The mauling death of four-year-old Amaziah Lewis by a dog on Sunday has shocked the nation and the circumstances around the incident are cloudy where the culpability lies.
But while many on social media have been trying to point fingers, animal experts don’t believe the dog is at the fore of any blame.
Jean-Paul Llanos is a professional animal trainer with over 15 years of expertise, including K9 psychology and behaviour modification. He believes it’s impossible to point any fingers, as it was just an unfortunate, unforeseen accident.
“That incident yesterday (Sunday) was unfortunate. Definitely an accident. Unplanned. I don’t think it was anything like negligence,” he said.
Lewis and his siblings were spending time with his grandmother at a home in Savannah Drive, Tacarigua, which she was looking after while the owner was in Tobago. It was the first time Lewis visited the home. The dog escaped the kennel it was locked in and attacked Lewis, killing him.
But with his expertise, Llanos said he believes the dog was just protecting its territory.
“The dog does not even know the child, so it’s a situation of a stranger in the yard, the dog being territorial attacks the child out of prey, gets into aggression (and) bites him,” he said.
Animals Alive president Kathryn Cleghorn shared a similar sentiment.
“The animal was doing what it was supposed to do. Rottweilers are very robust protectors of their property and as a result, the dog was protecting his home,” she said.
However, she is now fearful that people may be frightened by the incident and may try to abandon their dogs over fears of a similar situation occurring. This, she said, is a trend they notice happened in the past whenever reports of dog maulings made the news.
However, Cleghorn warned that the animal shelters around the country are filled and will not be able to accommodate the pets.
“My advice would be that each incident has its own context. Do not generalise. What you should be generalising is that the breed of animal, a Rottweiler is a very serious and dedicated protector of its property. Those are traits that do not need to be defined as murderous or violent,” she said.
Llanos said that people with large breed dogs would be able to mitigate such an incident from occurring on their hands, if they get them properly trained and socialised as part of “responsible pet ownership.”
“When you have a dog that can mature to more than 40, 50 pounds, you need to understand that dog could potentially do harm and that factor is controlled by the fact that if the dog is socialised and trained as a puppy, it reduces the probability of something like this recurring,” he said.
Police who responded to the incident on Sunday eventually shot and killed the dog on location. However, Cleghorn did not agree with this handling of the situation.
“The dog should have been euthanised and the police should have involved a dog handler. It seems as if the extermination of the dog was the only goal of the police but this added another layer of violence to what that family was enduring,” she said.
“All animals deserve, if they have to be euthanised, to be euthanised humanely.”