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We need to rein in aggressive pets

November 10, 2022 | 02:05 am PT
To Thuc Lecturer
A friend living in Hanoi just went through a gruelling encounter with a pitbull in the elevator of his apartment building. Not how he imagined his day would turn out.

This was not the first time that this dog, a pet of a neighbor who lived above my friend, had attacked other pets and people. My friend, upon seeing the neighbor with his notorious dog in the elevator, was on his guard. He was going to keep maximum distance possible between him and the dog. Unfortunately, as soon he stepped inside, the dog launched itself and ferociously bit my friend before its owner could pull it back.

My friend had to take a rabies shot by himself and did not get even an apology from the neighbor. As he told me the story after his visit to the clinic, he complained about the irresponsibility of the pet owner.

While I sympathize with him, I also feel that the problem lies in the lack of administrative rules in the building regarding pets more than in the lack of sensibility or responsibility in the individual tenant.

The situation is different where I reside in Australia. One day, when I was going groceries shopping with my little daughter, we were confronted by an angry dog baring its fangs. My daughter was terrified. I pulled her aside and respectfully requested the pet owner to control the animal. Later, I filed a complaint with the supermarket’s management board.

A few days later, I received a phone call from the supermarket manager. After careful inspection, he had identified the dog as one of the few dangerous restricted species subject to detailed management rules throughout Australia.

In the state where I live, owners are required to muzzle all of those restricted dogs in all public places and have identification microchips embedded in their bodies. The supermarket manager apologized for the incident and promised to oversee the issue personally.

The safety of people is more the lawmaker’s responsibility than an individual’s. If an unfortunate situation occurs without any individual breaking the law, it is usually the result of oversight on the lawmaker’s side and should be recognized as such.

In Australia, despite the existing law regulating pet-keeping and meticulous training for dogs, incidents still happen. Between 2018 and 2022, there have been 10 cases of dogs killing humans, with 4 children, 4 middle-aged persons, and two elders losing their lives. Six of the fatal incidents were caused by bulldogs, which are notoriously aggressive.

Meanwhile in Vietnam, every year, between 400,000 and 500,000 people are bitten by dogs and cats. The country spends VND300 billion ($12.1 million) every year on rabies vaccine. This happens despite the law clearly forbidding un-muzzled dogs in public spaces because enforcement is weak. Sadly then, there is an impression that the solution depends on the pet owner's sensibility in restraining their pets rather than on universally enforced measures.

As far as I am concerned, pet owners' sensibility simply cannot be trusted. They are prone to claiming that their pets are "nice", "gentle" and "will not bite anyone."

I am not against raising pets. Pets have become part of families, assisting families in raising children, acting as a friend to lonely elders and so on, greatly promoting human wellbeing.

Nevertheless, pets, especially those with a history of violent behaviour, should be heavily regulated. This responsibility falls primarily on the lawmakers.

Pet owners might think that a simple apology is enough to settle issues that arise. But for victims of attacks by ferocious pets, the incidents can leave a permanent psychological scar. And as we've seen, in some instances, victims tragically pay with their lives because the pet owner lacked sensibility and the lawmaker lacked responsibility.

*To Thuc is a lecturer at the James Cook University in Australia.

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