Is a dog bite ever justified?

Years ago, we moved house at a very inopportune time.

I had a brand new litter on the ground, just a few days old, and there was no pushing ahead our moving date. So, I packed up the dam and her puppies, and put them into the ground floor bathroom of the new house, safely tucked into the bathtub, complete with a heating pad and loads of bedding. On the door, I put a LARGE, hand lettered sign that said “Dog inside – DO NOT OPEN DOOR!!!!!”.

You can probably imagine what happened.

A mover, either because he was illiterate or just an idiot, opened the bathroom door, only to be faced by 23 pounds of murderously enraged French Bulldog, in full on momma protective mode. She launched herself at him like a screaming banshee, and he closed the door just as her teeth clicked against it. I have no doubt she would have done her best to tear a piece out of his arm, given a chance, and I would not have blamed her in the least.

As Heather H. recently wrote, new motherhood is a funny time for dogs, just like it is for people. Normally cranky dogs become doe eyed and serene, and generally sweet tempered dogs can become teeth gnashing hellhounds. The hellhound hormones generally wear off by a week or so, even for the most protective of my dogs, and they suddenly become accepting of all sorts of visitors (including, in the case of the dog I mentioned, our old Maine Coon cat, who used to climb into her whelping box and clean her puppies).

The question this raises is, are bites that take place as a result of a mother (and in one case, a mother and a father) protecting their puppies justified?

Near Calgary, opinions on this are mixed –

A Didsbury area couple is recovering from a shocking dog attack.

A pair of Akita dogs were in the garage with their newborn puppies when the 27-year-old man and his girlfriend went in to to feed them, as a courtesy to their owner, who is also a tenant in the home southwest of the town.

The female Akita suddenly lunged at the woman, who had her pet beagle with her.

The male Akita then joined the attack, mauling the couple.

The dogs inflicted severe wounds to the couple’s hands, forearms, thighs and chests.

Read more here.

As you can easily imagine if you’ve ever spent any time reading online newspaper comments, there’s a lot of stuff along the lines of

It does not matter who is at fault!

It seemed that this is exactly what was going to happen –

The Akita dogs and their puppies are now under a 10-day quarantine at Animal Services in Calgary to check for rabies.

It is possible the dogs may be euthanized. Animal and Bylaw Services is searching for a surrogate mother for the puppies should that occur.

The owner of the two dogs, who was charged with  two counts of dog biting and one count of dog causing damages to another dog, in spite of the fact that she was not home when the attack occurred, had initially agreed to have both dogs killed, but later changed her mind –


Akita dogs involved in a vicious attack last week now wants her dogs assessed before the decision is made to euthanize them.


The dogs’ owner originally planned to surrender her animals but now would like more information.

“I’ve been in contact with her, she hasn’t changed her mind. This is just a better way to go,” says Mountain View County Peace Officer Amanda Stuhl.

“This is going to allow her to make an informed decision this way. With everything that’s been in the media and everyone upset about the dogs, euthanizing the dogs, this will allow the behaviour testing to be done and allow her to make an informed decision and allows a judge to make a proper decision in court.”


Unbelievably, even the eleven day old puppies are going to be ‘evaluated’, to see if they also need to be ‘put down’. But, hey – at least they’ll wait until they’re at least six weeks old.

The assessment of the dogs will take place next week and will take approximately one week to complete.

The puppies, now 11 days old, are being held in quarantine with their mother. While their future has yet to be determined, they will also undergo a behavioural assessment but not until they are six-weeks-old.


Global TV brings me possibly my most head/desk banging quote from this entire incident –

The Akita dogs were familiar with the Beagle as they had interacted before on several occasions.

It’s unknown why the dogs attacked on this occasion and why the attack was so severe.


Really? No one has any idea why the dogs attacked a strange dog who was sniffing around their newborn puppies, and why they then turned on the two people who reached into the melee to try and retrieve their dog?

No guesses at all here?

Our media, yet again never failing to live up to expectations.



19 replies
  1. frogdogz
    frogdogz says:

    “And because mom and dad bit, we’re thinking we should just go ahead and kill those puppies, too”.

    WTF, Animal Control? Srsly?

  2. Lori
    Lori says:

    Having grown up with Akitas, I can tell you that if they had meant to KILL- the Beagle (and maybe people) would have been dead.
    I feel these dogs attacking was not a surprising outcome, considering the breed tendency.
    I hope these dogs are not put down without a full assessment. What I don’t understand is how anyone who is even marginally familiar with dogs can’t understand why a female dog would protect her puppies?

  3. YesBiscuit!
    YesBiscuit! says:

    I think it’s good they’re waiting until the pups are 6 weeks cos by that time, they’ll really have that whole walking thing pretty well down and we should be able to assess their threat level to mankind.

      • Seraphym
        Seraphym says:

        Of course there is, cause that is the standard. The stupid, useless standard. There are so many better ways of assessment, it makes me so angry that they choose the old school method.

  4. The Cletus Residence
    The Cletus Residence says:

    The woman who owned the two dogs and the litter should be criminally charged. She acted with depraved indifference, with the result that two people (and the Beagle) were very seriously injured. The dogs should be rehomed. They may yet be.

    I had a similar although not so gruesome case in Boston, MA where a pitbull who had just had a litter attacked a woman’s Cocker Spaniel, and when she tried to rescue her dog, bit the woman’s finger off. That dog was allowed to wean her puppies, and then was moved into a training facility in Maine for three months for rehab and evaluation, paid for by her owner. The owner, who had recklessly left the bitch unsupervised in the back of his car with the door open, was banned from having any more dogs. It was that dog’s third incident. I was the attorney for the owner.

  5. Wynterr
    Wynterr says:

    Seems to be a lot of different stories. Some places say the beagle and the woman were both unknown to the Akitas, other sites say the beagle and the woman had both played with the puppies before with the parents there. The man seems to have known the dogs. I live on a ranch, my dog is here to protect me. You break into my house she will kill you or be killed trying to. I expect her to bite if someone is where they shouldn’t be (our house). If she meets you on the street she’ll be your friend. I would NEVER tell anyone to go into my house and feed her. Yes, dog bites are justified in some cases. In this case I don’t know and expect I never will as the facts don’t seem to be making it out. If the owner asked the man, woman and beagle to be there feeding the dogs and the dogs attacked then the owner should face charges and the dogs euthanized. If these people just took it upon themselves to do this then it is their own fault. Don’t enter a dogs territory uninvited. It is that simple.

    • frogdogz
      frogdogz says:

      If the owner asked the man, woman and beagle to be there feeding the dogs and the dogs attacked then the owner should face charges and the dogs euthanized.

      Well, how on earth are the dogs supposed to know if the people were ‘invited’ to be there?

  6. Troy
    Troy says:

    “In news today, I was severely bit by a group of dogs while they were eating their dinner. All I did was stick my hands in each of their food bowls and then in to their mouths and I really don’t understand what made the dogs turn on me. Animal Control is calling for an investigation and the dogs may be euthanized after a ten day quarantine period.”

  7. H. Houlahan
    H. Houlahan says:

    So when the authorities and media are stumped at the “just turned on them for no reason whatsoever” attack, that’s normal?

    But if an ordinary dog owner, with no special expertise, who may be stupid, makes a mistake and asks a couple of sharp tacks who *certainly* are, to feed her dogs, and they decide to bring their pet to “visit” the newborns, that’s “depraved indifference” and she’s a criminal?

    FWIW, even my insurance company EXPECTS a mother dog with new nursing puppies to bite.

    They will correctly consider it the owner’s fault most of the time, but it doesn’t mark the bitch as vicious.

    At the moment, I can guaranfreekintee ya that if a strange dog walked into my house and approach the puppies, ANY of my pack of five adults would attack, and three of them would do so with deadly intent.

    Actually had a neighbor dog do this — walk in my gate and step right into my family room — when Rosie’s litter was tiny. (Old house, before we lived on the farm.) I have no idea what he was thinking. He’d never come over before.

    Fortunately Pip was taking a break and Moe was elsewhere; Sophia ran him off, and did so without dissecting him. But the sound effects were impressive.

    • The Cletus Residence
      The Cletus Residence says:

      I would argue that it was depraved indifference on the part of the owner, because a reasonable person (a legal fiction!) would be expected to know what the dogs were capable of and in what circumstances, and would take measures to keep people safe around them, and this dog owner not only did not take precautions but actually put the two unfortunate victims in harm’s way by asking them to feed the dogs. In other words, they knew or should have known the potential consequences, and they didn’t give a damn.

      Remember the two Presa Canario dogs that killed the San Francisco woman in front of her own apartment, while the owner tried to pull them off? That’s a classic example – ” “You knew those dogs were dangerous, you knew you could not control them and you took them outside anyway,” he said. “You had neither the physical or the mental ability to control the dog Bane.” The judge, however, said he believed Knoller did not intentionally cause harm to Whipple.”

      Fortunately for the owner of these Akitas, the bites were serious, but definitely not life threatening and certainly not fatal…

      • H. Houlahan
        H. Houlahan says:

        So we are holding an ordinary pet owner to a higher standard of knowledge about canine behavior than is displayed by the authorities who have seized the dogs, who are still all duuuuuuh about why this could have happened?

        I don’t remember reading that the owner said “Sure, bring your girlfriend and a strange dog over to ogle the newborn puppies, too.” I’m guessing that was a freelance decision.

        If I ask someone to check on my bitch and her puppies, I guess I have to give them a long list of don’ts — don’t bring another dog, don’t put your infant in the whelping box, don’t swing the puppies around your head by their back feet, don’t poke Momma in the eye — or I’m guilty not of underestimating that person’s potential to be a focking idjit, but of criminal depraved indifference.

        The Whipple case was an entirely different thing. Those creeps were deliberately keeping vicious dogs for their skinhead client / adopted “son.” They wanted the dogs to behave viciously, and they got their wish. The final victim did nothing to provoke the attack.

      • frogdogz
        frogdogz says:

        I would argue that it was depraved indifference on the part of the owner, because a reasonable person (a legal fiction!) would be expected to know what the dogs were capable of and in what circumstances, and would take measures to keep people safe around them,

        But, for the sake of argument, does this apply even when the two people asked decided, on their own, to bring their dog with them? Would that be considered as a legal defense, that the owner(s) could not have known that they would decide to bring along the beagle?

        I’m just curious. Apparently, she’s already been charged, so someone has decided that their bringing the dog did NOT excuse her from responsibility.

  8. H. Houlahan
    H. Houlahan says:

    Interestingly, I’ve noticed that those newspapers that are now using facebook for comment sign-in have about 700% less stoopid in the comments than those that allow people to hide behind trollie handles.

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