Big breed dogs can't be trusted. Picture: iStock
Big breed dogs can't be trusted. Picture: iStock

Sorry, you can never trust a big dog


Australia woke this morning to the horrific news that Leo Biancofiore, 61, was mauled to death in Melbourne by a dog that was alleged to belong to his son.

Mr Biancofiore's wife Donata was also reported to have been seriously injured by the dog as she went to her husband's defence.

Very few details are known about what happened - even the dog's breed has been variously described as an American staffordshire terrier and a pit bull. But that hasn't stopped the usual armies of dog apologists flooding social media in defence of a dog that just killed a human being.

"I have an AmStaff and he's the sweetest baby with my children and us!" wrote one shocked commenter on Facebook.

"Staffies are the best pets to have, and to have this happen is incomprehensible!" cried someone else, demonstrating a very loose understanding of the word "incomprehensible".

Then there were the at-home experts who are convinced that the dog must have been provoked in order for it to have done the thing that dogs were originally born to do, conveniently forgetting the thousands of recorded dog attacks that happen because someone is simply walking down the street.

Dog attack victim Leo Biancofiore. Picture: Supplied
Dog attack victim Leo Biancofiore. Picture: Supplied

"Feel so sorry for the doggie, something must have happened to set him or her off," fretted one Facebook user.

"People have to understand that it isn't the dog's fault, dogs only bite when threatened," pontificated another alleged canine expert. "Maybe someone kicked it."

And then came the people who believe that certain dog breeds suffer from a kind of unfair, discriminatory breed profiling.

"Everyone knows jack russells are more aggressive than staffies but if this was a jack russell it wouldn't even make the news!" hurrumphed one offended dog owner, airily glossing over the fact that a jack russell attack wouldn't make the news because no one would die.

Then things descended, predictably, into the usual "it's not a staffy, it's a pit bull", "It's not a pit bull, it's a staffy", "That's not a staffy, it's a cross breed" gibberish.

It's all so thoughtless. And disrespectful to that poor man who died and his wife who so valiantly tried to help him. And completely wrong.

I do not care if your large dog has the temperament of a cupcake.

I do not care if it's a dangerous dog breed or a kelpie or a doberman.

I do not care that your neighbour's chihuahua or dachshund or maltese terrier is an aggressive little terror that snaps at your ankles. That makes it an unpleasant dog to be around but it does not make it a potential killer.

And, no, I do not care that you think that a certain dog must only have behaved badly because it had a tough childhood or had its tail pulled.

All large dogs - and by that I mean any breed big enough or strong enough to overpower a person - have the capacity to seriously injure and even kill humans. All of them. And you take a risk when you bring one into your home.

The scene outside the home when a man was killed by a dog. Picture: Sarah Matray
The scene outside the home when a man was killed by a dog. Picture: Sarah Matray

Most of the time it may well be that the risk is, on balance, small enough for you to take the chance.

If you truly believe your large or dangerous dog has a mild temperament, and you value that dog highly enough, then perhaps you decide the chance is worth it.

If you take the time to socialise and train a dog that has been bred to hunt and fight to the point that you believe you've led it away from its natural, aggressive instincts, then sure.

You can mitigate the risk. But you can never entirely remove it.

A man died. And he died because whoever brought that dog into the home underestimated the very real threat that it posed.

Alex Carlton is a freelance writer. Continue the conversation @Alex_Carlton

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