This past summer, we reported on an incident involving a dog who attacked a little girl at a South African shopping mall. The story and video are no less troubling with the passage of time.
We were as shocked and outraged as you were. Now, it has happened again – with the same dog trainer and same dog. The dog, “D”, was (according to his trainer) a certified service dog. This incident has left the service dog community, dog trainer community, and parents – reeling.
In this case, South Africa’s self proclaimed Dog Whisperer’s dog attacked a child at an area beach. The victim was once again a little girl. She was only 2 years old, and she was at a beach that did not allow dogs. James Lech was there with three large off leash dogs.
The incident occurred on January 11th, and Lech later issued not only statements of no fault to the public and press – but even went so far as to make a YouTube video proclaiming the dog “A National Hero” after it was put to sleep.
The Rotti in both attacks was set up to fail. In the first incident, captured on mall security video, you can clearly see the dog stalking the little girl, and the trainer not watching his dog. In the second incident, there is just. no. excuse. Let us not forget that Mr. Lech’s story changed after he became aware that there was video. He had tried to pin blame on the child saying that she teased the dog.
The thing that gets under my skin the most is contained in his letter to the media.
“LEARNING IS A GIFT, EVEN WHEN PAIN IS A TEACHER.” -James Lech
WHAT?!! Can you think of any other profession where after two tragic events it is ok to go online and speak such rubbish? What if you heard it from a cop or a fireman, or a school crossing guard? “Mrs So and So, I am sorry your kid was hit by a bus, but what a gift that pain was for me.” Doesn’t this guy have lawyers advising him not to say such things?
Rehabbing dogs is very serious business. Dogs who bite do so for many reasons. There is a saying in the dog world that “behavior predicts behavior.” If you have a dog who has air snapped at a child, chances are they will air snap at a child again. It is quite possible that if the dog’s warning is not heeded, the air snap will progress to a bite. If you have a dog that has done more damage than a level 3 bite as according to Dr Ian Dunbar’s bite scale, behavior science tells us that the dog has poor bite inhibition, and the odds that this dog will bite again and bite hard are likely.
Dogs with a history of severe bites to humans and other dogs can under proper circumstances be worked with. BUT and here is the big but, they will NEVER be trusted. These dogs will require training and MANAGEMENT! Dogs with serious bite histories should never get to say….take an off leash romp at a beach that is off limits to dogs – with 2 other dogs, and get freedoms that well trained and safe dogs get. Public safety should always be a consideration.
In this case, not taking safety measures caused serious injuries to children, and the ultimately, the death of the dog. While it is true that hindsight is 20/20, there was a lack of common sense involved here.
Prior to the Johanasburg Mall incident, James Lech claimed a 100 % success rate in rehabbing aggressive dogs. That is just not scientifically possible. All dogs have the capacity to bite, and other living things are not predictable 100 % of the time. The dog that Lech was walking off-leash on a closed beach picked up the child, and nearby adults had to retrieve her from the dog’s jaws. There are first hand accounts that the other dogs needed to be held back as well. Does that sound bomb proof 100 % safe to you?
If you’re curious about Mr Lech’s side of the story, check out his blog. If you’re anything like me, you will need a cup of calming tea or maybe even something stronger first.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the little girls and their families.
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