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Bitten at the Dog Run
  • HibariShibaHibariShiba
    Posts: 204
    Here in Tokyo, Japan, dog runs are usually a good place to take your dog. Things tend to be pretty civilized, most everybody is friendly and responsible. However, this week, Ponta got bitten by a White Shepherd, and I am kind of wondering what the usual protocols are in the U.S. for such a thing.

    There is a guy who comes to this one park with some frequency with a pair of white shepherds. For Japan, these are pretty big dogs; usually a lab will be the biggest dog in the run. These two shepherds were always boisterous when I saw them (maybe 2 or 3 times), but didn't seem too out of control.

    We were at the run this week, and everything was okay. At one point, a few new dogs, a pair of border collies, were introduced. Ponta didn’t seem to like them very much, but had approached one. He growled and barked a bit, and the other dog growled and barked back—nothing really unusual, but enough for me to get up and stand over them, ready to pull Ponta out should things get dicey.

    Just as Ponta and the collie had a bark-and-stance, with one other dog close in, one of the white shepherds jumped into them, and it devolved into what I suppose you could call a scrum—all dogs at close quarters, barking and making such close contact that there was no space between any of them. Almost immediately, within a second or so, I saw the shepherd bite into Ponta’s neck, and had no doubt that this was way more serious than usual. Ponta yelped and more or less screamed, and it was clear that his teeth were deep into Ponta’s neck.

    Within a few seconds, the scrum separated, but the shepherd kept confronting Ponta. Ponta was unmistakably scared and defensive, trying to get away. I picked Ponta up; at that point, I was not sure that Ponta’s skin had been broken, but I was fairly sure he had taken some damage, even if just a bruise.

    But here was where I became livid at the owner of the shepherds: the jerk didn’t do anything about his dogs. He hadn’t when the one got out of hand, and he didn’t when they started harassing me. I was holding Ponta up, but the shepherd was still going after him, jumping up next to me, barking, and scaring the crap out of Ponta. It seemed pretty clear he would not do anything to me, but I got the clear impression that he wanted another go at my dog.

    And the jackass who owned the shepherds still did nothing.

    After 5 or 10 seconds, I got Ponta away from that area and the shepherd lost interest. The owner also took zero interest, though Ponta was clearly hurt. I probed Ponta’s neck and was shocked when I felt my finger go through a puncture in his skin—easily big enough that it was clear the wound was bigger than my finger. It felt warm and wet, and when I drew my finger out, it had blood on it.

    I turned to the owner, who was peering at us, and I said, rather clearly, “Ana ga aru! Chi ga deru!” (“There’s a puncture! Blood is coming out!”)

    The owner did not react, but simply turned and walked away, apparently unconcerned.

    Ponta was a wreck; he was whimpering and his tail was down, and when I held him his heart was beating like crazy and he was shaking awfully hard. Sick with worry, we got Ponta out of there, back to the car, and took him to the nearest animal hospital. As we were waiting for a vet, it became clear that Ponta was bleeding a bit—but his neck fur is so thick, it’s kind of hard to see anything, and it holds the blood in.

    The doc gave Ponta a local anesthetic, cleaned the wound, and then stitched it up and applied an antibiotic ointment before he applied gauze to the wound, then wrapped Ponta’s neck with tape. Ponta is now doing better, though he was in pain for the first few days, and is still a bit more subdued than usual. We hope that this was not too traumatic to him; his tendency to sleep more and be less active than usual could be the wound, bandages, and drugs--and on walks, he still acts as usual with dogs we encounter, which is friendly and curious.

    Sachi later called up the park office which oversaw the dog run. To our dismay, they refused not only to identify the owner so we could contact him, but also refused to take any action beyond simply making a record of our call. You have to register and show immediate proof that the dog has its shots, after which you get a pass card to enter the run. However, apparently after that, the park does little or nothing, even in an incident such as this.

    One point about all of this which is less bad than expected: vet bills in Japan are much lower than you’d expect. For injections, shaving & cleaning the wound, stitches, ointment, dressing, and the time spent by a vet and a nurse, in addition to a week’s medication, I expected a bill at least in the hundreds of dollars.

    Instead, the bill came out to ¥8,295—just $85. Subsequent visits are 2100 yen, a touch over $21. I presume it's higher in the U.S.?


    My question to this board: what is usually done in cases like this in the U.S.? Is the owner of the dog that bites considered responsible in any way? Or perhaps would the altercation simply be deemed an "act of dog" and que sera sera?

    At the very least, I want to confront this guy and hand him the vet’s bill—though, considering his alarming unconcern at the time, I have the feeling he’s not the kind of person who would take any sort of responsibility for his dogs. Another possibility I am mulling is to make a handout, showing the dogs and the owner, and a photo of Ponta’s wound, describing what happened, and warning people to watch out for those dogs. Maybe post it up outside the run or something.

    But then, I am still more than a little pissed at the jackass; maybe I’ll calm down eventually.

    Not knowing the protocols here, I am just curious how someone might handle this elsewhere.


    [mod edit: changed category]
    Post edited by sunyata at 2013-05-03 13:36:57
  • sunyatasunyata
    Posts: 8589
    @HibariShiba - The fact of the matter is that what is protocol in the US or any other country does not matter... It matters what the protocol in Japan is regarding situations like this.

    In dog parks, there are usually signs that advise that you are bringing your dog in at your own risk. This generally is to remove any liability from the park owners/operators, but also helps protect patrons of the park in the event of a scuffle such as this one.

    Any time you allow your dog to interact with other animals in an uncontrolled environment (i.e. off leash dog park), then you are accepting that there are risks involved. This does not necessarily mean that it is okay for scuffles to happen, etc. However, by allowing your dog to access the off leash park, you are accepting that there is a risk of altercation between your dog and another.

    However, the nonchalance of the other dog owner is a little concerning. Unfortunately, I doubt there is anything you can do to recoup your vet costs. And honestly, posting fliers of the dogs is a little overkill. Was it really the other dog's fault? No... It was a management issue from all the owners of all the dogs involved, including you. (Not saying this was your fault, but if you see a situation that could possibly escalate [i.e. Ponta growling or barking at another dog], get involved and get your dog out before it escalates.) I was not there, but it sounds like Ponta was already aroused by the BC's and the scuffle that ensued could have been started by any of the dogs, including Ponta.

    I am sorry that you and Ponta had to go through this. The situation is frustrating, especially since the owner of the shepherds seemed to not react to the scuffle at all. I think the best thing for you to do is talk to the park authorities about setting up some sort of protocol for situations such as this, especially if there are no rules/regulations in place. And perhaps the next time you are at the park and these particular dogs arrive, leave and take Ponta for a nice long walk. :)
    Bella 2Mountains 2Nola 2
    Casey, with Bella and Nola, hanging out in the mountains of Virginia.
    I Wander, I Ride
  • lindsaytlindsayt
    Posts: 4786
    Wow, you really lucked out on the cost!

    Since it is so low, and I know what I am about to say may sting, but I would call it an inexpensive lesson learned and either not go back, or leave when those dogs arrive. BUT, I do think you are entitled to ream the owner verbally. That dog climbing on you to get to Ponta, after he had bitten him, was certainly an overdue cue for the owner to come rushing in to act.
    "Common sense isn't so common"
    photo c5d87957-61b6-48af-a440-4187cbfc861b_zps88ccdf88.jpg
  • amtiamti
    Posts: 1066
    Sorry your cute Ponta was injured. I have to agree with sunyata in regards to any signage posted on the park. Chances of getting reimbursed are dependent on how you approach the matter with the other party and whether they felt responsible or not. If you have a koban near you, you can ask them for advice. The omawarisan are very helpful to gaijin or anyone who asks nicely for help.

    Was the owner of the sheperds Japanese? If so, contact them in person politely and explain what happened. Show them the vet bill and ask them off they would consider paying for part of it. Be sure you apologize for the inconvenience and for the negative encounter your dogs has and never fully come out and tell the other person it was all their fault. I think most responsible pet owners, regardless of nationality or country, would be open to hearing what you have to say as long as the conversation is respectable. Bowing your head goes a long way in Japan. As far as having them pay, no telling. But the worst that can happen is that they say no. Even if he doesn't pay, he needs to know what his dogs did and that his dogs cannot be trusted to roam the park freely anymore without more supervision on the owner's part.

    You have it nice with the vet bills being so low! My son's vet (where he works) is one of the most reasonable ones in the city. He charges $25 to see your pet and that fee is waived if you are getting shots. Emergency clinics around here charge $75 just to see your pet. When my husband was in Japan he had what he thought was heart pain. It turned out to be acid reflux. But he went to a Japanese hospital and got the full works over three hours and it was only about $300 with meds.

    Be sure to keep an eye out on Ponta's neck. Puncture bites can get infected easily. Any sign of a bump, he needs to go back asap and get it drained.
    Post edited by amti at 2013-05-03 16:21:15
  • HibariShibaHibariShiba
    Posts: 204
    First of all, thanks sunyata for setting the category; I had neglected to do that.

    Any time you allow your dog to interact with other animals in an uncontrolled environment (i.e. off leash dog park), then you are accepting that there are risks involved.

    This is kind of what we figured—but we hoped also that there would be a system in which dogs more liable to injure others would not be allowed to continue to do so.

    And honestly, posting fliers of the dogs is a little overkill.

    Yeah, as I said, I was still rather miffed. The urge is easing. But we still at least want to find the guy, explain what happened, show the photos... in Japan, there is a strong social emphasis on, at the very least, expressing regret over things you are responsible for.

    If, for example, you ding someone else's car, and you immediately begin with profuse apologies, they are likely to accept that and walk away; if you don't, they are just as likely to get royally ticked off. There were a couple of times in traffic incidents that I either felt there was no contact or that the other guy was just as responsible if not more, but they felt differently, and when I did not apologize, they got incredibly angry (including one guy whose truck was so full of dings that what he imagined could not possibly have made a difference); once when I did screw up and hit a guy's back fender with my scooter, actually causing some damage, I of course did apologize profusely—he accepted my apologies, examined the damage and thought about it, and said, "No problem, it's OK" and drove off. I guess that has rubbed off on me, and was certainly my wife's reaction regarding our expectations in this case.

    It was a management issue from all the owners of all the dogs involved, including you. (Not saying this was your fault, but if you see a situation that could possibly escalate [i.e. Ponta growling or barking at another dog], get involved and get your dog out before it escalates.)

    This is partly my point—I was trying to be responsible that way. Dogs growl and tussle all the time in these places, so the 'bark-and-stance' I related was not really the kind of thing that required pulling the dog out, not yet—but every time something like that happens, I make sure I am close by and ready to act, which is what I did in this case. Sometimes such encounters lead to anything from a little friendly chasing to some play fighting; more often, the dogs just wind down and disengage on their own.

    Had Ponta done nothing except bark and growl and stance more once or twice more, showing no signs of play, even if there was no contact, I would have decided nothing good would come of it, and would have come in, either breaking it up or I would have pulled him away if necessary. This has happened before, and that's what I do in such cases. As it was, Ponta and the other dog did not fight, rather the white shepherd diving in was was started the snarl so suddenly there was no time to act.

    I do not blame the owner for that—dog snarls happen—but if Ponta were to start a fight like that (or even be involved), I would (a) try to control him as quickly as possible, and (b) immediately make sure the other dog(s) were all right. Certainly, if Ponta had bitten any other dog enough to draw blood, I would immediately leash him, apologize profusely, and offer at the very least my personal information to the other party—and I would feel incredibly awful, just as awful as I would if Ponta himself were bitten. I would take Ponta out of there and reconsider whether dog runs were the right thing for him.

    I would decidedly NOT have let him (a) stay loose, and absolutely not let him dance around someone trying to protect their own dog.

    This is the core reason I am so livid. They guy did not try to disengage his dog during or after the snarl, did nothing as it tried to get at Ponta as I was holding him away, and did not show the least concern nor any hint of regret as to what had happened, even after I made it clear that his dog had bitten Ponta.

    And that's what worries me most; if the owner acts that way when his dog bites someone else's dog, I come away with the impression that at the very least, it can and probably will happen again. That's why I am concerned about the inaction of the park authorities—if there's a dog that bites other dogs, I at the very least want to be aware of that fact. I cannot help but think that maybe this dog had bitten someone else's dog before, and we were not made aware of the fact when we let Ponta play with him. I would feel bad if we did nothing and it happened to someone else. I am not as concerned with the vet's bill as I am with that.

    Be sure to keep an eye out on Ponta's neck. Puncture bites can get infected easily. Any sign of a bump, he needs to go back asap and get it drained.

    Thanks, yes, we are trying to. Alas, we cannot un-bandage the dressings without destroying them, but we are taking him back to the vet every other day to have the wound checked. Though now, I am think that we should get an extra dressing from the doc as well so we can check his neck more regularly.
  • amtiamti
    Posts: 1066
    You should be able to feel any bumps forming under the dressing unless the dressing is very thick. And you'll also notice a decline in activity in Ponta if he starts getting a fever from the infection. I'm assuming you also got antibiotics, so hopefully none of this will be an issue. Good luck!
  • Having lived in Yokosuka for three years, I'm shocked that the owner of the shepherds was so uninvolved. I would have expected exactly what you described: A whole lot of instant apologies. I almost wonder if the guy wasn't Japanese, but perhaps Korean or Chinese...
  • curlytailscurlytails
    Posts: 2779

    I almost wonder if the guy wasn't Japanese, but perhaps Korean or Chinese...

    I don't know why that would matter.
    Bowdu 寶肚 (Shiba) and Bowpi 寶媲 (Basenji) with M.C.
  • HibariShibaHibariShiba
    Posts: 204

    I almost wonder if the guy wasn't Japanese, but perhaps Korean or Chinese...

    I don't know why that would matter.

    I don't know about the differences in Korean culture, but I do know there is quite a difference in social interactions between Japanese and Chinese natives. Very marked, in fact, in many cases. Try negotiating traffic, shopping, or just walking down the street in Tokyo and Shanghai, and there can be no mistaking it. Not that anything is universal, but there's no denying that the cultures are pretty different.
  • curlytailscurlytails
    Posts: 2779
    And neither Tokyo nor Shanghai are wholly representative of Japanese or Chinese culture. So please, let's not go there.

    Your concern here is the lack of responsibility on the part of a dog owner whose dog bit yours, and park authorities who don't seem inclined to enforce park rules... if there are any, which you haven't yet clarified. You just said that pet owners need to register to use the park. Sounds like you might have to dig into how that particular park regulates its own turf to see what you can do, if anything.

    I am truly sorry that Ponta got injured as badly as he did. That is, unfortunately, the most serious risk that one takes when bringing pets to any dog run where every member's bite history is basically an unknown... I say this as a regular park user myself.

    FWIW, at my local parks, we sometimes see posters of dogs that have sustained injuries (sometimes very graphic ones), with written descriptions of the offending dogs, owners, date and time of incident, etc., for the purpose of identifying the offending party or witnesses. The pretense is that the victim is appealing to the conscience of the offender so they can sort it out between them, through whatever legal means necessary. I can't help but feel there's some public shaming and attempt to invoke community justice, as well. The park has nothing to do with it other than allowing such public notices to remain for a given period of time, before they are taken down, just like the other public notices that are allowed to use the bulletin board.
    Bowdu 寶肚 (Shiba) and Bowpi 寶媲 (Basenji) with M.C.
  • CaliaCalia
    Posts: 3664
    ADMIN WARNING: Please refrain from discussions that stereotype a specific culture, it is uncalled for and can be offensive. The OP asked for how a specific incident is handled in other countries and NOT about people of specific cultures. Please keep all discussion on topic and relevant. Thank you

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