EXPERT OPINIONS

Dr. Michael S. Golinko, MD, MA
Dr. Golinko is the Medical Co-Director of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Craniofacial Program and an Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery at UAMS. He specializes in pediatric plastic surgery and reconstruction.

Interview with Michael Golinko, CBC Fifth Estate, September 22, 2017

Dr. Golinko says: “My experience in treating dog bites began during my plastic surgery fellowship in Atlanta. Our group covered the Emergency room at the Children’s Hospital, and we encountered a dog bite in a child just about every night. Because plastic surgeons deal with facial and hand injuries, we tended to be called for the most severe or debilitating injuries. I began to notice a trend in the dogs that were doing the biting, and one type of dog kept re-surfacing- pit bulls. Curious to confirm what we were experiencing, we initiated a study looking at 4 years of dog bite injuries presenting in the emergency room. Published in 2016, the study details the experience of over 1600 children bitten by dogs and is one of the largest studies published coming from a single institution. Our study corroborated what others world-wide have found- that all other things being equal, pit bull breeds and children do not mix well. Pit bulls caused over 50% of the bites to children requiring a trip to the operating room because of the severity of their injuries. Moreover, pit bulls were over 2 and a half times more likely to bite in multiple areas of a child’s body than any other breed.

“Pit bulls caused over 50% of the bites to children requiring a trip to the operating room because of the severity of their injuries. Moreover, pit bulls were over 2 and a half times more likely to bite in multiple areas of a child’s body than any other breed.” – Dr. Michael S. Golinko

“The only death in our study was, sadly, a 5 day old baby girl who succumbed to brain damage shortly after being bitten on the head by her family’s own pit bull. In my opinion, this was a preventable death.

“Just as a doctor’s first oath is “First, do no harm”, as a pediatric plastic surgeon, I am compelled to speak out and must advocate for child safety first above all. It appears to me that the rash of pit bull injuries has become a public health issue. However, unfortunately many hold the “right-to-own” as higher than the right of each and every child to grow up and live in a safe environment. What is striking is that the despite the numerous papers and studies that demonstrate essentially the same thing- that pit bulls are responsible for the most severe injuries, many still turn a blind eye. We also know from the data that between 75-90% of the time the biting dog is a dog known to the family. I say to those families or families thinking about getting a pit bull- there are plenty of other less dangerous dogs that also need homes that have much less concern for accidental injury. It’s like seat-belts- of course you could unbuckle going down the highway at 65 mph, and 9 times out of 10, you’ll get home safely without incident. But if there is an accident, wearing that seat-belt, though it may be a hassle, could prevent severe injury or even save your life. Owning a dog, any dog, is a completely voluntary undertaking and responsibility. There is no reason to subject a child or others to the risk of such a dangerous dog when there are so many other great breeds to choose from.

“Even in the best owners’ homes and the “sweetest of dogs”, if a chihuahua has a bad day, it is a very different story than the pit bull having a bad day and disfiguring a child for life.”

Dr. Laura Marusinec, MD
Dr. Marusinec is a Pediatrician currently practicing in Pediatric Urgent Care. She graduated from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1995 and completed her residency at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. She has over 20 years of pediatric experience.

After professional and personal experiences with dog attacks on children and pets and learning the extent of what she now considers an urgent public health issue, she has become an advocate for victims of dog attacks and their families.

Dr. Marusinec says: “After doing considerable research into serious dog attacks, hearing victims’ stories, and seeing photographs of children and pets killed or seriously injured by vicious dogs, I just can’t ignore this problem. As a pediatrician, I have dedicated my career to keeping kids safe and healthy. Dog bites are unfortunately one of the top reasons for a visit to the emergency room for children. While it’s true that any dog of any breed can bite, I’ve found many recent peer-reviewed medical studies that consistently show that pit bulls account for a large majority of deaths and severe injuries to children. In fact, in most studies they account for more than all other breeds combined. The American Kennel Club recognizes 174 different breeds of dogs in the US. To me, choosing a dangerous dog such as a pit bull or similar breed as a pet, especially in a home with children, just doesn’t make sense. There are so many other breeds that make wonderful pets but are much safer. Why take the risk? And besides the risk to those in your own home, choosing a dangerous dog puts your friends, visitors, neighbors, their pets, even postal workers, at risk. Dogs tend to escape their leashes, homes, cars, and even well-designed fences every day.

“I am a dog owner myself, and I donate to and volunteer with several different animal rescue and welfare organizations. I love dogs! But unfortunately, thanks to people breeding some over many years to fight and kill, for some dogs the risks are just too great to take them into your home. Some dogs, even if raised with love and proper training, can attack without warning or reason. While there are things you can do to try to keep your family and children safe from a dog bite, you can’t prevent all bites. And with dogs bred to fight and kill and to be muscular and strong like pit bulls, one slip-up can be disastrous, even fatal, especially for a child. And, by the way, there is no such thing as a nanny dog. The number one piece of advice I have for families with children and dogs is regardless of breed, NEVER leave a young child alone with a dog.”

Dr. Douglas Skinner
Douglas Skinner, D.V.M., is a 1972 graduate of Purdue University’s School of Veterinary Medicine. He has been a small animal clinic practice owner for 38 of his 44-plus years as a veterinarian. In addition to his formal education, he practiced at one of the largest practices in the state of Indiana, has owned four veterinary practices, taken thousands of hours of continuing education, did a short sabbatical two times at the prestigious Sloan-Kettering Animal Medical Center in New York City.

Doug says: “Given the argument that it’s how you raise them, then why can’t my bird dog fight in the pit successfully? Why can’t we make the pit bulls find and retrieve birds? Why can an eight-week-old collie herd? Because of years of breeding. And you can’t love instinct out of them, you can’t train it out of them.”

“Many of these attacks and deaths are not inner-city dogs, they are family pets raised from puppies. I will also mention that I DO NOT agree with the American Veterinary Medical Association’s stance on pit bulls.”

Liz Marsden
A native of Washington, DC, Liz Marsden worked in animal sheltering and rescue for nearly 30 years. She was a full time Certified Professional Dog Trainer from 2007 – 2013 and coached dog adopters in their homes and in group training classes since 2001. Her specialties included reactive and dog-aggressive dogs, herding and other high-energy dogs, using enrichment to solve behavior issues, and helping people understand the special needs of puppy mill dogs. She co-produced workshops, a DVD and booklet series to improve the lives of shelter dogs through training and enrichment. Liz has worked as a guest expert for Petfinder online training forums and as a presenter at Petfinder’s Adoption Option seminars. During her tenure at the Washington Animal Rescue League, Liz was one of the trainers overseeing the care and handling of some of the pit bulls seized in the Michael Vick case.

Liz was voted one of the top ten trainers in Washingtonian Magazine in 2006. She gave up dog training as a full time career in 2010.

“With the rise of the ‘no-kill’ movement in animal sheltering, we’ve seen a spike in the number of aggressive dogs placed into communities, with disastrous results,” Ms. Marsden says. “In particular, we’ve seen an average of 25 human fatalities each year due to pit bull maulings (64.4 % of all dog-related fatalities since 2005), which should be appalling to everyone. A catch-all group known as ‘bully breeds’, mastiffs and Rottweilers round out the vast majority of killings. But instead of placing regulations on dangerous breeds, we have lobbyists and legislators passing laws to protect dangerous dogs, not their victims.”

Liz hopes that the tipping point will come soon and that common sense priorities will return. She speaks out against the “pit bull propaganda machine” at every opportunity.

Brandi McNeely
Brandi McNeely is the daughter of an avid animal lover, forest ranger, and wildlife rehabilitator. She volunteered with her mother at the North American Bear Research Center in Ely, Minnesota where she learned to track bears for the center’s research. She then worked for a veterinary hospital before and after enrolling in the Oklahoma State Veterinary Technician program for a year.

Interview with Brandi McNeely, CBC Fifth Estate, September 22, 2017

After completion of a Bachelor’s degree, Brandi was employed as a veterinary technician for seven years before taking a position at an Animal Control facility where she worked as an Animal Caretaker. Her responsibilities included the behavioral assessment of animals. She administered temperament testing and conducted the Meet Your Match Program, performed animal euthanasia, and evaluated animals identified in bite cases. In the position of Rescue and Volunteer Coordinator, she identified area shelters and rescue organizations for animals that could not be placed out of the animal control facility. Often these cases involved extreme medical or behavior issues.

Brandi managed the volunteer program for the facility and trained and supervised volunteers. Under her direction, the entire volunteer program was revamped to include training programs and seminars to empower volunteers with better animal behavior knowledge before they began the hands-on portion of volunteering. While at Animal Control, Brandi wrote several breed information packets for potential adopters that outlined the pros and cons of certain dog breeds. She also was a regular contributor to the Animal Control newsletter.

Since 2014, she has spent the majority of her time supporting public safety measures for canines. Brandi McNeely writes all canine information for the Daxton’s Friends for Canine Education and Awareness website and is a regulator contributor to their Facebook page.