Words embodying sentiments behind several shocking online, social media and otherwise petitions meant to save Mickey the pit-bull, a very large dog that attacked a very small boy virtually crushing the right side of his young face. Most people flabbergasted anyone would want to save the “beast” responsible for the lifelong maiming of a child summed up by Nancy Grace’s comments regarding the case, disgusted legal counsel had been found to represent the dog in hearings to determine A- was he vicious and B- should he be euthanized to maintain the safety of the public? Absolutely horrified citizens in the United States of America would take the side of an animal over an obviously severely injured little boy who either already has lost one eye or potentially could, who faces years and years of surgery ahead to try and repair the damage done by something so far from “Spot” and “Fido” it’s unreal. Add to it the size and breed of Mickey, their reputation including tragic attacks just like this one and you have a perfect recipe for exactly what was quickly occurring, evolving, a public opinion powder keg. Sadly Mickey’s supporters have a point; over and over these types of “attacks,” accidents, incidents don’t happen in a vacuum. Circumstances, actions lead to what ultimately happens to unfortunate victims, whether that’s coming in contact with a large breed, specifically pit-bull, who has been bred to fight, a-la what Michael Vic was convicted of, a dog who has been fed too much protein amping up their natural aggression, an improperly housed dog who is chained, in a yard space without a fence, put in the wrong place, i.e. too close to people if they do not like strangers, bark, behave threateningly, aggressively towards them. Here it seems to be a combination of irresponsible dog ownership and improper child supervision, leaving a boy traumatized; neither are the fault of the dog hints the outcry to at least spear its life, something I wholeheartedly agree with taking in the whole situation.
Originally when the story began to circulate many, myself among them, thought parents of little Kevin Vicente were the owners of Mickey the suddenly infamous, “evil pit-bull” making a grievous mistake in keeping their dog once they had a child, simply weren’t watching as their 4 year old attempted to take his bone, getting mauled to the extent he did because he is so small compared to the animal. However that is far from the reality of what actually happened, events only Kevin and, perhaps his hopefully former babysitter, know completely for sure. What witnesses, police, lawyers, representing both the complainant and the dog, have been able to clearly ascertain is as follows: Mickey belonged to a neighbor, 4 year old Kevin went into his yard and tried to take a bone away from him, he may or may not have been chewing on at the time, getting bit as a result. Severe crush injury and tissue (skin) damage stemming from the angle at which he came forward toward the dog; predictably losing his balance during the devastating altercation owing to toddlers, even at 4, still being top heavy, causing the dog to bite down on his eye socket along with other key parts on that side of his face. Next, the story of how this happened changed numerous times over the telling none more so than when someone brought up the absolute absurdity, idiocy of who lets a 4 year old walk up to a strange dog and take something from it. Facts only fueling forces determined to save Mickey from an almost certain death sentence, because it isn’t about removing a vicious dog from the public in the interest of safety, it isn’t about the reputation surrounding what dog supporters, in general, see as a misunderstood, vilified breed often provoked producing similar outcomes, it isn’t about making excuses, blaming the victim, everything and everyone but the dog; nor is it about painting people who want to see Mickey survive as heartless, unsympathetic to a child potentially permanently damaged, facing untold agony to correct said damage. It is about proactive, knowledgeable dog ownership and equally proactive and knowledgeable childcare, two hugely deciding factors hardly discussed and obviously absent from what transpired leading to maiming poor Kevin. Further addressing characterization centering on petition seekers, it is not that they bare no compassion for a young, now mangled, child, care more for an animal than a human being; it is that they care about the fate of the dog too. Don’t be fooled either by the idea there are more support sites, fan pages, petitions, help pages for the dog than the boy; reasons for beginning such sites, pages is there is/was a plethora of nearly instantaneous support for the boy, his mother. Looking at the undisputed pieces of the case, there was no support, no advocating for the dog, no one trying to discern why the dog did what he did, thus social media presence born. Blame in their minds resting on the parent, heavily on the babysitter, simultaneously understanding killing Mickey won’t benefit Kevin, won’t undo what has already been done, will not send a far greater important message on responsible pet care, liability attributed to owners who take on the responsibility of any pet, particularly large breed ones.
Continuing to delve deeper into that day and concepts related to responsible dog ownership, dog handling, proper child supervision pertaining to your own pets, animals in your neighborhood, your area, first Mickey did not attack; he merely defended his territory, standard dog behavior independent of size or breed, since it was indeed his yard, bone/toy. Before even addressing what responsible caregiver, babysitter, nanny would allow a child to attempt to take anything from a dog, including their own, there are other more basic questions; what babysitter lets a child go outside, go anywhere away from home without the expressed permission from their parent(s)? What babysitter with the slightest experience would let a 4 year old play outside, his own front yard or not, unsupervised, seeing as it is ripe for child abduction, older children to lure him into trouble, in a child that young, they see something interesting, go to investigate it and wander off, get lost? Assuming unaccompanied outside play was common practice because the child was well behaved, feared or wouldn’t normally go beyond his own yard, as a babysitter you one, only let him do that if you can clearly see him playing outdoors while you complete tasks inside two, glance out often to see he is still in the yard playing happily 3, when not glancing, you listen for sounds of typical play. If it goes silent, you check to see where the child is, what he is doing; speaking of which, when you don’t see them, you look for them. Why do we all get the feeling the babysitter didn’t come running until she heard screaming; too, odds are the dog had been an object of the boy’s curiosity for some time, and when he saw his opportunity, where watchful eyes weren’t on him, he took it. Another possibility, they were walking back home from a local park, somewhere and Kevin ran ahead, babysitter could see him, didn’t think anything of him going up to neighbor’s dog, wasn’t close enough to see him taking the bone until it was too late. Thirdly, they ignorantly let boy go up to pet dog, weren’t paying attention to him trying to take the bone, tragedy the result; whatever way it happened, it shouldn’t have. As a babysitter you don’t take those kinds of liberties, particularly with other people’s children; truthfully you don’t take such liberties at all because they are dangerous. Why did no one in this child’s life show him the proper way to greet a dog starting by knocking on the owner’s door and asking if it is ok for the child to pet the dog; if the owner says yes, showing him how not to run up and grab, tug at the dog rather walk slowly, see the dogs reaction, if he reacts calmly, interested move forward offering your hand in a fist, to avoid potential bite damage from the dog, for the dog to smell, then gently petting him. If the owner said no, walking away gently explaining to the child the dog may not like strangers, he could bite, non-graphic explanations of what that bite might do to him considering their drastic size difference. Here are the steps in greeting a dog, something again you don’t do sans informing the parent, getting permission, better yet, leaving the task to the parent to deal with, finding a different way to walk on outings, being increasingly observant to ensure the child does not seek out aforementioned dog.
Multitudes of working parents understand how complicated it can be finding quality, competent childcare especially on a budget; we are well aware of horror stories broadcast on the news encompassing families who hired a childcare person with a reputable service, agency, network of providers, employed a person possessing excellent references, having spoken to at least one, seeming to be a perfect fit to your family, your values, your expectations. Only to then turn around and be forced to install a “nanny cam” after locating suspicious marks, bruises, welts on your child, seeing a drastic change in behavior or acting on a gut feeling things just aren’t right; exposing one sitter smacking an infant, being rough, hauling them around on a couch, laying them down without proper support, psychically assaulting a special needs child, eating an infant’s food, to name but a few shocking cases brought to public attention. Childcare complicated regarding Kevin because his mother is an immigrant working as a maid, likely minimum wage, does not speak fluent English and cannot read in English; putting aside the hot button immigrant debate swirling in readers heads reading that sentence, and although we know next to nothing about the babysitter responsible for him while his mother worked, maybe the teen, 20 something, college student, college dropout babysitter wasn’t the best choice, factors in how things like this usually come to pass. Where in fact did his babysitter come from, was she/he someone from the neighborhood, someone from his mother’s home country, did they have any real experience with children or was it more an arrangement of availability and affordability? Independent of the age, maturity level, character, Kevin’s babysitter had, where were the parameters established revealing what his mother did and did not want done with her son, what she expected from the babysitter, where she was allowed to take him, rules to follow, punishment methods, where was any communication about age appropriate phases he was going through, things he had recently gotten into that might present a problem, a newly developed habit of say running away from people he’s with while walking, trying to get out of his yard putting said sitter on alert? Notable too is who exactly is bringing the case against Mickey, emphatically insistent authorities investigate him as a possibly vicious dog, hoping their findings answer yes and he is put down, not the mother of the irreparably injured boy, not owners of said dog who now see what he is capable of and are trying to rectify a tragedy, instead, little known until the verdict on Mickey came down, a bystander who has a 5 year old son, who was playing with Kevin at the time, not wanting him to have a close encounter, be the next victim. A laudable intention but if you were physically there at the scene with your child, why did you allow him or Kevin to leave his yard, go onto someone else’s property then take the bone; why were you not watching both children and speaking up either to the babysitter or Kevin about the danger he was about to put himself into? That makes virtually no sense, then to come to court demanding the dog be killed? Telling is that even though her child was mauled, she told news cameras they want to blame everyone except the dog in broken English, little Kevin’s mother is not seeking retribution from the dog, cares about the controversy surrounding the dog because she believes they have too easily forgotten about her son, an understandable comment from the parent coping with a severely injured child. Her reaction seems far better than anyone’s frankly focusing on her son not vengeance, retribution or killing an animal clearly having no say in the situation it found itself in.
Responsible pet ownership by species or breed means keeping both the pet and people around that pet safe; aforementioned pet’s sphere of influence reaching to persons in your neighborhood who might be interested in your pet, most especially children. People in the area who might be effected by your pet, i.e. frightened, nervous, upset by a barking, jumping dog; cliché though it may be, postal and delivery workers trying to deliver mail, ordered packages confronted with a dog willing to chase them, grab, chew their pant leg, jump, bark, creating a common worker headache in this field. Continuing to discuss what happened between Mickey and Kevin Vicente, not only was the babysitter extremely negligent, the parent bordering on child abuse level remiss in not setting ground rules, guidelines for that babysitter, the owner virtually created an accident waiting to happen in how they kept their dog. Not just in deciding to keep a large breed dog with a reputation for violence, aggression and territorial attack residing in a neighborhood/area where we know multiple children lived, he was similarly on a chain, in what appears wasn’t even the owner’s front yard but a common lawn space of an apartment building, in full view of passer’s by; no way to erect a fence separating Mickey from wandering strangers, the grabby, irritating hands of small children known to pull hair, ears and tails of animals, particularly dogs. Neither was there a place for a sign in their grassy space announcing beware of dog or please don’t disturb dog, pet without asking, no comments alerting complex residents this was not your typical depiction of “man’s best friend.” There should have been apartment regulations against keeping the dog the way he was kept accounting for size, behavior; Mickey should have been housed in a yard, a fence erected around front or back, wherever the dog would spend the majority of its time, less to minimize potential negative interactions between him and local residents, totally prevent what happened to a toddler and more for the overall welfare of the dog, reportedly kept outside in typical Arizona fluctuations blistering heat and desert cold, on a chain. Animal experts quick to point out dogs literally living on chains are increasingly likely to “attack,” bite; realities reasonably assumed because should something, someone come into their yard/space, they have a very limited place to run, defend themselves, their immediate space sans aggression, biting. Dogs kept both outside and on chains full time also usually receive far less attention, social interaction from their owners, are not exercised as routinely as their inside counterparts leaving them no outlet for their energy. Alternatively, providing a fence means room to romp, play, prevents escape, another common problem concerning pets; putting it in the back yard on your property isn’t just a good strategy for keeping it from public view, drawing people who want to handle it to its personal space, both fence and placement present barriers to small children escaping their minders and ignorant of the danger they could be putting themselves in. Erecting such a setup also decreases your liability as an owner of whatever type of pet you have, cuts obvious bias toward large breed dogs whether in a court of law or the court of public opinion; you have a stronger case before a judge not to have to pay damages, not to be involved in a civil suit paying large sums of money in medical bills, pain and suffering when you have taken those steps. Because, once you have done all you can do to both keep your pet in your assigned residence on your owned property, done all you can to keep persons, passersby safe, head off an incident, the onus is on people to employ common sense, to teach their children that same common sense.
Public awareness must become greater along with better pet management; pet trainers nationwide are continuously advising owners possessing animals, who have pets only well behaved around them, only comfortable with them to keep members of the hands-y public away from their dog during trips to parks, dog parks, any public arena where you might find someone with their dog. Because, people have this insatiable habit of marching up to dogs, even more unadvisedly hazardous, letting their small children run up to other people’s animals anticipating a friendly, tail wagging, hand licking response unthinking there could be any other possible reaction. And when owners do step up to keep pushy citizens from their pooches, they are seen as rude, a phenomenon that has to stop. You should always ask before trying to pet someone else’s dog, cat, whatever type of pet, respecting their answer when they say the animal doesn’t like strangers, doesn’t like a specific gender or does not do well with children. Likewise owners need to first, know their animal, if it always barks, becomes anxious, tries to bite strangers, stop introducing them to other people, never be afraid to tell persons who see the cute little dog or wonder what your pet is no to putting their hands on them. Just like people dogs, cats, any domesticated animal doesn’t have to like everyone, doesn’t have to get along with everyone, give the same affection to everyone they would their owners. Personally being a former dog owner, like attitudes and philosophies on parenting children, the alphabet soup of disorders used to explain bad, naughty behavior or early signs of mental illness, the same holds true for dogs; suddenly a small dog who thinks it’s a big dog is a problem in need of serous addressing, your dog has small dog syndrome and you cure it by putting your dog in its place. Never mind many small dogs are gotten for their reduced size and companionship so that they can jump into your lap, sleep in your bed without being a hindrance, making a huge mess. We no longer use pet common sense and not stick our hands in a dog’s food bowl while it is eating, keep babies and small children from doing the same, redirect a baby, toddler who attempts to play in the dog’s food and water; now any dog who rightly growls, attempts to nip in warning vs. viciously bite, because you have your hand in its bowl, is deemed food aggressive causing hundreds if not thousands of shelter animals to be difficult to place in homes, dog owners are told if a dog displays any of the mentioned behaviors toward baby to boot it from the home immediately. Certainly when expecting a child you should consult either your veterinarian or a dog trainer to see how best to prepare and acclimate your dog to the new addition, never leave baby and dog alone, then once the little one begins crawling monitor what they get into avoiding food/water meant for the dog, especially during eating/drinking. This is dog 101, this is having a pet coexist with both owner and offspring.
Almost worse than petitioners’ wishing to save Mickey’s life, was the judge’s final decision that Mickey’s life be spared, prompting security guards, an extra police presence inside the courtroom fearing violence over the ruling; thankfully never manifested. Some outrage, some joyful Mickey still will spend the rest of his days in an animal sanctuary never to be rehomed with a person or family again after being neutered, defanged, a process filing down sharp canine teeth largely responsible for the child’s injuries. Keeping in mind it is rare for a case to garner such a level of attention, where a whole nation seems to involve themselves in the fate of a singular animal, a dog, who bit a child, who was ultimately deemed vicious. During the duration determining Mickey’s final fate 400 other dogs in the same county were simply, cleanly and directly euthanized accused of posing some threat to the general public. Mickey is extraordinarily lucky, more than his reprieve from a death sentence, that the judge saw what petitioners, the attorney for Mickey saw, adults in the room needing a profound dose of education on pets and using your head. A judge who did everything she could balancing what was right for the general public, the safety of citizens in her jurisdiction and what is right, just for the dog who didn’t create the situation laid out before her, in light of adults making poor judgments on every level. The judge did the right thing; the right thing for the other adults in the room would have been not to create the problem in the first place, to intervene to save a child even if it’s not your own, not try to keep that kind of dog in exactly the wrong environment and be careful in who you hire to watch your children. Sadly it took a dog and a national case to show us that.