dogs. I think the latter is far more likely, since the former theory implies that Nicholas would not have been safe in the basement anyway. Of course, this is only speculation on my part - but what reasons can you come up with?

Guard dogs, especially ones used for casual guarding ("family" dog without training but still expected to "protect" the household) are not safe for children to be around. Additionally, the dogs were noted as unruly and untrained. Only the father, who was out of town at the time, had good control over them. The Faibish children had been seen hitting the dogs in the face and being very rough with them in the past. This information has slowly leaked out via the press, and I think it points very clearly to a disaster waiting to happen. The mother's actions on June 3rd were inexcusable and tragically fatal.

To my complete disgust, some of Maureen's most recent comments indicated that she feels no responsibility and no real remorse: "I told him (Nicholas): 'Stay down there until I come back'... Typical Nicky, he wouldn't listen to me." (Translation: it's Nicky's fault he died). And: "It's Nicky's time to go. When you're born you're destined to go, and this was his time." (Translation: it's God's fault he died.)

The next reported attack, on June 14th, was fairly cut and dry. The article was brief, but made it clear that the dog was attempting to protect one party from another during a heated argument. The dog redirected its aggression, unfortunately, onto the victim. The article offered very little further information, such as the reproductive status of the dog, the manner in which it had been kept, whether it had been trained, whether it had a bite history, etc.

I would also like to make a note on another significant dog attack in the last month. On May 8th, a seven-year-old girl in Fruita, CO (near Denver) was mauled to death by one of her family's two new Alaskan Malamutes (one male, one female). The attack was even less expected than the attack on Nicholas Faibish. The dogs were a new addition to the family but had been reported as good with children prior to this incident. However, the girl had been left alone in the backyard with the dogs, a BIG no-no. There was very little further information given about the male dog, suspected to be the attacker.

This story made headlines on the heels of Denver's reinstatement of their pit bull ban. There was a brief furor and some raised eyebrows at the realization the pit bull ban had proved itself useless at protecting people from Alaskan Malamutes. But unlike the Faibish incident, after a few days, the story completely vanished - much to the relief of the Denver City Council, no doubt. It's no surprise. Attacks, fatal or not, from other dog breeds rarely get the quantity or intensity of news coverage that a pit bull attack receives.




Copyright 2005 by Jennifer Thomas.
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