WATER VALLEY – Panola Street resident Megan Kingery went for a walk last Wednesday. What started as the first day of a new exercise routine, turned into a frightening experience when a dog attacked her.
The incident occurred as she walked on Wagner Street. The dog bolted off a porch and ran toward Kingery. “It was snapping and growling,” she said. “I tried not to make any sudden moves.”
The dog bit Kingery and then ran off. She returned home and called police. They responded immediately, she said. “They said it was a pit bull.”
Police told her to go to a doctor and get checked out. Although the bite was minor, the physician described rabies symptoms, which is routine after a dogbite.
The whole experience was very scary, Kingery reported. “I should have stayed on the couch that morning.”
Meanwhile, police located the dog on Wagner Street. Since it had been involved in another attack and no one claimed ownership, police attempted to shoot the dog.
After an apparent miss, the dog took off and police, along with Animal Control Officer William Beard, searched the area. Workers from the cemeteries and parks department assisted, looking in wooded areas and backyards, hoping to find the dog so it could be tested for rabies.
Although the dog could not be found Wednesday, officials thought they had found it on Wagner Street three days later, on Saturday. Police were able to kill the dog, and its head was turned over to the Health Department for examination at a lab in Jackson. This dog is believed to be connected with a string of problems in town.
Kingery contacted the Herald late Monday and said she had just been told that the dog killed Saturday may not be the one involved in her attack. She learned she may have to identify another dog that was spotted on Wagner Street.
She will get her opportunity after the following Tuesday afternoon, May 6, when the dog that actually bit Kingery was located on Wagner Street at the orginal scene of the bite location. The dog was taken for observation, and will be returned to its owner in 10 days.
At the end of this period, the owner is required to update the dog’s rabies shots and pay a fee.
Kingery is one of more than 4.7 million American who are bitten each year. About 800,000 who seek medical attention. Half of these are children. Of those injured, 386,000 require treatment in an emergency department and about a dozen die. The rate of dog bite-related injuries is highest for children ages 5 to 9, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Local officials are in agreement that dogs running at large are a major problem in Water Valley and Yalobusha County. However, limited resources hinder animal control efforts, said Police Chief Mike King.
For example, Beard is only a part-time animal control officer. His full time job is supervisor of the city’s cemeteries and parks department. He is paid $5 for each dog he catches.
On Monday, Beard transported nine dogs to the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society Shelter just south of Oxford. Over a one-month period from April 5 until May 5 of this year, the shelter took 52 dogs from Yalobusha County.
The Oxford-based group does not charge the city or the county for accepting animals, according to Julie Davis, shelter director. The operation is funded mainly by contributions and some money received from Lafayette County.
Shelter workers go to great lengths to find homes for the animals brought to the shelter, but the “kill rate” (number of animals euthanized), is just under 80 percent, according to a published report.
Beard works under a city ordinance that clearly spells out the responsibilities of dog owners. But, not all dog owners are responsible, he said. “If people would keep their dogs up, we would be alright.”
That advice is echoed by Debra Boswell of the Mississippi Animal Rescue League located in Jackson. Along with keeping dogs inside or in a fenced yard, her group recommends mandatory spay or neuter programs that are connected to licensing laws.
“For every person born in this county, there are 15 puppies and 45 kittens born,” she said.
Boswell noted that pit bulls or mixed breed dogs that resemble pit bulls are currently in the news. But, she added that laws should be passed to cover vicious dogs in general and not single out a specific breed.
Because of the problems currently associated with pit bull dogs, her group will not allow them to be adopted from their shelter. She said the breed has become victim to “thugs” who use the dogs for fighting.
The MARL works with the Mississippi Drug Task Force because the type of people involved in dog fighting are often involved in other criminal activity such as illegal drug sales.
“No one needs six or seven pits in their back yard,” she said, “That should raise red flags for law enforcement.”
Pit bulls and mixed breeds that resemble pit bull dogs have been seen at large in Water Valley and have raised concerns. However, figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services state that in a single year, nearly three times as many Mississippi children died from maltreatment (abuse/neglect) than the total from all dog attacks in Mississippi over the past 43 years.
But, Boswell is quick to point out that dog attack statistics can’t be ignored. There have been four really bad attacks in recent months in Mississippi, she said.
The week of May 18-24 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, and the American Veterinary Medical Association, the United States Postal Service, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are each working to educate Americans about dog bite prevention.
Here are some basic safety tips that should be taught to children:
• Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
• Do not run from a dog and scream.
• Remain motionless (e.g., “be still like a tree”) when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
• If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still (e.g., “be still like a log”).
• Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
• Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult.
• Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
• Do not disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
• Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
• If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.