What do you expect to see when you go to a canine obedience club demo? My husband and I went to Piscataqua Obedience Club’s dog days demo at Short Sands Beach last night in York Beach, Maine. My husband had never seen this event, and so he wanted to go. I have seen this annual event many times. Both of us also attend other such events AKC dog trials, Run Thrus, Matches, Pet Expos, Nose Work Events, and working dog seminars.
As we walked up to the area, the agility demo started. Not long into it, one of the dogs jumped the fence and attacked another dog. The handler did go get their dog and walked away from the couple and their dog who was just attacked. No one came back to check on them. My husband was the first to check in on the young visibly shaken and crying woman who was checking her dog out.
Meanwhile, the routines and event continued on just as if nothing had happened. My husband went up to the young lady to find out if her and her dog was okay. No one came up from Piscataqua Obedience Club to check in on the lady and her dog.
Suffice it to say, this was not what we were expecting to see that day. Events such as this need to be run with safety for humans and dogs in attendance and on display in mind. As a human, you are always responsible for your dog’s actions, even when they go wrong. As someone running an event, it is your duty to make sure everyone is and continues to remain safe. Yes, stuff happens and things go wrong sometimes. Doing the right thing goes a long way to diffusing the situation and making everyone feel safe and cared for.
Unfortunately that was not what happened last night. The couple had to go off and let the police know what happened. They wanted to take care of their dog, and not have to walk over and expose their dog to another attack. Plus it was clear that the club could have cared less. They did make an announcement after several routines that these are “real working dogs, and sometimes these things happen.” Then they advertised their obedience courses. No asking if everyone was okay or apologizing for something having gone very wrong. If they were not aware there was an injury, this would have been a good time to find out and go over to the young lady if she raised her hand.
My husband decided to go up to the club members when the couple and their dog finally walked away (shaken and very disturbed). He was told they would look into it later. To which my husband replied it was too late they had already left (we did not know they went to the police at this point). Then the woman who was running the agility demo, Linda May McKinnon, asked for the victim’s information from my husband, as if this was his responsibility to have collected this for her (BTW we have absolutely no affiliation with this group).
Upon her defensive nature, my husband thought it was best to leave as we had notified the club that a person and that person’s dog had been injured by one of their demoing dogs. As we left, we saw a neighbor and were having a conversation with her about this and that. A woman we do not know beelines for us and starts us with “I know you don’t like our group, but just exactly what happened?” in a rude haughty voice (she has no idea what we think of the club or don’t think of the club, we are not members). She claimed they did come over, but we know they didn’t as we were with the couple after it happened and then saw them when they left. Additionally, the policeman that took their information confirmed that the couple had stated that no one from the club had come out to check on how they or their dog were. I had enough with the members of this club at that point, and asked her to please leave our private conversation.
Here is what should have happened in an event like this:
- First off, there should be a plan for unfortunate happenings. Even if you think something is not going to happen, there are risks that an unforeseen event could occur. When you plan for these and have protocols in place, then people are much safer that come to attend.
- In my honest opinion, they should have immediately stopped the event, and inquired right there if everyone was okay. Then they should have gone privately to anyone who indicated that they were not okay (so as not to expose them to an area near to where that dog was, who kept performing at the event). There should have been an apology rather than a brush off as if this were an insignificant event.
- Club members could have been strategically placed around the field so as to try and interrupt an incident like this before an attack occurred.
- If any dog had any incidents prior to this of even just jumping out of the ring, they should not be off leash in a ring.
- The club should have rabies certificate copies available for all dogs that are exposed to the public on that day.
- There should be no defensive responses to an incident like this. Only caring, supportive, preventative, and proactive responses should be made when something like this happens.
- A first aid kit should be on the premises at the very least.
- Someone who is in charge of the Obedience Club of some authority, experience, and knowledge should be present to handle this.
- Their insurance information and copies of this information should be available for the purpose of sharing should an injury occur.
In my personal opinion having watched numerous of these demonstrations, this is not a group that takes dog training seriously as a way of keeping people and others safe. The danger of groups like this, is that they don’t even know they are not keeping others safe. Add to that the lack of a plan to handle an unsafe situation, or any remotely responsible reaction and action to such an event.
As I was leaving someone I am acquainted with said something like “see those Huskies (don’t know if that is the proper breed identification) will turn on you”. Do we really need another breed for people to unfairly place blame on for an organization and handler’s lack of responsibility and action? By not being sure that you have strong obedience training in an off leash public event, you are putting others at risk. There is no sure fire guarantee to keep everyone safe all the time, but there are actions and plans that can be designed to limit the possibility of injury and harm to others.
I have a feeling that the members of Piscataqua Obedience Club are still on the defensive. I further have a feeling that I will be directly attacked by them, as I use tools and methods that many there do not agree with. However, this issue and endangering the public can not go uncommented upon, especially when the group did not take immediate ownership and responsbility for it. Had that happened, I would have nothing to talk about today.
I hope they come to their senses, and realize this is a serious infraction. Also that if they are allowed to demo in public in the future, they must be better prepared, proactive, responsible, and own anything and everything that happens there.