Fight for survival
By Hailey Eber
Ideally, late spring means blissful sunny mornings at the park for New York dogs and their owners, but that idyll can be instantly shattered when a dogfight erupts.
Dr. Brett Levitzke, medical director at VERG (Veterinary Emergency and Referral Group), a 24-hour emergency clinic in Cobble Hill, says there’s “absolutely” a rise in dogfights this time of year, with the nice weather bringing more people and dogs outdoors. “The city has been great about building these beautiful dog parks,” he says, but “they give more opportunity for dog interaction and therefore more dog bites and fights.”
Here, some tips from the pros on what to do if one occurs:
Stay out of it — physically
“The biggest mistake people make is they reach in and try and grab their dog,” says Levitzke, “but they can be bitten by the other dog or even their own dog — in the heat of the fight.”
Photo: Tom Haigh/Getty Images
Find a prop or distraction
“If there’s a hose or water nearby, sometimes that will break them up,” says Levitzke. If there’s no H2O handy, “Most dogs respond well to a good old loud, unabashed, sudden yell,” says Shannon Le Brun, founder of Waggy Walkers Pet Services in Brooklyn. “This noise from pet parents and caregivers has been proven to stop most of the fights we have observed.”
If you must step in . . .
“Grab ahold of the aggressor from behind, by the hips or back legs, and pull up so he’s on his front two paws,” says John Squires, owner of Wag Club, a doggie day-care and grooming facility in Brooklyn Heights. “It will likely put him off-balance and make him look back to find out what’s going on.” But, such tactics should be employed with great caution. “You have to remember the natural instinct of the dog attacking is to follow, so you’re just bringing them close to you,” says Levitzke, who also notes that you can cause significant damage to a dog’s hind end when pulling on them this way.
Check — and recheck — your dog for wounds
“It’s important to check your dog at least twice,” says Rachel Bowers, founder of Brooklyn Bark, a dog-walking service that offers regular pet first-aid classes. Right after a fight, adrenaline can constrict blood flow, masking injuries. A dog might experience severe bleeding only when it has relaxed sometime later. Apply pressure to any obvious bleeding wounds, and seek veterinary care even if injuries seem minor. “Even if there’s just one puncture, there can be a tremendous amount of damage to the muscle or body cavity,” says Levitzke. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Consider liability issues
If your pooch was attacked by a notoriously violent dog that clearly does not belong in the park, you may have a negligence case and be able to recover vet bills, says Kenneth Phillips, an attorney specializing in dog-bite cases and author of the e-book “What To Do If Your Dog Is Injured Or Killed.” Get the name of witnesses, establish that your dog was injured, and have a vet examine him immediately — wait a week, and any injuries could be blamed on something else.