A baby is dead and a little girl left scarred for life after two terrible weekend dog attacks in Sydney and Melbourne.
The attacks – one from a rogue dog in the street and the other from a supposedly trusted family pet – have prompted an outpouring of anger and grief around Australia.
But the awful attacks have also prompted the question – how can we keep our children safe from vicious dogs? And then there’s this – does your child know what to do if a dog attacks? Mum Central has sought advice from the experts to find out how we can keep our kids safe.
Mauled to death
One-year-old Kamillah Jones was being wheeled in her pram to her grandmother’s house in the northern NSW town of Inverell on 3 March, 2018, when the dog attacked. Her frantic mother tried to fight off the Rottweiler, but couldn’t. The bright-eyed bub died on the way to hospital. A GoFundMe page has now been set up to help her family pay for her funeral.
“She was actually being walked by her mother in a pram on the way to her granny’s house just one block away,”aunt Ida Boney wrote on Facebook.
“There are no words to describe a scene where a mother is fighting with every ounce of her being to save her baby girl. Our family have lost our baby girl who never got a chance to live her life.”
There is still some confusion about who owns the dog, which was later seized by council rangers to be destroyed. The family insists it was a random dog that attacked their baby in her pram in the street, but police say the animal belonged to a family member.
Either way, a baby girl is dead. Inverell Shire Council Mayor Paul Harmon shared his horror and also a reminder of the need for vigilance. “It’s just such a tragic incident. It’s unimaginable and really sickening,” says Cr Harmon. “Sometimes dogs turn for whatever reason, we don’t know and I know as family you always need to be sort of vigilant.”
Melbourne dog attack
Meanwhile in Melbourne, a 10-year-old suffered serious injuries after the family pet, a South African Boerboel, turned on her and attacked. The girl was home alone with her seven-year-old sister on Sunday night when the dog trapped her in the backyard and went into attack mode.
Neighbours came to the rescue when the girl’s traumatised sister ran into the street, screaming for help.They managed to distract the dog long enough to drag the bitten child to safety. She was taken to The Royal Children’s Hospital with severe bites to her body and neck. According to a News.com.au report, the dog tossed the terrified child around the backyard “like a rag doll” and bit off her child’s ear.
“I’m glad we were there because the young girl probably wouldn’t have survived,” a neighbour told reporters.
After the attack, reports surfaced that the family’s other dog, a Bull Mastiff, was reported to council for acting aggressively towards a woman jogging near the property. The South African Boerboel has now been destroyed.
5 Top Tips For Keeping Your Kids Safe Around Dogs
While these attacks are tragic and frightening, there are some things parents can do to keep their kids safe around dogs.
Dogs are the most popular pet in Australia, with more than one in three Aussie families owning one. Many of these families have babies and young children. The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne says benefits of pet ownership usually far outweigh the potential risks. Studies have shown that children with pets:
- Have higher self esteem
- Have improved social skills
- Are more likely to be physically active, and less likely to be overweight or obese
Parents still need to be aware of the risk of injury from dog bites. Even if you do not own a dog yourself, chances are good that your kids will regularly come into contact with dogs and it’s important to be aware of the risks and how to minimise them.
Young children, typically toddlers and pre-schoolers are most at risk of dog bites. Attacks often happen in the family home or from a dog known to the child and/or family. Young children, due to their small size, are often bitten on the face and neck. And often it happens when children try to play with a dog that’s just not in the mood.
Dog bites can have serious consequences. The RCH has produced a resource kit to help promote dog bite prevention. This is what they recommend:
1. Supervision. Always
A baby or young child should never, ever be left alone with a dog. Whether the dog is the world’s most placid pet is irrelevant. It’s still an animal and animals can be unpredictable. If constant supervision isn’t possible, the best idea is to separate dog and child into different areas of the house/yard to minimise risk.
2. The ‘gentle’ rule
Babies and young children can be noisy. They also love a bit of rough and tumble. Dogs can be startled by loud noise or become confused by rough play. Too much attention can also lead to things like tail pulling, which dogs aren’t too fond of. Teaching kids to be gentle from a young age helps them to establish the right kind of contact with their puppy pal.
3. Establish no go zone
When a dog is eating or sleeping, it’s likely that it won’t want to be disturbed. Teach children from a young age to leave the family pet alone at these times. Dogs can be trained to accept interference while eating, but this is a skill that takes time and needs to be taught and constantly reinforced by an adult.
4. Understand doggie body language
Dogs wear their hearts on their paws. They are typically easy to read and certain behaviours can show their displeasure. Children should be taught to recognise the signs of an unhappy or aggressive pooch. A dog should be avoided and left alone if it:
- Lifts its lips
- Backs away
- Raises the hair on its back
- Stares at you
Children should also be taught the right way to approach a friendly dog. Whether the dog is well known to your child or not, always get permission from both you and the dog owner first. Ideally, the dog owner should introduce your child to the dog while you supervise. Adults can model the right way to speak and interact with the dog and encourage the child to follow their actions. If at any time the situation becomes uncomfortable or dangerous, the best option to avoid a dog attack is to step away and allow the dog owner to step in.
5. Know how to handle an unknown dog
Sometimes your child may encounter an unfamiliar dog. It can happen on the street or in the park. If approached, even by a dog that seems friendly, children should stand still like a statue with their arms by their sides and hands in a fist or hands tucked into their armpits. They should avoid making eye contact and importantly, not scream or panic. Most dogs will lose interest very quickly. If the dog remains interested or knocks your child over, teach children to curl into a ball, stay quiet and wait it out. Dogs are more likely to be attracted to loud noise and lots of movement so doing the opposite often causes them to get bored and run away.
The most important things to remember are supervision, prevention and respect for our canine pals.