Ahwatukee Foothills resident Scott Andersen went to take his Chihuahua, Einstein, on a walk in the evening of Tuesday, July 15, and within minutes of leaving the house, Einstein was dead, in the mouth of a much larger dog. Now Andersen is asking owners of all dogs to be aware of their dog’s instincts and be prepared for the worst.
The neighbor’s dog, which Andersen says was a pit bull or pit bull mix, had escaped from the backyard while its owner was putting something away.
“My first instinct was to pick up Einstein,” Andersen said. “I heard the neighbor say ‘Oh, the dog got out, sorry, they should be fine. He’s never done anything.’ When the owner said it should be fine, I thought ‘Well, Einstein loves to sniff noses with other dogs and meet other dogs’ so I just thought I’d let him do that.”
The dogs sniffed each other only once before the larger dog grabbed the Chihuahua and ran off with him. Andersen said the action was so sudden he was in shock, but thinking back on it, he believes Einstein may have been dead in that instant.
“I didn’t realize how tight of a grip any dog could have,” Andersen said. “I tried to pull the leash and the leash just broke … I was chasing him, the owner was chasing him and he was trying to stay away from us, keeping my dog in his mouth. It was horrifying — the lifelessness that I could see in my own dog. I was desperate to help him.”
Unfortunately the damage was done. By the time the dog let go, Einstein was in terrible shape.
The owners of the larger dog, which also bit Andersen during the incident, turned their pet over to Maricopa Animal Care and Control, and the dog was put down, Andersen said. It’s a lose-lose situation for both parties.
“I guess what I want people to know is that when you’re an owner of an aggressive-breed dog, you can’t just trust your feelings,” Andersen said. “You have to know. You have to educate yourself about your dog and the instincts. Any owner of a dog like a pit bull or a pit bull mix has to know there’s always the possibility of tragedy no matter what … To me, it seems like these types of animals are like ticking time bombs even though on the outside they may seem harmless.”
While pit bull attacks are widely reported, generalizations about the breed are unfair, said Jennifer Mazzocchi, president of May Day Pit Bull Rescue. When a pit bull attacks, the damage can be serious, even deadly, but the breed is no more prone to aggressive behavior than any other.
“I think every breed has the capacity to be aggressive in certain situations,” Mazzocchi said. “I don’t think they have any greater inclination to do that. I think they are more often exposed to situations where they haven’t been given the proper care. Unfortunately, that can lead to instances … People who adopt any breed should invest in socialization, training, proper medical care, proper managing of that dog in public, like always on a leash, etc.”
The Alliance for Companion Animals, a cooperation of several rescue groups on the Valley, say shelters in Maricopa County have an abundance of pit bulls and Chihuahuas. Both breeds are considered “at risk” when taken in at a shelter, meaning they’re more likely to end up on a euthanasia list. It’s the bad reputation pit bulls have gotten that puts them at a greater risk, Mazzocchi said.
“People should look at dogs as individuals,” she said. “You can’t judge a dog solely by its breed. Get to know the dog in front of you, regardless of what breed it is. Making blanket statements about a breed based on the actions of one is dangerous. It causes dogs to be put down in our shelters.”
All pet owners should invest in training for their pets. Many local organizations like Arizona Animal Welfare League and PetSmart offer low-cost training classes for dogs that includes socializing. For more information, visit aawl.org/pet-training or petsmart.com/training.
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