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Tag: dog bites

When drones deliver will dogs get to growling? Amazon wants to know

drone

Reports surfaced this week that Amazon, as it continues to develop its top secret project to someday deliver packages by drones, has obtained a “simulated dog” so they can assess what obstacles dogs might pose to drones, and how to avoid them.

This is a real story. Honest.

It sounds a little like something out of an episode of Robot Wars, but the dangers dogs could pose to drones, and, more important, drones could pose to dogs, are well worth considering if this whole drone delivery idea is going to come to pass.

(Which I’d prefer it didn’t.)

Amazon doesn’t care what I think, though, and it is proceeding very secretly on the drone project, and looking at how to equip drones with enough artificial intelligence (beyond GPS) for them to cope with what postal carriers have long been coping with — everything from dogs to clotheslines.

Ironically, the Amazon simulated dog story came out same day the Postal Service released its latest dog bite figures, which are undergoing the largest increase in three decades.

Dog attacks on postal workers rose last year to 6,755, up 206 from the previous year — but the increase comes amid double-digit increases in the post office’s package business. Postal carriers are visiting more homes more frequently and at all times of day, often burdened with packages, thanks to agreements the Postal Service struck with Amazon in 2013 and 2014.

In other words, the more Internet shopping we all do, the greater burden we put on postal carriers, thereby increasing the chances for them to be victims of dog bites.

Unless of course packages are being delivered by drones, as Amazon — clearly the biggest catalyst in online shopping’s growth — proposes to do.

If there’s a conspiracy theory that might apply to all this, please feel free to apply it. Because I can’t come up with one.

According to the International Business Times, Amazon is using the simulated dogs as it conducts tests with drones in the UK.

It is not known how many simulated dogs there are in Amazon’s pack or what, if any, behaviors they’ve been programmed to imitate — barking, biting, tail-wagging?

410I1FkDAkLNor is it known whether Amazon created them, procured them from a contractor, or ordered them from themselves.

Amazon has been testing delivery drones since 2015. In July 2016 it signed a partnership with the UK government to explore the safe use of UAV’s (unmanned aerial vehicles) to make deliveries in rural and suburban areas.

There are plenty of rough spots still to be figured out, most of them dealing with the drone’s use of air space.

But, once it comes time for a drone to land, one of the major concerns is going to be dogs. The drones will deliver packages, guided by GPS, and leave them on a special welcome mat the customer has placed on a front porch or a back patio.

Some dogs, I suspect, will cower in fear when a drone appears overhead; maybe a few will take them in stride, but many will see them as humming and hovering monsters, intent on trying to invade their territory.

(Which, to me, is a pretty accurate description.)

A drone’s blades can inflict serious damage, and ingesting a drone’s parts could also be a hazard. And Amazon is not unaware of the potential liabilities.

So now it’s researching how to give drones some artificial intelligence — to equip them with the ability to protect themselves when they sense a danger to themselves or others.

Given it’s a dog friendly company, it’s not likely Amazon will arm drones to spray cayenne pepper when a dog approaches.

Dropping a couple of treats — charming as that would be, and though it works well for postal carriers — probably wouldn’t work, either.

More likely, the drones will be taught to just abort their landing and return to their home base if a dog’s presence is sensed.

That could ruin many a “same day delivery,” but, unless you are ordering insulin, is that really so important?

The best solution is pretty obvious. Drop the fanciful and futuristic pipe dream. Keep the skies clear. Let humans make the deliveries.

I’ll gladly wait another day, or two, or three, for my package in exchange for the benefits that would offer — jobs, peace and quiet, and safer dogs and children among them.

(Photos: At top, an Amazon delivery drone, courtesy of Amazon.com; lower, the Genibo SD Robotic Dog, available from Amazon)

Another pit bull ban that didn’t work — at least when it comes to reducing dog bites

SONY DSC

In 2005, Ontario passed a law designed to purge the province of pit bulls.

“Over time, it will mean fewer pit bull attacks and, overall, fewer attacks by dangerous dogs,” attorney general Michael Bryant told the Ontario legislature back then.

Time has proved him wrong — at least in Toronto.

The number of dog bites has been rising since 2012, and in 2013 and 2014 reached their highest levels this century, even as pit bulls neared extinction, according to a report in Global News.

It’s just the latest evidence that pit bull bans don’t work.

160219_dog_tableUnder the Ontario law, pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and American pit bull terriers — and any dog who had that pit bull “look” — had to be kept muzzled or leashed in public and get sterilized within two months of the bill’s passage.

The law allowed those who already owned pit bulls to keep them under those conditions, but breeding pit bulls, or bringing them into the province, was outlawed.

If you owned a pit bull type dog, and it was born after the law went into effect, your dog was — and still is — subject to being sent out of the province or euthanized.

Ten years after the law’s passage, most of those grandfathered pit bulls are dead or dying.

There were only 338 registered in Toronto in 2014, down from 1,411 in 2005.

By the year 2020, pit bulls are expected to no longer exist in the Canadian province.

But the law’s primary desired effect — cutting down on dog attacks and dog bites — clearly hasn’t been achieved.

In 2004, 567 dog bites were recorded in the city. Reports indicate 86 of those bites came from dogs designated as pit bulls. The only breed with more was German Shepherds, with 112 reported bites.

In 2014, there were 767 dog bites in Toronto — only 19 of them by pit bulls.

In 2014, German shepherds were involved in most of the city’s dog bites, and Labrador retrievers had moved up into second place.

Nobody has proposed outlawing them — at least not yet.

(Photo: Chart from globalnews.ca; photo by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

The most dangerous dog breed in Liverpool

Jack Russell Terrier Snarling

The breed of dog most often involved in attacks on humans in Liverpool is … the Jack Russell terrier.

In 2015 more canine attacks on humans were reported from Jack Russells than from other breeds often seen as more aggressive, including pit bulls, Rottweilers and German shepherds, the Liverpool Echo reported.

Police data show 71 dog attacks were reported to police in 2015. Jack Russells were responsible for six of the recorded attacks in which the breed of dog was known.

Pit bulls and Staffordshire bull terrier-type dogs accounted for five recorded incidents in 2015, German shepherds were involved in three, and collies were involved in two.

If police seemed to waste no time in compiling the year end statistics, that may be because Liverpool is one of the worst cities in England when it comes to dog bites. The city’s dog attack rate is more than twice the national average.

Jack Russells are known as high-energy dogs who can be very territorial.

Other breeds involved in at least one incident included a Yorkshire terrier, a Rottweiler, a St. Bernard, a French bull mastiff and a Chihuahua.

(Photo: Royalty-Free/Corbis)

Houston is first in postal carrier dog bites

More postal carriers are bitten by dogs in Houston than any other American city — or at least that was the case last year.

According to statistics released yesterday by the Postal Service, 62 Houston letter carriers were “attacked” by dogs in 2010 — almost 20 more than the second place cities (a tie between San Diego and Columbus, Ohio).

Nationwide last year, 5,669 postal employees were bitten in more than 1,400 cities, leading to medical expenses of $1.2 million, the Postal Service said in a press release issued in connection with National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 15-21).

Among the entire population, about 4.7 million Americans are bitten annually — and dog attacks accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claims paid out in 2010, costing nearly $413 million, the press release added.

“Given the right circumstances, any dog can bite. Dog attacks are a nationwide issue and not just a postal problem,” said Matthew Lopez, Houston’s postmaster.

Rounding out the top 10 cities for dog bites among postal carriers were Los Angeles (44), Louisville (40), San Antonio and St.  Louis (tied with 39 each), Cleveland and Phoenix (tied with 38 each), Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon (tied with 35 each), Denver and Philadelphia (tied with 31 each), Sacramento (30) and Seattle (28).

(Photo: Ace greets my postal carrier almost everyday, and likes to follow him, even though he doesn’t carry treats and has never given him one.)

Pit bull ban hasn’t slowed dog bites

Banning pit bulls has had no significant effect on slowing the number of dog bites in Ontario, Canada, according to a study by the Toronto Humane Society.

Results of a humane society survey of municipalities show no significant drop in dog bite cases since the provincial government passed breed specific legislation in 2005 — a law that required pit bulls to be muzzled in public and resulted in “countless” pit bulls and Staffordshire Terriers being destroyed.

In a statement Wednesday, the humane society called on the provincial government to amend the legislation and ” stop the punishment of innocent animals,” the Toronto Sun reports.

According to statistics, there was a 10 percent drop in dog bite cases in 2005, but after 2006 the number increased to the 2004 level.

The law was touted by the attorney general at the time as one that would “make our streets safer.”

Apparently, it has not, Humane Society spokesman Ian McConachie noted.

McConachie said outlawing specific dog breeds “targets the wrong source of the problem: “Dogs are not born violent,” but are “made that way by irresponsible owners who train them to be that way or neglect them …”

“If we want to reduce the number of dog bites we have to address the route cause of the problem, those irresponsible owners who do not appropriately care for their animals.” he said.

Canine disarming: One family’s experience

One family’s experience with “canine disarming” — a controversial last resort for dogs who haven’t been able to lick the biting habit — was the subject of a first person account in Saturday’s Los Angeles Times.

Dog owner Diane R. Krieger wrote about her dog, Cotton, a six-year-old American Eskimo dog who even “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan couldn’t help,

“I had tried everything. Puppy classes and basic-training at the neighborhood PetSmart. A library of self-help books and videos. Even a pricey dog-aggression expert whose Israeli accent made me want to stand at attention. He ordered counter-conditioning and desensitization drills, supplemented by a low-protein diet and a doggie herbal remedy akin to St. John’s Wort…

“I tried clicker training, high-pitched electronic tones, pepper spray, throwing soda cans filled with rocks. I considered an electric shock collar but worried that in the hands of an amateur … it might do more harm than good.

“Finally, I appealed to the fabled Dog Whisperer.”

Krieger writes that Cotton became calm and submissive — until Millan left.

Running out of options, she considered surrendering the dog, and even euthanasia.

Then she saw an Animal Planet program featuring Dr. David Nielsen, a veterinary dentist based in Manhattan Beach, talking about a miracle fix: “canine disarming.”

Instead of extracting the four canine teeth, Nielsen cuts away 4 millimeters of tooth, then blunts the extra set of pointy incisors. Nielsen says he has “disarmed” some 300 animals in the last dozen years, not all of them dogs.

Kireger notes that Nielsen may be something of a maverick. The American Veterinary Medical Association says that disarming dogs, once fairly common, fell out of favor several years ago as behavioral modification techniques improved. The association is opposed to either tooth removal or disarming.

The American Veterinary Dental College agrees that disarming is controversial, but in a position statement adopted in 2005 it endorsed the procedure in “selected cases.”

Cotton’s reconfigured choppers cost Krieger $1,600, and led to no lasting physical side effects.

Nielsen told Krieger canine disarming does have psychological effects, though. “You can see it in their eyes almost the moment they wake up from the anesthesia. It’s like they’re wondering, ‘who took away my knives?'”

Cotton still bites, Krieger wrote, but inflicts little damage.