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I-Team10 Investigation in dog bites Part II: Watch out for the small dogs

Posted at: 10/31/2012 11:32 AM
Updated at: 10/31/2012 6:30 PM
By: Berkeley Brean

I-Team10 is tracking an on-going problem in our community: the number of times dogs bite people and attack other dogs and who the most aggressive breeds are.

Last night we showed you that the problem with "pit bulls" is real. We know that because of hundreds of police reports about dog bites all over Monroe County. But those same police reports teach us another lesson too.

The police reports confirm what we thought -- that pit bulls bite more people and attack other dogs more than any other breed.

But the evidence gives us a different warning too.

Watch out for those small dogs.

"We were walking down the street because we were doing jump rope for heart for my 8 year old, " Samantha Bohrer said. Bohrer was with her four year old daughter Mylie. They went up to a house in Greece, just around the corner from there house.

When the door opened -- a dog charged out.

"Myle's scream. Her scream. It wasn't an average cry," Bohrer said. "Like a fear of a dog coming out. It was a bloody scream from a horror movie type of scream."

The dog was hanging from Mylie's leg. More than a year later, she still has the scar on her ankle. The dog that attacked Mylie wasn't big and ferocious.

It was a 15 pound Jack Russel Terrier named "Rocco".

The police report about Rocco biting Mylie. It's one of hundreds of dog bite police reports over the course of one year that we got from police in the city, Greece, Brighton, Webster, Irondequoit and the Sheriff's Office.

Here's how the numbers break down just in the suburbs

13 percent of dog bites were by labs.
16 percent of dog bites were from small dogs -- like yorkies, shih tzus or jack russels.
17 percent -- german shepherd.
28 percent -- pit bulls.

In the city -- pit bulls domimate the police calls for dog bites at 55 percent.

"I guess I'm not surprised because it's something you hear a lot," Rebecca Lohnes said. She's the animal behavior expert at Lollypop Farm. She says this is not a breed issue. It's an individual dog and dog owner issue.

"Do you think pit bulls get a bad rap?" I asked.

"I think so and I think that's happened in the past with other popular breeds. Dobermans in the 80s had a bad reputation and I think that's what's happening with pit bulls now," she said.

Lohnes also believes the numbers for small dogs could be higher because many bites go un-reported.

"When a small dog is aggressive, if your neighbors comes over and your small dog bites your neighbor your neighbor is not necessarily going to call police. But if your german shepherd does there could be more damage and you're more likely to report it to police," Lohnes said.

And that's what the police reports show. 60 percent of all the bite reports involved bigger dogs.

The irony is that Mylie's family owns dogs including "knuckles" a pit bull.

For Mylie, her the biggest threat came from a 15 pound package.

"It could have been a lot worse if we all didn't react as quick as we did and that she's not afraid of dogs," her mom Samantha said. "That was our number one fear. We didn't want her to be scared."

There is one other fact we found in common when it came to dog bites with big dogs and small dogs. 2 out 3 of the attacks and bites happened with a loose dog at the owner's house. That's what happened with Mylie.

The lesson is -- dog bites and attacks can be significantly reduced if all dogs are simply controlled on their own property.

The insurance issue

Most insurance companies have what they call a "caution dog list." It's a list of breeds that insurance companies consider high risk and high liability and premiums are often higher.

Here is one list for example.

Akita, Bull Mastiff, Chow Chow, Doberman, Dogue De Bordeaux, German Shepherd, Great Dane, Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Rottweiler, Wolf/Wolf Hybrid.

Insurance companies also have Unacceptable Dog Breeds. In this case, the insurance company may refuse to insure the homeowner (dog owner) at all.

Here is one list we obtained.

American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, English Bull Terrier, Pit Bull, Staffordshire Bull Terrier.