The fido files: A three-legged dog tale looking at bites, euthanasia and names
Rocky Mountain PBS I-News and 9News
In a recent series titled “K-9 Confidential,” Rocky Mountain PBS I-News and 9News looked at Front Range dogs from three angles: which breeds bite the most, which are euthanized most and what dog names are most popular.
The results contain the surprising (the most popular dog breed, the Labrador retriever, is responsible for the most bites), the expected (pit bulls are by far the most euthanized) and the ridiculous (some folks call their dogs, well, “Dog”). We offer all three parts below.
Act I: BITES
Every day along the Front Range, at least eight people are bitten by dogs, according to a six-month investigation by Rocky Mountain PBS I-News and 9News.
Officials said the numbers may seem high, but the public should not be surprised.
“If a dog has teeth, it has the potential to bite,” said Sgt. Stephen Romero, animal control investigator in Denver. “And if it’s in the right conditions, circumstances, it can potentially bite.”
I-News and 9News analyzed bite incidents from most major cities and counties along the Front Range from Colorado Springs to Boulder that took place between 2012 and early 2014. The investigation found that about 6,500 dog bites were reported to police or animal control officials. That’s more than eight a day.
The breeds of the biting dogs were available for about two thirds of the bites. It showed that Labradors and Lab mixes were most prone to biting, accounting for 416 of the bites. However, they were also the most popular pet breed, accounting for about one in every seven dogs registered along the Front Range, so there are many more of them.
“It’s Labs and Lab mixes that bite more than any other animal,” said Romero who got an infection from a Lab bite while on duty. “Labs are good dogs. It’s just how you raise them.”
Labradors were followed by German shepherds, pit bulls, Chihuahuas and bulldogs.
Alice Nightengale, director of the Denver Animal Shelter, said humans can be as much to blame for dog bites as their pets.
“Just because a dog bites does not mean it’s a bad dog,” Nightengale said. “I think humans have a lot of responsibility for dog bites.”
Several jurisdictions, including El Paso and Douglas County, which accounted for about 2,000 bites, included the severity and where people were bit. It showed only about 4 percent were deemed severe with one in four considered moderate and seven in 10 labeled minor.
The same data also included information on where humans were bit. Hands were the most common, accounting for about 34 percent of the 2,000 bites.
That was followed by leg bites, 23 percent. Bites to the face including eyes, noses and ears accounted for 19.4 percent and bites to the arms comprised 15 percent.
The circumstances leading to dog bites varied.
Sometimes, they may be protecting their territory from intrusion and other times they feel threatened, said dog trainer Sean Miller.
“Once a dog does bite someone, they immediately gain a sense of control because 100 percent of the time we flinch,” Miller said.
Hillary Penner suffered serious bites to the hand while she was trying to help her female dog get away from another dog that had attacked her pet.
She said she has no regrets.
“Even though, I have scars on my arms …. I am lucky I have her at the end of the day,” Penner said.
ACT II: EUTHANASIA
The animal shelter serving El Paso County and its cities euthanized more than one pit bull a day last year, making it the most euthanized breed along the Front Range, according to an investigation by Rocky Mountain PBS I-News and 9News.
The two news organizations analyzed dog euthanasia cases from 2013 at the major shelters along the Front Range. Combined, they accounted for about 4,800 of the 7,000 dogs euthanized statewide.
However, the number of dogs euthanized in the state was small when compared to the number of dogs shelters adopt out or return to their owners. In 2013, shelters found homes for almost 53,000 dogs and returned close to another 24,000 to their owners.
Pit bulls stood out as a breed for euthanasia, accounting for 766 of the Front Range cases. More than half of those, 445, took place at the Humane Society of Pikes Peak, the shelter for El Paso County and its cities. They totaled about 40 percent of all of the about 1,100 dogs put down at the shelter last year.
Jan Smith, director of the shelter, said a combination of factors account for the high numbers.
“They’re a very popular breed here in El Paso County, so we see a large influx of those animals coming in,” Smith said. In addition, the county’s population tends to be transient leading to a large number of stray animals, she said.
“What’s interesting is that about 72 percent of those dogs (pit bulls coming to the shelters) are strays,” Smith said.
She said the pit bulls are harder to place with families than other breeds taken in by the shelter.
“We are outraged about the number of animals we have to euthanize every year,” Smith said. “We’re working proactively to try to get these dogs into homes.”
Roger Haston, executive director of the Animal Assistance Foundation, said another problem is that spay and neutering by pit bull owners is lacking.
“The shelters are simply a reflection of what is going on in the community,” Haston said.
The analysis showed that almost 90 percent of the pit bulls euthanized at the shelter were because of aggression or high arousal tendencies. That compares to 50 percent of all euthanasia cases for all breeds along the Front Range.
But animal rights activist Davyd Smith of No Kill Colorado said shelters are too quick to label pit bulls as aggressive.
“We’re killing dogs that have a square head, short hair and straight tail,” Smith said. “It has nothing to do with their behavior.
The shelter serving all of Jefferson County and its cities euthanized 125 Pit Bulls in 2013, the second highest number along the Front Range.
Denver and Aurora, which both ban Pit Bulls, euthanized 89 combined.
Labradors were the second most euthanized breed along the Front Range last year, 435 cases, followed by Chihuahuas, 337, and German Shepherds, 230.
ACT III: NAMES
Chances are if you walk into a dog park, you are likely to find a Labrador named Bella. That is the most popular dog breed and dog name along the Front Range.
Rocky Mountain PBS I-News and 9News gathered data on more than 130,000 pet registrations from Colorado Springs to Boulder. It found:
• Labradors were the most popular breed at 18,826 registrations, or one of every seven registered dogs. They were followed by Chihuahuas, 6,782, and German Shepherds, 6,811.
• Bella, Buddy and Max were the most popular names at 1,481, 1,249 and 1,225, respectively
• Sports figures tended to dominate pets named after celebrities. There were 52 Kobes (Bryant), 35 Melos or Carmelos (Anthony) and 32 Magics (Johnson).
• Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning beat out his boss, John Elway. There were 51 Peytons and only 19 Elways.
• Elvis remained the King among celebrities with 90 pets named after him.
• Hip Hop star Bow Wow only had one dog named after him. However, 19 lazy owners named their dogs simply “dog” or “doggie.”
Contact reporter Burt Hubbard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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