Best Friends reported on their blog this week that 2 of the Vick dogs and a 3rd dog were involved in a dog fight that apparently occurred when the dogs busted out of and into each other’s kennels at a time when they were unsupervised. The dog who wasn’t one of the Vick Pits was found dead and the other two were injured.
Several things about this story struck me as very odd, starting with the housing situation:
All three dogs were housed alone and in separate buildings so it took a huge effort for them to interact.
When I play out this scenario in my mind, it almost seems like some sort of choreographed, tag team dog fight. While obviously the three dogs would be incapable of planning such an event, I’m wondering how often does this sort of thing naturally occur? I’ve never heard of anything like this but of course I don’t work at a sanctuary with a number of highly dog-aggressive dogs.
Another aspect of the story that sounds very implausible to me – although again, perhaps it is plausible and my lack of experience/knowledge simply makes it seem unlikely to me – is that Best Friends theorizes that deer passing through the area might have triggered the chain of events. I would have thought deer running around is seasonal there, like it is here, and the dogs are accustomed to it.
Finally, I’m confused as to the safety measures in place. I would have guessed that any dogs too dog-aggressive for adoption would be housed in double fenced runs. But maybe that’s not the standard of care, I don’t know. If it isn’t, wouldn’t there be some other preventive protocol in place such as a nightwatchman to patrol the areas which house the highest risk dogs? Or maybe surveillance cameras mounted in the areas with the highest risk dogs so someone could monitor activities when the place is closed?
Since I don’t have experience in this area, I read through the comments on the blog posting. Most of them are from people expressing sorrow, offering condolences and the prevailing attitude seems to be “accidents happen”. But there are a few from people who apparently work at BFAS, either presently or in the past, and I wanted to pull those out:
You have to be kidding me. The dog died because there was no double fencing and the care givers were warning the management that this could cause a serious problem. Once again, a problem has been caused because the powers that be refused to listen to the people who know. A dog had to die and the issue made public for double fencing to go up.
Thank you for voicing your concern so that I can address it. Please know
that we have a comprehensive fencing protocol. Our caregivers meet
regularly with Dogtown management to point out any maintenance needs and to draw attention to any concerns about a given dog’s fencing requirements. Our Team Leaders in Dogtown check all maintenance requests that are turned in and insure their proper completion.
Many of the dogs that we manage require special considerations. Our primary concern is the animal’s safety and welfare as well as their emotional
health. In conjunction with the physical requirements like fencing, our
caregivers work diligently to meet the emotional needs of each individual
Caregivers do express concerns as the needs change for different dogs. If a
dog needs a different type of fencing than it currently has, the decision is
made to either move the dog to a run that already has the appropriate
fencing or to add the appropriate fencing to the dog’s current run. We have
runs that have normal fencing between runs, we have runs that have double
fencing between runs and we have runs that have cement board visual barriers between runs. All of these types of fence lines meet specific needs for the dogs.
In most circumstances it has not been necessary to have double fencing on
fence lines that are not shared with other dogs. Obviously in this case we
were tragically mistaken and work has already begun to prevent this from
happening in the future.
Director Animal Care
I worked at BFAS and I know how hard it is to get a request for fencing or whatever for the dog’s completed. We worked soooooooooooooo hard to get barrier fencing in dog run’s where dogs were redirecting on each other out of barrier frustration. So, I for one beleive [sic] Holly Smith’s blog reply.
Like Vicki, I used to work as a caregiver at Best Friends. (Hi, Vic!) Many of us tried so hard to get double fencing put on all the lodges. But management said that there was no money to do so. Again and again, we saw dogs with chewed off ears, tails, legs–all wounds done thru fences. (Example: Nicole got her lip totally damaged because a dog in the next run pulled on Nicole’s lip and tore it to pieces.) We begged, we cried for double fencing, but the answer was always the same, “No money.” If Beans and Tug and Denzel HAD been in double-fenced runs, none of this would have happened. None of it.
What do you make of the story? Have you heard of this type of tag team dogfighting before where a dog breaks out of his own kennel, goes to another building, breaks into another dog’s kennel and then the second dog does the same thing? Could deer passing through the sanctuary be to blame? Is double fencing for highly dog-aggressive dogs not the standard of care for sanctuaries who handle these types? And if it’s not, what is the standard of care to prevent incidents like these? Lastly, is this type of event foreseeable and/or preventable or is the “accidents happen” philosophy appropriately applied to this case?
Additional blog posts on the subject:
Safety is Too Expensive – Exfriender
Best Friends Dog Fight Death – For the Pitbulls