What to do when a dog attacks
TWO Australian children were savagely mauled by dogs in separate attacks over the weekend.
One of those was tiny 12-month-old Kamillah Jones who was attacked so brutally in the NSW town of Inverell on Saturday that she died on her way to hospital.
Another attack in Melbourne yesterday left a 10-year-old girl with "bite and puncture marks all over her body" - after she was mauled by a dog while her parents were allegedly at the gym.
But what triggers dog attacks? And, what should you do if a stranger's dog or your family pet suddenly snaps?
Canine training and behavioural expert, Steve Austin, who teaches council rangers, paramedics and police officers how to do deal with dangerous dogs told news.com.au that there are crucial guidelines which can save your life if a dog tries to attack.
"The most important thing you must do in a dog attack is follow three steps," he said. "Do not panic. Do not scream, shout or be aggressive to the dog. And, finally protect your vital parts (your face, groin and chest).
"You can do this by folding up your body or placing obstacles between yourself and the dog, whether that's a chair or a barbecue or whatever.
"This is important because when a dog attacks, the prey drive of the animal is increased when you try to get away.
"That's all very easy to say, but when you have a bull mastiff going for your throat, it is very easy to panic."
Mr Austin added that these guidelines can also hard be difficult to communicate to a child - which leads him to another crucial piece of advice.
"If you do have a dog at home, you should always assume the worst and never leave it alone with your child," he said.
Kamillah's aunt Ida Boney took to Facebook yesterday to describe how the young baby was jumped on by a rottweiler while she was being walked in her stroller on Saturday.
"She was actually being walked by her mother in a pram on the way to her granny's house just one block away," Ms Boney wrote.
Even though Kamillah wasn't left alone with a dog, Mr Austin said it is important to remind parents that direct adult supervision with pets and children is crucial at all times.
"I just wouldn't take the risk," he said. "All dogs can be dangerous, from Chihuahuas to German Shepherds it doesn't matter what breed it is. Even a cocker spaniel can do a lot of damage to a child.
"I have three grandchildren. They are five, two and three. I have wonderful dogs, but when they come to my place and they want to play, there has to be direct adult supervision.
"If they want to run around the garden, then the dogs go away just because children are children and dogs are dogs.
"It's like leaving the pool gate open. Even if they can swim and they can swim really well, they should have adult supervision there at all time."
If you really must leave the child and the dog together, Mr Austin said you should make sure they are in safe and separated spaces.
He added that the background of the dog, for example if it was a pound puppy or not, and its socialisation training were important factors to consider when assessing whether a dog was dangerous.
"Some dogs have had traumatic experiences and they have triggers that they associate with these experiences," Mr Austin said.
"It could be somebody wearing a hat or smoking a cigarette. It could be clothing, smells or actions.
"It could be something as simple as a child staring at the dog and it could trigger a past experience. We have to be aware of these things."
He added that the risk of a child being mauled by a dog was statistically very small.
"About 99.9 per cent of dogs are fantastic," he said. "It is a very, very rare occurrence. But that doesn't mean we should be complacent."
Mr Austin suggested that one of the ways Australia could make its children safer was through education in school and pet awareness days run by local councils.
"Children should be taught some of this advice in school," he said. "For example one of the best pieces of advice you can give is that you should never approach dogs, they should always approach you.
"Prevention is better than cure when it comes to these things, so I'd like to see schools, councils and even state governments get involved."
The child who was attacked in Melbourne yesterday, suffered serious injuries including bites and lacerations and is believed to have lost an ear in the attack. She was taken to the Royal Melbourne Hospital where she remains in a serious condition.
A GoFundMe page for Kamillah's family was set up on Saturday to help with funeral expenses and had last night raised $2000 of its $6000 goal.