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Who Let The Dogs Out?
Addressing The Growing Number
Of Dog Attacks

By Michelle Sellers  

Is man’s best friend becoming our worst nightmare?

In recent weeks the news of dog attacks has made local and national headlines and has led many to wonder why dog attacks are becoming more frequent. But what is really driving these animals to injure and kill?

Recent Rash Of Attacks

In recent months dogs attacks have made headlines in Southeast Queens.

(Top) A Rotweiler – dubbed “the man stopper.” (Above) Animal trainer Anthony Jerone with one of his “canine students.”
PRESS Photos By Ira Cohen

Late last year two people were brutally attacked while on a boardwalk in Rockaway.

It was early on the morning of Dec. 26 2001, when 74-year-old Lev Liberman decided to take a walk along the Rockaway Boardwalk.

There he encountered a pack of five dogs that included a pit bull, two Rottweilers, and two mixed-breed dogs.

The dogs attacked him and according to police accounts, Liberman was severely mauled before the dogs attacked a second victim, jogger Marlene Fils-Aime of Arverne.

Liberman was left virtually unrecognizable form the attack and according to doctors his arm was nearly ripped off by the vicious dogs.

Jamaica Attack

In October of 2000, a stray dog turned vicious at a Jamaica daycare center in attacking three children and held a child clenched in its jaw as adults beat the dog with bricks and a metal pole.

The stray dog followed a woman into the day care center through an open door, according to police.

According to a neighbor, the dog was one of two that had roamed the neighborhood and harrased a mother and a daughter earlier that day.

A two-year-old child was treated for severe lacerations to his face and a second child was treated for other severe wounds.

More Dog-Related Incidents

In a recent incident in South Ozone Park, cops had to shoot a pit bull to get the dog to stop attacking a 12-year-old girl 

And In January in San Francisco California, a woman was killed in an apartment hallway by a vicious Rotweiller.

The dog’s owners now stand trial on murder and manslaughter charges.  

Growing Trend?

Are dog attacks a growing trend?

Well, according to Health Department statistics there were 7,075 dog bites in New York City in 1997 and 1,000 complaints involving dogs.

That same year police and animal control authorities had to round up 892 biting dogs — 200 more than the year before.

Of that amount, 33 percent were pit bulls or pit-bull mixes, though they make up only an estimated 15 percent of the city’s dogs.

Addressing The Situation

Councilman James Sanders told those in attendance at a Town Hall meeting in January that incidents like the one that took place on the Rockaway Boardwalk should be taken seriously.

According to Sanders spokesperson Nick Moore, citizens complained of the stray dogs that are usually located “in the same place, under the board walk and street corners.” 

A Task Force being assembled to address the situation has plans for “bringing in city agencies in charge to come up with a recovery to crack down and pick up the dogs before another attack,” and has contacted Mayor Mike Bloomberg to inform him of the community problem. 

“Some are stray dogs, some are unleashed, domesticated dogs whose owners allow them to leave and return at night,” Moore stated.  “We do not want another Newark attack, where the dog bit 14 different people before it was taken away.” 

“There are a lot of stray dogs [in the Rockaways].” Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska said.  “This [December 26th] was a vicious attack,” Gaska commented.  “It was the first I can recall in five years.” 

Animal Instincts

Dog expert Anthony Jerone told the PRESS, “It’s a prey driven instinct in a dog that qualifies him to be a leader.”

Jerone has trained dogs for 32 years and along with his wife Mary runs the Fresh Meadows-based Academy of K-9 Education. 

“The leader will chase anything that moves to investigate with curiosity,” he said. “The man attacked in the Rockaways, was a jogger-and created a panic situation, by screaming, or waving his arms because the dog views it as a threat and tried to kill the threat by reaching those moving objects, for example arms,” Jerone added. 

“It is important to maintain a heightened awareness of the animals around us and learn enough to handle a situation if it occurs,” according to the Center for Animal Care and Control (CACC). 

“There is no reason to lose your love for dogs or be frightened to go to a park or ride a bike,”CACC Director for Shelter Operations Theresa Geary said. 

“The leader will determine the level of threat it feels and instruct the pack to act appropriately, it is a means of survival. In a household, dogs rely on the pack and humans become a part of that pack, hopefully the human is the leader. The top dog in the house will have the first pick of toys and other items, favorite sleeping areas or treats,” Geary added.

 “If the leader of the pack feels threatened and the group of untrained dogs follows the leader, they will attack as well,” Jerone said. “What I teach mail carriers to do is to walk away calmly, feed them the mail,” Jerone said.  “Prescribe words they are familiar with. No. Sit. These are usually words they are familiar with,” Jerone said.

Another way to respond is to, “Play ‘possum. If you don’t look interesting enough, they will leave,” Jerone said.

According to Jerone, “what they are teaching shark trainers now is to punch it in the nose, if it tries to attack — the same applies to wild dogs.”

Training For Dogs And Owners

The Rotweiller dogs are called “the man stopper,” according to Jerone because they will “knock you down, because they weigh 100 plus pounds and have 2, 800 pound bite per square inch,” while the pit bull called the “ultimate gladiator,” is a “bone crusher with a 3,800 pound bite per square inch,” Jerone noted for pet owners to be advised of what dog is bred for.

“The Presario Canario that killed the lady in California is like a gorilla, they are bred to heard cattle. There are no cattle here.  So now they’re looking for cattle and become a great puller, You [the owner] end up being taken for a walk.” Jerone said.

Jerone’s Academy of K-9 education offers a free “Doggie Boot Camp” to dispel the do’s and the don’ts for people and dogs. Half the battle is to train the dog, who has the mind of a three year old child.” Jerone said.

“The other half of the battle is to train the owner, who has no idea what to do with the animal,” Jerone said. 

The best time to train a dog is when the dog is “between four and six months [in age] when the brain is five percent matured.  This way the dog can regress or progress in their character,” Jerone said.   “You know the saying, you are what you eat – the same applies to dogs. A lot of dogs aren’t performing to standard and could be mentally and physically impaired because of poor eating habits. They must be on a schedule – this information is a part of the package we offer.”

Chemical preservatives BHT and BHA found in certain dog food, “and some human food,” according to Jerone, can cause, “tumors, ulcers and cancer, over the years. Read the labels,” Jerone advises. “Choose the natural vitamin E preservative. Most dog food manufacturers do not like the vitamin E preservative because it only has a shelf life of six months; the BHT and BHA make the food last for one year.”

Beware Of Wild Dogs

The Center for Animal Care and Control (CACC) advises “Animals can behave differently with their owners then when alone as a stray running lose.  Some dogs may protect their owners or can be friendlier without them.  As a general rule when trying to determine how to behave when approached by a stray dog it is important to remain calm, do not flail your arms or run unless chased and do not look the dog in the eyes as that can be construed as a threat or a dominant act towards the dog.” Most importantly, contact your nearest health care provider immediately,” if you are bitten by a dog,” Geary said.

Getting Wild Animals Off The Street

Local animal rescue organizations in Queens service homeless dogs by providing the appropriate shots, as well as shelter to prevent animal cruelty and testing. 

Animal Haven is a shelter for these dogs located at 35-22 Prince Street in Flushing, while Queens

Shelter located at 92-29 Queens Blvd., in Rego Park. The organizations then look for adoptive parents for the pets.

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