HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) - According to the Centers for Disease Control, around 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the United States each year. Animal control officers across Arkansas have differing opinions on how to curb the number of vicious dog attacks in their communities.
"A lot of people, they do not believe in putting their dog on a leash so we do spend a lot of time trying to educate the people that it's not only for the public, it's for your safety too," said Hot Springs animal control officer, Travis Paskell. "If your dog gets out and it bites somebody for whatever reason then 'sorry' is not the answer."
"What we continue to see, which is disheartening to all of us, is the kind of damage we're getting from these bites on humans and on other animals," said Hot Springs Animal Services Director Dan Bugg, who said he's seen an increase in the severity of attacks by what are referred to as "gripper breeds", meaning breeds that bite down and don't let go. "Sometimes the case is the dog doesn't do the bite and let go, the dog bites down and hangs on and that's where we get a lot of damage from rips and tears to skin of adults and children."
On November 21st, a bull mastiff attacked and killed Hans Kappen's wife in Hot Springs Village. He wants to see a law banning dangerous breeds.
"I don't care who these politicians are. Tell them to get to work and get off their (expletive) and get laws in place to get rid of dogs like this," Kappen told THV 11.
Some cities are already doing just that. North Little Rock, for instance, is one of 30 cities across Arkansas to ban a dangerous breed, specifically pit bulls. In the nine years since that ban has been in effect, the number of vicious dog attacks in the city has decreased dramatically.
"Our bite numbers, especially the severity of the bites, have gone down quite a lot," said North Little Rock animal control officer David Miles, who has owned 3 pit bulls himself. "From raising pit bulls, having pit bulls, knowing what they are and what types of animals they are and they can be, and then to see what they've turned into, it's hard for me to say this but I actually like breed-specific legislation. If people were having problems with Chihuahuas or if they were having problems with labs being vicious and attacking people I could understand them being banned but time and time again it comes to: they're pit bulls we're talking about."
Meanwhile, in Hot Springs, both Bugg and Paskell both say responsible dog ownership can be even more effective than breed-specific bans when it comes to keeping people safe.
"We're not after an breed specifically," added Bugg. "We want people to be safe in the community, we want people to be able to enjoy their lives, go out and ride their bikes down the street or sidewalk, go out and play in a park, walk their dog on a leash at night or in the evening or in the daytime and be safe and everybody get back home in one piece."
"By all means keep your dog confined," said Paskell. "Walk them on a leash, keep them confined to your property because the situations that's happening out here now could easily be you."