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Dog attacks raise safety concerns

Animal behaviorists say parents should look for dogs that aren't easily startled and don't mind being in close proximity with children.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Recent dog attacks involving an infant and a 5-year-old boy have some families concerned about keeping their children safe.

Onslow County sheriff's deputies could charge a couple with felony child abuse after a pit bull dog chewed the toes off the foot of a 4-month-old baby Sunday night. Last week, a 5-year-old Wilson boy was attacked by his family's Rottweiler, his father said.

Parent Ivey Sikorski said she's been meticulous about picking out a dog to adopt.

“We searched a lot of different places. I went online. My husband said I was obsessed with it,” Sikorski said.

Sikorski said as a mother and former dog bite victim, selecting a gentle dog was important.

“When you have small children, you need a dog that you can go up to when they're eating, when they're sleeping, (and) you can touch it and it won't do anything,” Sikorski said.

Animal behaviorist Molly Stone said parents must take responsibility for the dog from the start.

“We tell parents that a relationship between a dog and a child can be very rewarding for the dog and the child, and that they need to expect to do the lion share of the work, instead of having the child be the primary caretaker,” Stone said.

Stone recommends parents “look for dogs who aren't easily startled, who aren't terribly sensitive about having their bodies handled, who don't mind if there's a hand in their food dish, and who don't mind being in really close proximity” of small children.

Stone said certain breeds shouldn't be singled out as problem dogs. Any dog can bite, even a longtime pet.

“It is always important to remember that they're your family member, but they are also a dog. It is important to respect that,” Stone said.

The Wake County SPCA offers a section on its Web site for dog owners concerned about problem behaviors.


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