Dog attack in downtown Vicksburg raises concerns

Published 1:24 pm Thursday, July 30, 2020

In early July, an unleashed pit bull attacked a Chihuahua at the corner of China and Washington streets.

According to Vicksburg Police Department reports, the incident occurred on July 2. A witness told police the pit bull attacked a Chihuahua and shook it in its mouth.

The Chihuahua’s owner told police he tried to kick the pit bull during the attack and scared it away.

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While a police officer was attempting to catch the pit bull, its owner arrived and said the dog managed to get outside her home, and the owner and the officer attempted unsuccessfully to get the dog, which managed to avoid capture.

Vicksburg Animal Control Director Kacie Lindsey said her office was notified of the attack but the pit bull was later found by its owner. No charges or citations were filed based on the officer’s discretion, according to police records. Because no charges were filed, The Post has withheld the names of the individuals who own the dogs.

The Chihuahua, who survived the attack, was taken to the Vicksburg Animal Clinic and treated for its injuries. The Post learned Wednesday the Chihuahua had returned to the vet recently.

Also, officials said the pit bull involved in the attack was euthanized following the early July incident.

From 2015 to July 2020, according to the Vicksburg Police Department, officers answered 51 vicious dog bite calls. In the same period, 23 cases of dog bites on humans involved pit bulls and 46 citations were filed.

According to police, a citation was not always linked with a report and residents can on their own file affidavits against other people for leash law violations. The annual citation totals, however, are not necessarily linked to dog bite reports.

The early July attack is an example of the problem with pit bulls, said Vicksburg Warren Humane Society Director Georgia Lynn.

“I call it a genetic flaw,” she said.

“Years ago, the pit bull was like the most popular dog in World War II,” Lynn said. “When women would go work in the munitions factory, that’s what babysat the kids.”

Later, she said, people began breeding the aggression back into the animals.

“People don’t understand how they can be so nice to people, but they’ll kill another dog or cat,” she said. “When you breed an aggressive dog to an aggressive dog and you continue to breed in aggression, it becomes a genetic trait — a flaw.”

The American Staffordshire Terrier is a pit bull, Lynn said, “They’re just bred right.”

She said the genetic flaw produced by aggressive breeding reduces the inhibition toward fighting.

“Most wild and domestic dogs and all other wild animals fight one another only to drive a rival away from food, a mate, or territory,” Lynn said. “These attacks end when one animal withdraws or shows signs of submission. This is the inherent trait called survival.”

Animals, she said, are not genetically wired to fight to the death but the pit bull is.

“In fighting breeds, the instinct to survive has been genetically removed through years of selective breeding and they will fight, without provocation, to complete exhaustion or death,” Lynn said.

“These animals are not doing what comes naturally. This behavior is totally abnormal from an evolutionary standpoint, as it requires suppression of an animal’s instinct for self-preservation,” she said.

Eventually, Lynn said, the aggression bred into the dogs is at some point passed on to other dogs of the same breed.

And while pit bulls may love their human partners, she said, their behavior changes once they see another dog.

She recalled a case in 2010 when dogs seized in the break-up of a dogfighting ring in Claiborne County were housed at the Humane Society.

The dogs, she said, were fine around the Humane Society workers.

“They loved us, but if they just saw or sensed another dog they would go wild,” she said. “If we were out walking them on a leash, they would choke themselves to get to that other dog.

“We even had a dog expert come to assess them and he said they were all too dangerous and his recommendation was to euthanize,” Lynn said. “He was from a pit bull rescue, but he said once they have that genetic flaw they’re always going to attack another dog.”

The director of a statewide animal rescue group disagrees that pit bulls as a breed are more dangerous than other dogs.

“Any dog can attack another dog and cause an injury,” said Pippa Jackson, director of Jackson-based Animal Rescue Fund of Mississippi, a no-kill shelter. “Any dog can have a prey (hunting) drive. Any dog can bite another dog, shake another dog, whether it’s a Chihuahua that’s doing the biting or being bitten. All dogs have the propensity to do this.

“Any dog can do this and it’s up to humans to be responsible dog owners. If the dog has a prey drive, the owner needs to be aware of it and do cognitive reinforcement training and be aware of where the dog is at any time,” she said.

The unfortunate fact, Jackson said, “Is the pit bulls always make the news these days. Back in the ’80s, it was always Dobermans; in the ’90s it was German Shepherds.”

Presently, pit bulls are the “dog du jour” when there is an incident, she said, adding when the pit bull got out, it was just being a dog.

“Pit bulls are not any more prone to attack than any other dog,” Jackson said. “There are more dog bite wounds from dogs biting humans in hospitals by Schnauzers than any other breed.”

When owners have animals, she said, they have a responsibility to be a good caretaker of the animal, understand what its issues are and know how to deal with them.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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