"Girl's Face Ripped Open By Dog" Why Is This Headline Unfair?  

"can large dog owner expect further stigma perpetuated by irresnponsible journalism"

A nine year old girl was mauled by a Bull Mastiff in Manchester recently. Typically, local press have taken a hold of the story and sensationalised it, but is this unfair to responsible dog owners who cannot be accountable for the actions of people who enter their property?

Using words such as 'unprovoked', 'vicious' and 'had her face ripped open' are likely to elicit horror in the readers of the Manchester Evening News, the newspaper in question.

The truth of the matter is that the nine year old Girl, was unsupervised whilst playing in her street and entered a garden where a two year old Bull Mastiff bitch was eating. The dog's owner claimed that he saw the girl playfully grab the dog whilst she was eating.

Whilst K9 Magazine considers incidents such as this as serious, we also regard press sensationalism surrounding them as unhelpful and provocative. Is it right for the publication to insinuate that the owner and his dog were at fault, even though they conceded that the dog was under control, on his owner's property and effectively the victim of the attack was trespassing.

The girl's mother is calling for the dog to be put down. K9 Magazine believes that she is the most at fault for allowing her daughter unsupervised access to a dog without the owner's knowledge or consent. She told local press that her daughter had gone to visit her friend who lived at the property where the dog was, but this does not constitute fault on the part of the owner. The owner, Mr Mohammed Saleem is not liable and is not obliged to have his dog destroyed, but the damage of course is already done.

One youngster needed plastic surgery and will have to live with the scars and trauma of the attack, but also the dog itself has been branded vicious and dangerous by a mother whose negligence lead to the incident. Add to this the guilt and stigma that will follow the owner of the dog around.

The dog's owner Mr Saleem, who has three children of his own is said by friends to be devastated. Friends also commented to the Manchester Evening News that he had warned Courtney Walker not to approach the dog whilst she was eating.

Mr Saleem had no control over who entered his property, and he had taken reasonable steps to ensure that children behaved responsibly around the dog. Lindsay Walker, Courtney's mother is claiming that the dog should have been muzzled, despite the fact the dog was eating at the time of the incident.

Is it a vicious cycle that causes this sort of reaction? Has this mother been exposed to sensationalist journalism surrounding dog attacks and subsequently perpetuated the stereotypical reaction by calling the dog vicious and demanding it be destroyed? Thus giving the newspaper in question all the quotes they need to print another sensationalist story about a dog, a dog when all facts considered did what everybody should have expected it do when grabbed whilst feeding, and repeat the cycle.

Its owner had the dog fenced in, a child entered the property, approached the dog against the owner's advice, and now the mother, who failed to supervise or accompany the child is calling for the dog to put down. Is this part of the problem surrounding ignorance towards so called dangerous breeds?


Updated 9/02/08

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