Talking Pets: There are two sides to every story about "animal attacks"

June 14, 2013 

The story jumped out at me as I read through the news Saturday afternoon.

"ALLIGATOR SHOT -- A Florida police officer has shot and killed an alligator after it became aggressive toward children throwing things at it."

The story elaborated: "The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported the incident happened early Friday afternoon at a retention pond. The officer was told several small children and two older ones had been throwing things at the gator.

"According to the police report, the officer called a trapper who said alligators longer than 5 feet are usually put down. When another officer and a diver showed up to assist, the gator reportedly swam aggressively to

ward them.

"One of the officers then fired a shot at the alligator's head. When they tried to pull the gator ashore, it thrashed around again and two more shots were fired.

"The alligator was more than 10 feet long."

On the surface, you would think, "Whew! That was a close call for those children and officers. Good thing they got that nasty gator."

But there are two sides to every story, and two things about this one stood out:

• The children were throwing things at the gator, whereupon the gator became aggressive.

• An officer fired a shot at the gator's head, and then when the cops tried to pull it ashore, it thrashed around.

I couldn't help thinking that, if those kids had just left the gator alone and high-tailed it out of there, the gator might not have become "aggressive" and the police would not have had to be called.

And if the police hadn't shown up with guns, the gator could have swam off in search of a tasty fish or duck.

Now, I know you're thinking that gators aren't pets and don't belong in a pet column. But this incident brings up an important point for parents everywhere, and the lesson does indeed extend to pets:

Teach your children to respect animals.

That means not throwing things at them, or kicking them, or pulling their ears or tails. Or even barking at them.

Last week while I was walking one of the Adopt-a-Bull dogs from the Animal Services downtown facility, I met a man while Cherry and I were resting on a bench in the shade at City Hall.

He was there to transact some business, judging by the clipboard of paperwork he carried, but he came to meet Cherry, who was doing her best impression of a frog, with her back legs stretched out.

We started talking about pit bulls and pit bull-type dogs, and he was totally sympathetic to the bad rap pit bulls get as being mean or dangerous.

He was sympathetic because one time he had a Chihuahua that was falsely accused of biting a child.

The dog had been tormented by the neighbor kids, who used to throw stuff at her. One day a pet sitter failed to leash the dog and let her out in the back yard, where she promptly ran next door to give the kids a piece of her mind.

One of the kids claimed the dog bit her, and the parents called Animal Services. The man and his wife had to spend hard-earned money to bail the dog out of "jail," and after that it was a constant worry that she would be accused again.

The dog was quarantined despite the fact that the child had no bite on her leg where she claimed the dog attacked her. Not a scratch.

There are two sides to every story, and whether it's a gator or a Chihuahua, unfortunately the animal cannot speak up in its own defense.

Confidential to Arlo

Happy birthday. I don't know exactly when your birthday is because you are what they call a "rescue dog," but I picked June 14 because it's my aunt's birthday.

Today you are 2. Here's hoping that soon you will slow down and smell the roses, as they say.

And quit being nuts for squirrels.

M.K. Means, Herald copy editor, can be reached at 941-745-7054 and followed on Twitter @Bradentonpets.

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