The growing threat of dog bite injury has many pedestrians and bicyclists afraid of using the American River Parkway. Two specific incidents, one from this month, and another in April, have Sacramento residents asking what authorities could be doing about the situation.
On May 7, a bicyclist and a homeless man were sitting together on a park bench, engaged in casual conversation. The homeless individual was witnessed in possession of a pit bull that initially was very calm and obedient. However, when the bicyclist attempted to leave, the pit bull attacked without warning. The victim was climbing onto their bike when the pit bull charged, knocking them to the ground before starting to bite. The 62-year old man was bitten viciously on a knee, and multiple times on the face, before the owner was able to take control of the leashed dog.
Another pit bull attack in April further confirms a dangerous trend
Bicyclist Gabriel Frazee was riding past a homeless camp on the American River in April when he was attacked by two pit bulls, Wally and Felony. Wally’s bites were focused on Frazee’s legs, one to an ankle and two others to the rest of the leg. The last two bites were so vicious that they reached the bone. Felony’s attack was to bite one of Frazee’s forearms. It is exactly the style of attack that can very easily go from dog bite injury, to fatality.
Luckily, Frazee survived the attack and received medical attention. He continues to use the Parkway to commute to work by bike, but the dangers still remain. Homeless camps often use unleashed pit bulls as security from theft, and many users of the Parkway have complained repeatedly to officials about the threat posed by these dogs.
Frazee’s attack, as vicious and unprovoked as it was, is not the first to happen in the area. Over the last three years, the city portion of the American River Parkway has witnessed 17 dog bite injury attacks. Sacramento County rangers issue citations repeatedly to dog owners who do not have their pets leashed. However, many times they also issue warnings, even to repeat offenders.
Gabriel believes his attack is the result of multiple problems. A failure to enforce the law regarding camping on the American River Parkway, and a failure to enforce the laws regarding dogs and their owners. Unfortunately, the city’s options are also fairly limited. Citations mean little when the people being cited cannot afford to pay them.
The pit bull challenge, and their contribution to dog bite injury statistics
Pit bulls are statistically responsible for a significant portion of dog bite injuries and fatalities across the United States. Some jurisdictions have considered drafting breed-specific legislation to limit and even ban the breed. However, the pit bull breed is defended heavily by activists and owners alike, who claim the problem isn’t with the breed specifically, but the owners and breeders of dangerous individual dogs.
City-wide bans of pit bulls have been met with opposition throughout the US, sometimes involving harsh language directed at ban proponents. However, it is difficult to ignore the statistics, and the very nature of many pit bull dog bite injury attacks. It is an emotional issue on all sides. For many, a dog is another cherished member of the family, and worth defending. For others, dogs like the pit bull are vicious killers who are inherently dangerous. They may be survivors of an attack, or may be family to someone who was not as fortunate as Gabriel Frazee.
The CDC states that roughly 4.5 million dog bite injury accidents occur in the US every year. Every day, almost 1000 dog bite victims report to a hospital for emergency care. It is obvious that this is an issue that isn’t going away any time soon.