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Dog attacks have become more violent

October 31, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Spokespeople from Tri-State area health departments and an area animal shelter say dog attacks do not appear to be increasing at a rapid pace.

But one Pennsylvania official said that while the number of attacks may not be increasing, the danger has because of an increase in the number of more dangerous, aggressive dogs and careless owners.

Becky Sauceda, a sanitarian with the Washington County Health Department, said there have been 315 reported dog bites in the county so far this year. She said the number is slightly higher than usual.

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"We get about 300 per year. That's pretty much constant," Sauceda said.

Sauceda said she believes the increase is a result of the fact that people are better educated about the dangers of dog attacks, and are more likely to report them. Sauceda said the national media's focus on dog-attack stories has increased people's awareness and made it less likely that people will brush off such incidents.

"I think people are reporting it (to authorities) more, and it makes the news more," Sauceda said.

Kim Daniels, of the environmental health wing of the Berkeley County (W.Va.) Health Department, said the number of cases reported there is about the same as the number reported at this time last year.

Through October, there were 49 more serious cases involving euthanized dogs compared with 47 through October of last year, Daniels said.

Daniels said the "bite counts," which includes minor incidents, are on the rise statistically, though she could not provide those numbers Thursday.

"Our bite counts are up because people are more aware, and they do report all cases of animal attacks," Daniels said.

Georgia Martin, a Pennsylvania Dog Law Enforcement Officer covering Franklin County agreed, saying pet owners don't always realize the danger dogs can pose.

"Any dog, no matter how nice, will bite for some reason," Martin said.

Martin said she has handled approximately 80 cases in 2003 and should end up with a tally close to 100.

Martin said some "aggressive dogs," including pit bulls, Rottweilers and Akitas, are being used more for illegal activities by dog fight promoters and drug dealers.

"It's a known fact that drug dealers want aggressive dogs to guard their stash," Martin said.

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