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Yet another dog attack

Original post made by DogLover, Midtown, on Dec 8, 2006

I just read the story about another dog attack, this one at Hoover. I hope this highlights to every dog owner why you need to keep your dog on a leash. I am a dog owner and dog lover. I'm also a dog "respector." Meaning, I respect that they are not people, they are animals and can sometimes be unpredictable.

Nearly every day, I see dog owners walking dogs without leashes, or letting them off leash at Palo Verde school. I recentlly saw a woman walking a dog off-leash during school hours.

My dog hates dog parks, so I'm not really sure where acceptable off leash areas are, but I'm sure there are some around here - please use those places to let your dog off leash.

Comments (93)

Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 8, 2006 at 5:27 pm

Was this a recent attack? Where did you read about it?

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Atherton
on Dec 8, 2006 at 6:09 pm

This just appeared on the Home Page here.

Posted by Greg Martin
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 9, 2006 at 10:28 am

As the father of the boy attacked by the dog on Hoover school, I'd like to add my perspective to the story. First, I owe a thanks to everyone who helped out on the day of the attack. There were 2 adults, still unidentified to me, that rushed to the aid of my son, and I owe those two a debt of gratitude. I'd especially like to thank the soccer player who, combined with the owner, contributed enough muscle to pull the dog off of my son and then had the presence of mind to call 911. Also, I'd like to thank the boys who were playing on the campus that came to Sean's aid. All of these boys are either Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts, and I am quite proud of the actions they took in trying to minimize the severity of the attack. Despite facing the risk of personal harm from the attacking dog, they did what they could to pull the dog off of Sean.

Although it wasn't listed in the story, my son could have easily been killed. As it is, he has 8 staples, 1 suture, a fractured vertebrae, numerous puncture wounds, and bruises all over his head, neck and knees. For now, only time will tell as to how much emotional damage was done to him and the other children who had to witness the unprovoked attack.

Had I written the story, it would have been titled something closer to, "5-year Old Nearly Mauled to Death by Pit Bull Mix." Are we really to feel sorry for a dog facing death for attacking a child without provocation? From the title of the article, one would believe that the impending death of the dog is the newsworthy item. I also take issue with Sandi Stadler's quote, "Dogs should always be with their owner and on a leash and children should always be under direct supervision of their parents." The implication that I'm somehow to blame for the attack is laughable. If our kids aren't safe on our school playgrounds, where can they go to be safe? When the attack happened, I was about 50 yards away. Had I been closer, maybe I could have helped pull the dog off of Sean, but I doubt I could have prevented the attack. Also, let's not lose perspective - it was the dog owners duty to prevent the attack, not mine.

I love dogs, and until recently owned 2 myself. They were great dogs, and in their 15+ years of life, they never bit anyone. Nonetheless, I never lost sight of the fact they were dogs and were to be treated as such. So, for everyone out there with a dog, pit bull or otherwise, that thinks your dog is "special" and the leash laws don't apply to you, I urge you to think again and keep your dog on a leash when you are in public. Had you heard the screams of pain from my son as they were stitching him up, taking x-rays and such, it might have convinced you that the leash laws are there for a reason and no matter how special your dog is, you aren't above the law.

Posted by Alan Marcum
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 9, 2006 at 11:55 am

This one is so deserving of a letter to the reporter and the editor that I could not resist sending the following:

Dear Ms. Trout

I am shocked and dismayed at the headline you (or your editor) chose for your article on the recent dog attack at Hoover Elementary School. Why was it not something akin to, "Boy, 5, Recovering after Near-Fatal Dog Attach"? Is that not, really, the news story?

Yes, I'm a dog owner; yes, I'm a father: two each, dogs and children. I have tremendous empathy for the boy, his father, his friends and brothers, who all witnessed and helped fend off the attack. I have no sympathy whatsoever for the dog owner, who ignored basic common sense by letting his dogs, regardless of breed, off-leash in an elementary school yard during the late morning, when children were playing at the school.

I trust you'll print and post an explanation, with a more appropriate headline. I hope, in the future, that you'll use headlines that more accurately summarize the real story.

Posted by Theresa
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 9, 2006 at 1:24 pm

Greg, as a survivor of an unprovoked attack by a dog, I'm so glad that your son will be OK. What a nightmare. I got chills and tears reading your post. What a blessing those Scouts were at that moment.

I was also offended by the headline. Your son's story is the key component of this, not the dog's fate.

I hope he heals, physically and mentally, in the near future. I had to see a shrink for 3 visits to get through the post-attack PTSD. Every so often, I still have a panic attack around a dog that is misbehaving, but it's not as much as it was a decade ago.

I wish I could give your son a big hug and send him some healing energy. My best to your family.

Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 9, 2006 at 3:11 pm

This story is emblematic of the current law avoidance in Palo Alto. From sit-lie bans, overnight camping bans, urinating in public, dogs off leash...etc., there is NO enforcement, unless there is a loud complaint from a citizen.

Even though this sad story will cause some concern, we can all rest assured that dogs will continue to be left off leash in unlwaful areas (e.g. our City parks and schools). It will take a major lawsuit in order to get PA off its wimpy attitude, and stand up to the dog owners. Don't hold your breath, waiting for appropriate action in the meantime.

Posted by Eric Schuur
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 9, 2006 at 3:42 pm

As one of those present at the scene, here is my feedback to the Editor.

Dear Mr. Thorwaldson,

The incident described in Becky Trout’s story, “Dog faces death for attacking 5-year-old boy”, in the Palo Alto Weekly Online on December 8 was truly horrifying. I think a few words should be moved around in the title. How about “Five year-old boy faced death from attacking dog”. It is disappointing that your journalist appears to be trying to elicit sympathy for the dog’s plight in what was a nearly fatal dog mauling.

My son and I were there for the Cub Scout activity. My son was one of the boys in that group. They were doing what children ought to do on Saturday morning at an elementary school. They went out to play on the playground. To hear my son tell it, they entered the area where the dogs were to play on the play structure. They apparently had no concern about the dogs (why should they have? Most of these boys like dogs) nor was there any provocation of the dogs by the boys. I don’t know what sparked this attack. Perhaps the dogs thought this was their territory, having been taken there repeatedly. In any case, the attack that did occur can only be described as vicious. This was no nip on the hand. The dog attacked in a manner that I would liken to that which an animal uses to kill its prey. And, that could well have happened if not for the intervention of adults on the scene.

I applaud the owner of this dog for deciding to have the animal euthanized. Some unknown factor triggered aggressive and dangerous behavior in this dog. Now that it is known that this dog is capable of attacking children, it would be irresponsible to have it anywhere near children. The question would always be “when will it happen again”. We were all shaken by the event, adults and children alike. When I saw the wounds Sean suffered and contemplated the fact that it could have been my son I shuddered. It is best to take measures to assure that this cannot happen again with this dog.

The credibility of the Palo Alto Weekly has been damaged by the slant on this story. I would suggest that more diligent effort go into your paper’s reporting procedures.

Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 9, 2006 at 4:42 pm


Why are you focusing on the headline (as biased as it is) , when the essential problem is dogs off leash?

The way to stop this stuff is to enforce our current laws and rules.

Posted by Curious
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 10, 2006 at 12:52 am

It's time that the city council increase the penalties for dogs off lease - like fines of $500 per incident. The state should also pass a law making it a felony if anyone is hurt by an off leash dog, with jail time, and huge monetary fines for the owner.

I would like to see whoever gets selected as mayor for the next year make as a priority enforcement of many of these laws.

Another issue are dog owners who let their dogs poop on other people's property. They are so inconsiderate, and there needs to be a law against that as well.

Posted by another victim
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2006 at 1:03 am

I am so sorry for Sean -- and for his family. I hope he makes a full physical and emotional recovery. I was also attacked by a dog and it was terrifying. Hard to imagine what it was like for a little boy.

The dog's owner should be cited and made to pay Sean's doctor bills. He's responsible for the attack, Sean's injuries and the death of his own dog.

It's true that many Palo Altans are scoff-laws because they think they, and their dogs, are "special." Letting dogs off leash puts dogs in danger, too. They can get lost, run into traffic, get attacked by another dog, . . .

And yes, the Weekly article is shockingly off the mark!

Posted by Susan Martin
a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2006 at 10:13 am

I have a few questions concerning the attack on Sean Martin. Did the dog hurt his teeth when he chipped a bone in Sean's neck? Did the dog get bruised when he dragged and shook Sean? Was the dog traumatized when the 3 men took Sean's neck out of his mouth? Are these questions ridiculous? Of course, just as ridiculous ans the slant of the article.

Posted by DJ
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2006 at 10:45 am

This is every parents nightmare .. school campus is *supposed* to be safe for children - at any time - weekday, weekend, day or night, with (ofcourse) proper supervision. But when we say 'supervision' - most parents are thinking about protecting the children from adults (humans) and not animals ..

Can't the schools make dogs illegal on their campus? I am a dog owner and other than the 'share your pet' type of days in the school, I see no reason why my dog should go to the school campus. Yes, it sounds cute to say 'our dog wagged his/her tail when the child went to school and it was his way of saying bye bye' - but folks, however nice and kind your dog is - you got to remember children's safety gets a higher priority.

To the Martin family -- wish you guys a speedy recovery from this episode. Its not just Sean who is hurt during this episode, though Sean took the major brunt of the physical & emotional hurt, all of you have been traumatized in one way or the other. Sean's dad - watching your child go through the x-rays and other tests in ER and getting his treatment .. its a nightmare and I hope you never have to live through this again. Dogs need to be on leash, viscious dogs DO NOT belong in a residential community. (Yes, I love my dog, I know he would not hurt a fly, he is a great pet - but when he is on the streets, he is always on a leash )

Posted by When Mutts Attack
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 10, 2006 at 1:10 pm

Interesting how Mr. Martin wants to deem the dog a pit bull, when it isn't. Moreover, having no adults to supervise that group of kids was a mistake. Did Sean do anything wrong? Of course not and it's wonderful that he is recovering while what he went through was horrifying.

I didn't think the story was slanted, but it sounds like the reporter is getting as much juice out of the drama as possible, hence the headline and reputed slant.

I sounds like the dog owner WAS being responsible in that he/she was letting the dogs play offleash in an enclosed space and perhaps didn't know it was illegal to do so. Exercising dogs properly offleash is important, although obviously not as important as publisc safety. If the dog had behaved in a safe manner since they had it, they had no reason to think it would attack the young boy. Having it euthanized is the proper thing to do.

Posted by Greg Martin
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 10, 2006 at 1:11 pm

So your point "The Titlse SHOULD Be" is that rather than trying to restrain the dogs in our community, it should be the freedoms of our children that we restrict? Let the dogs run free, but cite anyone for allowing their children to be more than 50 yards away from their parent since bad things can happen?

Please tell me at what distance from my kid that the dog/dog owner/child molester becomes liable for their actions and I'm no longer "guilty" - I'd love to know what that distance is.

Posted by Better Headline
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2006 at 1:13 pm

Australian Cattle Dog Mix, which is what the dog predominantly is. People need to know that all dogs can cause injuries, especially to children. This means the beloved family mutt, the small dog, the medium-sized dog, the adorable puppy - the dog doesn't have to be intimidating looking, or of any of the breeds people deem bad.

Posted by Sounds like you feel guilty
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 10, 2006 at 1:19 pm

Of course childrens' freedom should be restricted. They're minors and that means that legally they have restrictions and that their parents/guardians are the ones utimately responsible. You mention citing parents, not me. Restrained dogs also bite kids, sometimes fatally. If the owner didn't know what the dog ws capable of, the dog being onleash may not have prevented the attack, either. The dog was a mutt with high energy and obviously, inferior bite inhibition, which is not a good combination. Cattle dogs are herding dogs, and herding drive is repressed and redirected prey drive. That's why the dogs nip at their charges. Sometimes their "wiring" is bad genetically or they have poor impulse control. Unfortunately, Sean has paid the price, as will the dog, the dog's owner & your family.

Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 10, 2006 at 1:21 pm

Better Headline,

PLEASE, PLEASE don't start in on the "save the pit bull" BS. Just address the central issue:


Do you keep your pit bulls on leash at all times? How about your mutts?

Question: What, in your opinion, should be the first-offense fine for owners who let their dogs off leash in PA, except for dog runs? What should be the second-offense fine? At what point should the owner be arrested?

Posted by Headline
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 10, 2006 at 1:30 pm

Reporters should stay away from irreponsibily naming a dog's breed when they are incorrect. The dog's primarily a cattle dog, not a pit bull. Perhaps you should focus on the bs the reporter was perpetrating, as it's inflamatory and slanted.

My opinion on dog law fines doesn't matter, because as far as I can tell, the fines are not currently up for a vote. Doesn't sound either, like the owner was ever caught with the dogs loffleash, so the fine doesn't matter at this point. The damage is done, but no further damage will be done by that particular dog, because the owner is doing the right hing - having the dog put to sleep.

Posted by Greg Martin
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 10, 2006 at 1:41 pm

I agree, this has nothing to do with pit bulls - it has to do with animals in general. I'm still waiting on the offical police report, but William Warrior, Animal Control Officer for the PAPD described the dog to me and the paramedics as, "a 45 pound, female pit bull mix." So call it a mutt, call it a pit bull, call it what you want, it still bit my kid.

As for, "I{t} sounds like the dog owner WAS being responsible in that he/she was letting the dogs play offleash in an enclosed space and perhaps didn't know it was illegal to do so." Last I heard, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Also, there are signs in the schoolyard saying dogs must be on a leash. What part of "allowing 2 dogs to run around off-lead in the kindergarten play area" strikes you as responsible?

Since nobody seems to have their facts straight here, look up PA dog runs sometime - right on the other side of Hoover School there is a part of Mitchell Park where dogs can legally be off leash. Here's a link showing how close it is to the school: Web Link

It's just insane to think people let their dogs run illegally on elementary school campuses when legal, city sponsored areas are just a few yards away, and then the community jumps in to defend their actions. I don't get it.

Posted by Maybe you should
a resident of Hoover School
on Dec 10, 2006 at 1:56 pm

quite reading the posts since they're obviously upsetting you. People have varying opinions, obviously, on all of this and just because your kid was attacked doesn't make your opinions right - they're just opinions.

Dog parks are a major hassle for many people, and more trouble then they're worth. The person with the 2 dogs made a mistake, and unfortunately, with nasty results. Now their dog and they are paying the price, as is your son. End of stoory - unless you sue, of course.

Posted by Greg Martin
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 10, 2006 at 2:30 pm

Well, at least part of the reason I chimed in on this story is because I'd like community input as to how to deal with the issue of dog attacks. Further debate as to who is wrong and who is right is fruitless.
I think people and dogs CAN peacefully co-exist in our community IF there are some changes made. I'm certain that I have the law on my side as far as the incident with my son goes, but how do we as a community move forward? Without a doubt, if we don't police ourselves, the lawmakers will. Once the frequency or severity of attacks reaches some threshold, action will be taken, and if I had to guess, it won't be actions that are favorbale to our dogs.

So an open do we prevent the next dog attack from happening?

Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 10, 2006 at 2:32 pm

"The person with the 2 dogs made a mistake..."

No, Maybe, the owner BROKE THE LAW!

I hope the father of this kid does sue...the City, for failure to enforce obvious safety laws.

Posted by DJ
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2006 at 3:19 pm

We can attempt to prevent a future mauling by simply accepting the leash laws - all dog owners have to accept the fact that their dogs can be off the leash only in their backyards, designated dog parks. This is not too difficult to implement ...

Dogs and children can and do need to live in harmony in the community. All the dog owners who think their dogs are harmless and can walk without a leash, please take a moment to read this story and put a leash around your dog when you take him/her out ..

No parent should have to go through such an incident ..

Posted by Bow-wow
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2006 at 8:50 pm

Answer to problem:

1) License all dog _owners_. Licensing available _only_ after a brief program of classroom instruction that covers proper care and training, and where participants commit themselves (in writing, punishable by law) to have their dog (and ALL family members who will handle the dog) attend a certified dog training program within 6 months of purchasing their dog.

2) Impose strict fines for dog off leash. First Offense: $500; 2nd Offense: $1000; 3rd offense: $2000, loss of dog until owner is re-licensed + all costs incurred by the city in maintaining the animal or transferring the animal to new quarters. One appeal is permitted for the first offense, to be brought to an examiner, in person.

3) Make it a felony to raise pets without a license, or to trade in pets without a license.

4) Better fund local animal control programs.

Posted by Alan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 10, 2006 at 9:52 pm

The dog run was right around the corner. This owner was using the Hoover play-ground as his own personal dog run to the peril of the kids playing in the kinder area. There are only two ways to get into Hoover in the evenings, so the dog owner was there by choice and not just passing through that area.

Kids playing on a enclosed school playground should NOT have to be looking out for dogs breed for aggression.

I wasn't bothered by dog owners taking there dogs off a leash previously, but this incident has changed my mind. It is time to
stop looking the other way when owner take the dogs off leash.

It is also time to ban agressive breed from Palo Alto, they have no business in an urban/suburban setting. The owners walking them down sidewalks seem to be on power trips, and these dogs are time-bomb waiting to go off.

Greg I hope your youngest son is alright. I think we know your oldest son from soccer about 5 years back.

Posted by Craig
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 10, 2006 at 11:43 pm

I think that even if you really believe your dog would be harmless under all circumstances, and I'm sure that many dogs really are, you should still set an example for others by following the rules and keeping your dog on its leash.

Just yesterday I saw yet another person using Palo Verde school as their own personal dog-run. Afterwards, they let their dog trample through the planting in front of someone's home. The dog seemed pretty friendly, and I'm sure wouldn't be harmful, but again, its just the principle of following the rules.

Posted by Leslie
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 11, 2006 at 7:21 am

Greg, I am so sorry for your child. I wish him a speedy physical and mental recovery.

No child should have to be attacked by a dog. This was so unnecessary. We have laws that are supposed to protect us. This is what I just do not understand about the cavalier attitude around leash law violations. The consequences can be very sad. No one wants to see a hurt child. No one thinks that a dog is more valuable than a child and yet this happens. We have leash laws, enforce them!

Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 11, 2006 at 8:52 am

I want to extend my sympathy to the Martin family, and to all the children who witnessed this event and are in some way affected by this tragic happening.

I also want to state that I do not want to advocate ever having dogs off leash at schools. I did start a thread in this Forum whereby I mentioned what the laws were in my sister's neighbourhood in Ireland whereby dogs could be offleash in parks at certain hours of the day, namely before 10.00 a.m. and for the hour before sunset. I thought that this idea was working well there and could be something that may work here. I did not realise how much opposition there would be and in fact was very surprised to see how many people did not want to share their parks with dog owners. I know the dog parks here are small, out of the way and not kept to the condition they should be for attracting people to use, plus there just are not enough of them. However, I did not in any way think that this should be included to school premises or playground areas in parks. In fact, for safety reasons, I believe that the playground areas in parks should be fenced in with child-proof gates, thereby making it impossible for children to get out without parents and dogs to get in with or without owners.

I feel that people will always abuse the present laws. I feel that the present laws could be changed to keep everyone happy. I think that dogs should be able to run free in a suitable environment and that the safety of our children must be paramount.

Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2006 at 10:22 am

"I feel that people will always abuse the present laws."


If they get stiff fines, they will conform with the current laws.

The problem with dogs running free in parks, other than the safety issues, is the sanitation issue. Most dog owners are concientious, and clean up after their dogs, but some owners do not. Kids playing in our parks should not be expected to have to patrol the grass, before they start their games.

Posted by Joe Q Public
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 11, 2006 at 11:59 am

What kind of reporting is this?

First off, your headline focuses more on the dog's plight than the child's.

Secondly, this dog is an ACD mix. Why on earth does every newspaper in the world just *have to get the word "pit bull" into an article about an attacking dog? The attacking dog in this case was a mixed-breed Shepherd or Cattle Dog mix, both of which are herding breeds with limited human bite inhibition. Are you really so dependent upon scare tactics that you can't write a story about a dog attack without getting the magic pit bull word in?

The bottom line is that there will continue to be dog attacks as long as there's clueless owners allowing their animals offleash.

Enforce your leash and licensing laws, watch bite stats go down. It's really that simple.

Next time a tragedy like this occurs, why not entitle it "Yet another offleash dog attacks someone."

Not sexy enough? Maybe you can then put "More on PIT BULLS!" and just put the breed standard in there for kicks.

Posted by Joyce
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Dec 11, 2006 at 12:59 pm

Next time a tragedy like this occurs, why not entitle it
"Yet another offleash dog attacks someone."


Thank you! This comment deserves to be repeated.

Posted by Tanya
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2006 at 3:04 pm

Mr. Martin, my sympathies go out to you and your family at this time. I was attacked by a German Shepherd mix as a child (bitten in the face), so I truly understand the pain and fear that your child has gone through.

I would like to point out though, that trying to inject the term 'pit bull' when it's not an accurate description of the dog really takes attention away from the important facts, and does all innocent children a great injustic. If it's an ACD mix, call it what it is. Any dog, of any breed can bite. People need to know that - I firmly believe that education will help to prevent children being bitten in the future.

Posted by Rita
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 11, 2006 at 3:12 pm

Finally had to write. I certainly hope this child recovers. I was bitten by a small off-leash dog the owner insisted was harmless. Obviously, my injuries were not nearly as severe, but it was still very unpleasant and painful The lesson here is all dogs should be on leash. However, is the Weekly insinuating that Sandi Stadler, a Palo Animal Services Supervisor, is incompetant? Or, perhaps, the Weekly reporters have in depth training in dog breed identification? That must be why they threw in the words "Pit bull" three times, in spite of Ms. Stadler's calling it an "Australian Cattle dog mix." Oh, that's right, the Weekly is more worried about dogs that may be pit bulls than the real problem: off leash dogs.

Posted by Rob
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2006 at 3:18 pm

My sympathies to the boy who was bitten, but I too am puzzled over the Weekly's use of the words "Pit Bull" in this story when the dog was an Australian Cattle herder mix. Unfortunately, this is more common than people realize: dogs of unknown breed or other breeds are labled as Pit bulls because that is the breed considered dangerous at the moment. Previously, it was rottweilers, before that dobermans, and before that German shepherds. Even a small dog can give a child a severe bite. Label the problem what it is: off-leash dogs, not Pit bulls!

Posted by Withheld
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2006 at 3:26 pm

What a horrifying story! As a parent of a 5-year-old myself, I can only imagine the terror felt by his father when the event occured. He is absolutely right, it was the responsbility of the dog owner to prevent the attack not the father of the boy. When we hover over our children in public situations we teach them to fearful rather than independent explorers. My daugther was pushed off the top of one of those tall corkscrew slides by another child. Luckily she was unhurt but, it was a far fall nonethesless. Was it my fault? No. Another thing that stuns me about this story is why in the heck people are still getting pit bulls! Maybe the breed is getting a bum rap, I don't know, but everytime I hear one of these stories a pit bull is involved.

Posted by Withheld
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 11, 2006 at 3:26 pm

What a horrifying story! As a parent of a 5-year-old myself, I can only imagine the terror felt by his father when the event occured. He is absolutely right, it was the responsbility of the dog owner to prevent the attack not the father of the boy. When we hover over our children in public situations we teach them to fearful rather than independent explorers. My daugther was pushed off the top of one of those tall corkscrew slides by another child. Luckily she was unhurt but, it was a far fall nonethesless. Was it my fault? No. Another thing that stuns me about this story is why in the heck people are still getting pit bulls! Maybe the breed is getting a bum rap, I don't know, but everytime I hear one of these stories a pit bull is involved.

Posted by Rita
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 11, 2006 at 3:58 pm

To Witheld - please note that Sandi Stadler, a Palo Alto Animal services supervisor, who should know, says the dog is an Australian Cattle Dog. So, why are you calling it a Pit Bull? Maybe because the irresponsible Palo Alto Weekly managed to include those words in its story?

Posted by Jay Thorwaldson
editor emeritus
on Dec 11, 2006 at 5:09 pm

Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.

The postings relating to the dog attack in Palo Alto Dec. 2 constitute an interesting, informative and often revealing discussion/debate about dogs, leash laws, responsibility and appropriate journalism.

Some responses:

First, putting the dog's fate first in no way was intended to downplay the severity of the attack or show favoritism toward the dog, any more than reporting a death sentence for a convicted murderer implies sympathy for the murderer.

Second, the fact that the attack could easily have been fatal -- as some postings (including the posting by the father, Greg Martin) point out -- is entirely appropriate to emphasize, as our follow-up story does.

Third, it is my opinion that the breed of a dog is a relevant fact in a dog-attack story, despite the hyper-responsive pit bull defense lobby. And a head animal control officer is qualified to provide an opinion on what kind of dog was involved. If it were a basset hound, that would be newsworthy also, perhaps even more so.

Finally, everyone is correct when they note that it is the violation of the leash law that is the proximate cause of the attack, along with the apparent improper use of a play area over time that may have given the dogs a feeling that it was their turf that was being invaded when the boys opened the gate.

The availability of a legal off-leash dog run nearby simply compounds the matter. But the bottom line is that the family and community both are extremely lucky, as Greg Martin indicates, that the boy was not killed.


Posted by William
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 11, 2006 at 5:24 pm

Dear Mr. Thorwaldson,
You state in your comment, "And a head animal control officer is qualified to provide an opinion on what kind of dog was involved." I agree. And, Sandi Stadler, an animal control supervisor stated in your story that it was an Australian Cattle dog mix. Yet, your reporter also called the dog a pit bull three times in that one short story. Why?

Posted by Dave
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 11, 2006 at 6:09 pm


I don't recall your newspaper demanding ENFORCEMENT of current PA laws and rules. As far as I can tell, you pick and choose, according the direction of the currnet PC winds.

The dog leash law has not been enforced for years. Did your newspaper ever editorialize that it MUST be enforced? Did you ever think about the libility issues facing the City? If so, please provide the example(s).

The sit-lie ban (Downtown) has been on the books for several years, now. Has your newspaper demanded that it be enforced? Just FYI, it is NOT being enforced.

The local 1-8 schools violate the state education code on a daily basis, by failing to provide the Pledge of Allegiance in home room classes, at the start of the day. Has your newspaper EVER protested against this violation?

You could put your reporters out on the street to see that the overnight camping ban is being violated on a regular basis. If you think it is a burden to your staff, I will go out tomorrow morning and provide the license plate numbers.

Jay, I am tempted to tell you to grow up and smell reality, but I am confident that you know the reality - you have just decided to ignore it, until something like this dog attack comes along.

Posted by Jay Thorwaldson
editor emeritus
on Dec 11, 2006 at 7:08 pm

Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.

For Dave: Try Aug. 30, 2006, from the Weekly's main editorial after a small dog was killed by an (on-leash) larger dog -- not even a leash-law violation:

"But the fact remains that any resident should have the right to feel secure when walking in Palo Alto, with or without a pet. Dogs off leash should not be tolerated and should be subject to immediate impoundment. Dogs likely to become suddenly aggressive need special training and careful handling.

"Statistics and name-calling aside, there is one simple fact that all parties should keep in mind: Everyone and anyone should be able to walk on community sidewalks, pathways or trails without fear of being accosted by someone's dog, whether they personally are the target or whether the dog turns out to be friendly or aggressive.

"Off-leash dogs, even gentle ones, trigger reasonable concern and sometimes acute anxiety when they come trotting or running down the street to greet your dog, or run up to your child. Even the approach of a friendly dog in itself can become a kind of emotional assault to some people.

"Dogs known to be aggressive, by breed or individual temperament, need to have special handling and their owners need to understand that their rights do not extend to intimidating others with their animals, intentionally or not.

"It's the city's ultimate responsibility to make sure that its streets and public areas are both actually safe and feel safe to everyone.

"In this case, the City Council should take a look at the new state law to assure that the city is doing all it can do in the area of both leash-law enforcement and prevention of aggressive-dog attacks, on pets or people."

I would say to same standard applies to children in a schoolyard as on any street, path or trail. As for public safety, I hardly think enforcement of a Pledge of Allegiance law or violation of a sit-lie ordinance or even overnight camping in a car on city streets rises to the level of a potentially fatal dog attack on a child in terms of enforcement priority.



Posted by anon parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 11, 2006 at 8:17 pm

Wow - my sympathy also to the child and his father, family, and friends.
it really would help if dog owners would be responsible and leash their animals and clean up after them. it is awful to have your front yard soiled by these animals. I suggest increased police enforcement. I also disagree with people who insist on bringing their animals onto school property.
it is not worth the risk to human and other animal lives if a dog being off-leash increases the possibility of being attacked by that dog (of whatever breed, I don't care!!)

Posted by Donna
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2006 at 8:41 pm

"Third, it is my opinion that the breed of a dog is a relevant fact in a dog-attack story, despite the hyper-responsive pit bull defense lobby." ==================================

Jay - Knowing a confirmed* breed ID is always interesting, but your story is confusing and deserves a raised eyebrow, In one breath the dog is an Aus Shepherd mix, then a Heinz 57, then maybe or maybe not a mix that includes pit bull.

It may have been a mix of all of the above....Or none of these breeds at all. At the end of the day, I'm sure even the animal control reps would agree that it was an irresponsibly managed, poorly socialized dog that hurt this child. Period.

Trying to target a breed or mix of breeds can be misleading and dangerous because it gives parents a false sense of security around non-targeted breeds, including their own pets at home: In recent weeks, kids around the country have been hurt badly in incidents involving mutts, labrador retrievers, and yes, a very scary recent attack by a cattle dog on two young girls in Oklahoma. Web Link Who knew?

But labs aren't bad dogs and neither are cattle dogs. As always, dog bites happen when a of a bad set of circumstances collide with a dog owner's irresponsible actions. Kids like Sean deserve our best efforts to keep them safe from problematic dogs. And readers are better served when news reports on bites focus less on speculation and more on proactive measures that we can all take to prevent bites and manage pets responsibly. For example, some good links to bite prevention info: Web Link

If anyone has a right to feel hyper-sensitive, it's the children who are depending on the grown ups to keep their dogs on leash, properly socialized and under control.

Sending best wishes to Sean for fast recovery,

Donna Reynolds
Director BAD RAP

Posted by Greg Martin
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 11, 2006 at 10:16 pm

Everything was pretty chaotic right after the attack, (as you can imagine), but my ears clearly heard that the dog was identified by the Animal Control officer as a pit bull mix. To my untrained eye, it certainly looked more like a pit bull than anything else. A number of the other adults present at the time agreed that it looked more like a pit bull than anything else.

So, if I can make a few points:

1) Any reference in the original report stating it was a a pit bull mix came from Becky Trout's interview of me.
2) If I had it all to do over again, I would have just said it was a dog, since enforcement of the leash laws is what I want to see happen. All the energy being put into debating the merits of any one breed isn't going to help prevent the next attack.
3) As I said earlier, I personally don't care what breed it wwas that bit my child. I don't have any agenda to push here, but any animal that attacks anyone is a problem. Whatever breed this was or wasn't, it took 2 adults to pull it off of the attack, and any dog that strong needs special consideration when being brought out in public.

Posted by David Riesel
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 12, 2006 at 12:20 am

As one of the Cub Scout leaders that was present on the day of the attack I'd like to get this thread back on track.

The issue is clearly the safety of our children and of the citizens of Palo Alto. Sean was seriously attacked by a dog that was attempting to KILL him. The first question that the animal control officer that attended the scene asked was whether the dog was shaking Sean, which he was. When I later asked him the significance of this question he explained that this is how these types of dogs kill their prey. According to the animal control officer they usually grab their prey by the back of the neck and shake them to break their neck. Given the power of the dog he would have certainly broken Sean's neck given enough time, which could have been as little as another 10 or 15 seconds. That's not much time between life and death.

Many of the people posting here seem to be getting very excited about the type of dog, and trying to place blame on either Mr. Martin or the newspaper for stating that it was a Pit Bull cross. The animal control officer who attended the scene identified the dog as a Pit Bull cross, but he was not certain what it was crossed with. In the days following the attack the officer's supervisor identified the dog as a cross of a different breed. Having been there and having had the dog stick its face into my face I can't honestly say who is correct, whether it is the animal control officer who has 27 years of experience or his boss, but I know that it is irrelevant to the facts of this case.

There were many victims of this attack. Sean of course suffered the most and unfortunately will continue to do so. The other four boys that were playing with Sean were also seriously traumatized and I know that they are still suffering. Having spoken with the owner of the dog I know that he was also in shock and I applaud his decision to have the dog put down without requiring the city and the victims to go through a dangerous dog hearing. I would applaud the owner more if he used this experience to become a dog safety evangelist. Other dog owners will pay more attention to a fellow dog owner whose short sightedness led to this attack which resulted in the loss of his pet.

All of us who at some stage in our lives have owned a dog know that sometimes it is not easy to be responsible for an animal, but we must be! The responsibility of pet ownership is not to be taken lightly. The leash laws are a minimum requirement of keeping us all safe. Dog owners must be aware that they must always be in control of their dogs when out in public, which in some circumstances means keeping the dog on a very short leash. I know that when I walked my dog there were times I could keep the leash loose and other times I had to keep her near me to prevent any threatening behavior. You may be "certain" that your dog will not harm anybody, or you may say "his bark is worse than his bite" and laugh off any threatening behavior, but in the end the owner must ensure that nobody feels threatened by their pet and they must take the appropriate actions to prevent any perceived threat - whether real or not.

Fortunately it looks like Sean will make a full recovery, at least physically, so we must now use this sad case to educate dog owners. I hope we will all use this to enhance the safety of our environment.

Posted by Withheld
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2006 at 10:24 am

On the threads about the teacher who allowed teens to drink alcohol in their home many of the respondents lambasted the PA Police for how they handled things, on another thread about remodeling folks are picking on their neighbors because of what their vision of a dream home looks like, another thread goes after neighborhood placement of garbage cans and this one has the PA Weekly labeled as irresponsible. Why in the heck do you folks live in Palo Alto anyway? You are obviously not pleased with how things are run! I can only imagine the rigid regime you'd all run if you had your way and it makes me shudder!

Posted by Observer
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 12, 2006 at 11:18 am

Jay Thorwarldson is pre-Diana Diamond and anti-pit bull.

It's wonderful that Sean is recovering and obvious awful that he's gone through what he has. Being restrained doesn't always prevent dog attacks - that's another scary truth. Being restrained by a competent dog handler is key, as is a kid being managed by a competent kid handler. Since the former didn't happen in this case, the dog was able to attack the kid. Not having kids under adult supervision is a contributing factor, as well. Interesting that Mr. Martin says that preventing the dog attack was the repsonsibility of its owner, but I disagree, since he's dealing w/the results of what happened.

Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 12, 2006 at 12:23 pm

I am willing to bet the ranch that this dig bite thing will play out as follows:

1. Public outrage, including editorials
2. Dog owners fight back and insist that they are being targeted by uninformed and possibly bigotted folks
3. More meetings with the Parks & Rec Commission
4. Bunch of hand wringing
5. Maybe, for a very short period, the animal control officers actually do hand out a few tickets. Then they complain that they did not sign up for police duties - they mostly just like animals and want to protect them.
6. The official City position will become 'respond only to specific complaints, do not enforce the law generally'
7. The editorials will laud the City policy as a 'reasonable response to a complex issue'
8. Time passes
9. Another kid gets bit (or killed)
10. Repeat of the above cycle

I am so confident that this will be the response, because we have already gone down this path in the past.

The only thing that will stop this cycle is a major lawsuit against the City for failing to enforce its laws.

Posted by craig
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 12, 2006 at 2:54 pm

I think its rediculous to incinuate that Mr. Martin shares any blame. Those of us who are parents probably all value the relative safety of a park or schoolyard. Its the perfect place to let kids explore and learn. They move pretty fast, and I think you'd get some odd looks if you put a leash on your kid.
I'm sure its fun for dogs to explore too, but dogs aren't our future scientists, teachers, artists, doctors and leaders. I'm pretty comfortable saying that when it comes to parks and schools - dogs are second class citizens.
I don't favor the death penalty for walking a dog off leash, but I would love to see some new signs being put up - sort of a "campaign" against off-leash walking. It wouldn't hurt to see the police hand out a few tickets when they can.

Posted by Cynthia
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 12, 2006 at 5:56 pm

This is a very sad accident. We should ask ourselves how we can prevent it from hapenning again.

My concern is: why are dogs allowed in schools, especially elementary schools? School is special place for children to learn, grow and play. It is not a place for dogs even they are on leashes at any time. Dogs can post danger and I am wonder if the school district should also do something about it to protect our children.

Posted by Concerned Mother
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 12, 2006 at 10:01 pm

The police do not enforce the leash laws. I once called animal control when there were dogs off leash at Duveneck (when one jumped up on the playstructure freaking out my kids), and they took about an hour to come. When they did come, they merely said with a mike something like "Dogs must be on leashes" and drove off! I don't think the schools are to blame, they don't like dogs running around either, it is the police. I have asked plenty of dog owners to put their dogs on leashes, and only one ever did so WITHOUT verbally abusing me. It is socially unacceptable to ask people to put their dogs on leashes, which is wrong. I realize most dogs are safe, but kids should not have to suffer for the few that are not safe.
I agree they need to increase the fines and enforce them. In addition, the consequenses should be severe for a dog owner that takes the risk (including civil and criminal judgments against them).

Posted by Parent and dog owner
a resident of Escondido School
on Dec 13, 2006 at 12:31 am

Dogs are normally not allowed on school campuses, regardless of whether or not school is in session. The reason is that serious incidents such as this one being discussed are common enough that it is a problem. Many PA campuses have signs clearly stating the law against dogs on campus, but far too many residents blatantly ignore the signs or law because they may feel it does not apply to them. Take the time to read the signs which ban all sorts of behavior on public school campuses and then do your best to behave accordingly. If you cannot readily find them on your child's campus, give feedback to your school. One last note: as a parent, it is horrifying for anyone to question the conduct of the child or parent in this case, and as a dog owner, it is clear that the responsibility of the dog lies with the dog owner.

Posted by nancy
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 13, 2006 at 2:38 pm

This past year we were in a park with our grandchildren when we noticed an unleashed Doberman in a pickup in the back. We called the police who were unimpressed - perhaps now they will be more interested. Sorry about the boy who was attacked by the dog..

Posted by Dick
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 13, 2006 at 2:41 pm

As a matter of justice:

(1) The dog's owner should be identified. He/she deserves public censure. (What city official makes this call?)

(2) The father should sue the dog owner. A large pain-and-suffering amount should be included.

Publicity of these actions would do a lot to discourage irresponsible behavior by dog owners.

Posted by Momof 2
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2006 at 3:06 pm

I've been worried about the unleashed dogs at Johnson Park for a couple of years now, at dusk there's often people throwing sticks and tennis balls for them. I have never heard of anyone getting bitten (yet). There's a sign in the toddlers play area saying no dogs, which only appeared after someone brought 2 unleashed dogs into the toddler area in the middle of the afternoon when there were kids present. Duh! What is it with these people??
This is an urban area and like it or not dog-owners, it's not suitable for anything bigger than a chihuahua. Yes, you should leash your dogs when they're out in public areas, you should clean up after them and you should keep them away from kids.
I also don't like all the dog owners who encourage my kids to pet their dogs -- it gives the kids a false sense of security around strange dogs.
I guess we all need to start calling the cops on owners who are letting their dogs run in parks, even if they're our neighbors.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2006 at 3:29 pm

Lets get be realistic here. All dog owners are being tarred with the same brush. Yes dog owners make mistakes. So do most of us every now and then.

We must ask ourselves why so many seemingly responsible people do irresponsible things.

Yes, dog owners are breaking the law when they take dogs off leash to play in parks. The reason they do it is to exercise their dogs and possibly themselves. It makes no sense taking a dog to a park by car to play in a muddy dog run. The dog runs are not in the slightest bit pleasant. We need better sized dog exercise areas with grass, seating areas, and water fountains. Even a small sized dog needs to run without a leash and play at its own pace. A tennis court sized area is not big enough. We need to devote a larger play area in several of our larger parks for dog owners to take, play and train their dogs. This does not need to be exclusive for dog use, joggers, or anyone else would be able to enter the area, but it should be gated sensibly. This would enable dog owners and others access, but young children, the elderly, nervous or those with allergies would be aware that this is an area where dogs are allowed to run loose. No one should allow their dog to be there without a responsible person, at least 12 years of age. Anyone there with a dog that is treating this place as its own territory should be reported to authorities.

If a dog is allowed to run free, generally speaking he is better exercised and will behave better at times when he is leashed or kept in his backyard.

Children should be taught never to pet strange dogs without their parents and the dog owners consent. When I owned a dog and a child asked me if they could pet my dog, I would always tell them to ask their parents permission first.

I have great sympathy for the Martin family and the other children present at the attack. I know that they are suffering in many areas. I hope that Sean, when he recovers, manages to overcome his understandable fear of dogs. Dogs do humanity a great deal of good. It is very unfortunate that the actions of a few negligent or mistaken owners make the great majority of dogs seem like the enemy in this story. I am very pleased that the owner of the dog in this story did the sensible thing in having the dog put down. Please don't think he needs to be criminalized forever for his actions. If he is as sensitive to the situation as he appears, then he will probably carry this guilt for ever. However, if he is ever a dog owner again, he should dog obedience classes and perhaps become an advocate for responsible dog ownership.

Dog owners are not our enemies. They are our neighbors and we all have to live together in harmony.

Posted by Cat lover
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2006 at 3:32 pm

I have one word for dog owners: MUZZLE

Prevent all dog-on-human and dog-on-dog bites, even when off leash!

Stop undesired consumption of many disgusting objects dogs put in their mouths.!

Quiet annoying yappy dogs!

Save a life, muzzle all dog breeds!

Posted by To: Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 13, 2006 at 5:42 pm

Thank you for your balanced, thoughtful post. Dogs aren't going away any time soon, and dogs and kids often go together. Unfortunately, that means there's the possibility of getting bit, or worse.

I am sure the dog owner thought they were being responsible - exercising their dogs in a fenced in area, with the dogs offleash to get a lot of exercise. There's a first time for everything, and indeed, if it ws the first time the dog had behaved so badly, it's terrible that it did so much damage, physically and emotionally, to poor Sean.

Posted by Grant Martin
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 13, 2006 at 5:49 pm

my little bro is on the road to recovery and hes overjoyed to get all that candy and cards. so thank you all for those who read this and support us in our time of need. :)

Posted by Martin
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 13, 2006 at 7:39 pm

What is happening to the dog owner? Is he in custody? Has he been arrested? Surely there must be some way he is held to account! Is he contrite? Has he been to the hospital to see the boy? Has he made restitution? The injured boy's father shouldn't have to sue. The owner should be a man and take responsibility.

Posted by long time bicyclist
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 13, 2006 at 7:52 pm

To the citizens of Palo Alto: Your Police Department will not enforce your wimpy leash laws. They are too busy harassing law-abiding adult bicycle riders who don't fit the desired profile. Bicyclists are easy pickings for the police, because we are generally unarmed and unshielded. By comparison, dog handlers are inherently armed. FYI, late afternoons there are usually several off-leash dogs running loose at Gunn High School. This is in the fields behind the tennis courts and along the bike paths.

Posted by dogowner
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 13, 2006 at 8:26 pm

My dogs and I sometimes join the group of dog owners who let our dogs run off-leash around dinner time at Johnson Park. I'm reading these posts closely and struggling to reconcile my deep sympathy for the boy and his family, my opinion that the dog should not have been off-leash in a school play area -- and the wonderful, community-building times I have experienced with the people and dogs at Johnson Park. The one post about setting certain times for dogs off-leash in parks (as done in Ireland, according to the writer) may make some sense. The post about dog runs being unappealing is certainly true; my little dog is scared in them and I find them gross! I also agree with all the posts stating that the safety of people, especially kids, is more important than exercising dogs. I hope that this tragic accident presents us with a chance to continue to figure out how to all (including dogs) live together in peace in the shared public spaces of our densly populated city.

Posted by a parent
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 13, 2006 at 8:49 pm

As a parent, such stories give me chills. I was particularly disturbed by the quote from the article implying that Sean's father was somehow at fault. The dog attacked school-age children on school ground! I felt that I needed to say something but I am very happy to see so many sensible comments from parents, dog owners, and other residents.

My kid goes to another school, and once in a while we see dogs running freely on campus as well. I hope the city gets serious about the leash law, before an even worse attack happens.

And I hope Sean and his family recover well from this terrible event.

Posted by Withheld
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 13, 2006 at 10:02 pm

What an unfortunate series of events! Unfortunate for everyone: the child, his family, the dog owner, and yes, the dog.

It seems obvious to me that a positive solution can be found to avoid the recurrance of such incidents, besides strict enforcement and penalties for owners of dogs off leash. That is, the City of Palo Alto could be petitioned to provide more adequate venues where dogs can be off leash and have the opportunity to properly excercise.

The Mitchell Park dog-run, for example, is too small and inadequately maintained. It's often very muddy and crowded; it doesn't serve its purpose well. Does anyone know what is the appropiate procedure to present such a request to the City of Palo Alto? I can assure you that if dog owners counted with appropiate facilities they (we) wouldn't be tempted to break the leash law in order to allow our dogs the necessary excercise.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 13, 2006 at 11:33 pm

The lack of response of the Palo Alto animal control director and police is outrageous. Why are there no charges brought against the dog owner? If possible, the city should be sued for ignoring public safety. By non-enforcement, they are agreeing that it is ok to have unleased dogs in children's parks and school yards.

I certainly hope the dog owner is sued. Only a large settlement might make other dog owners think twice before letting their animals roam free.

Also, why isn't the city interested in the income they could recieve by issuing tickets to these irresponsible dog owners. Especially if the fines are raised to very high levels.

Will parents and other concerned citizens have to band together, to hire private security guards to patrol the parks and school yards?

Posted by natasha
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Dec 14, 2006 at 5:39 am

My daughter was attacked by a "friendly" dog in Los Altos when she was 2 1/2. It ripped open her face in front of me. The owner was very apologetic in the heat of hte oment and later, when I asked her to pay the ER deductible, was defensive and announced thatthe bite was my daughter's fault.

I own 2 (friendly) dogs now, years later, and I am *very* careful about putting them on leash, holding them so children who wantto pat them can pattheir backs and stya away from their faces, etc. Homeowners are strictly liable for their dogs' attacks, and their homeowner's insurance costs more because of this risk. It also covers bites.

If the boy's parents want to sue, they will get a very nice settlement to compensate their son for his trauma. Actually, their son will get the settlement, to be put in trust for him until he reaches majority.

This is a sad event all around. It must have shocked the owner to no end (he wouldn't have had the dogs out of-leash if he had thought they were a risk) and I can't see that it was less than completely devastating to the child and his father, or the others who witnessed it.

Let's *all* learn the lesson in this, which is that dogs are pack animals and even the nicest ones are unpredicatable. We can love our own dogs like family, but let's remember that they are not, after all, human.

Posted by Be Real
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 14, 2006 at 5:46 am


Posted by green
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 14, 2006 at 7:56 am

starting at around 4pm on weekdays and all day on weekends, one can see offleash dogs in every city park and school athletic field. each afternoon i see offleash dogs at the jordan field right next to kids in soccer practice. animel services get involved only after a dog attack incident, otherwise they ignore the sistuation. part of the problem is due to a dire lack of dog-runs. as a dog owner, i always keep my dog on leash when out of my house, but i often see dog owners who won't leash their dog even when walking them on city streets. unless the leash ordinance is strictly enforced everywhere, including city parks and school athletic fields, an incident like the recent attack are inevitable and might end up in a fatality.

Posted by curious
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2006 at 9:39 am

Something that everyone should try is to e-mail the city council everytime you see off leash dogs, at a park or school, and demand that they have the police enforce the leash laws.

Posted by Mary
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2006 at 9:57 am

This is to Dick from Palo Verde. I disagree that the owner should be identified. Let the police and animal services take care of this. If the Weekly identifies him and someone should harass him because of it, he could, and should, sue the Weekly and any city officials who gave out his name. Of course he is at fault, but someone could try and injure him or his family bdcause of this and I'm sure the police are hoping to avoid any such incidents. I'd urge all parents to look at the links given in Donna Reynolds post about dog and children interactions. There is some great information there that could help keep children safe.

Posted by Dog Owner In Custody?
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 14, 2006 at 12:11 pm

Puhlease. It was an accident. The dog is dead. The boy is recovering from his serious injuries. Arrest the owner for what? It's a civil situation, not a criminal one.

Posted by anon parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 14, 2006 at 2:13 pm

unleashed dogs in children's parks and school yards are mentioned by Parent -- well, let me add to that, I had a relative who was horribly bitten by an unleashed dog years ago in an unprovoked attack -- and my relative was a grown-up who was 6'2 and 1/2" tall in height...he was out in public, just going down the street as I recall. I was a young child who was horrified to see my family member in pain. The dog was a dalmation. Unleashed dogs in public are a risk to all of us. I also call for real police enforcement.

Posted by Dick
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 14, 2006 at 6:53 pm

To Mary of Midtown:
I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think your argument against releasing the name of the dog owner is valid. The newspaper could be held liable only if it could be proved that the paper had a vendetta against the owner or carelessly misidentified him. We still have a strong element of free speech in this country.

Posted by DJ
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2006 at 7:08 pm

I have been reading about how the citations are not issues, how the leash laws are not enforced, how the dog owners should leash their dogs etc.

Can we, as a community, do something to get this started i.e. take a first step in the right direction? I don't think its possible to get all dog owners to obey the leash law, does anyone think if it is possible to make the City take the enforcement of these laws more seriously?

Can someone who is familiar with how to get things moving in the City, post some tips on this site? Maybe Diana Diamond or the PA Daily editor can help? It could be as simple as - send an email or letter to this address, express your views and opinions .. what is lacking right now, on this thread, is the information to get going in the right direction.

What happened to Sean Martin was horrendous. Whose fault was it - how does it matter now? What are we going to achieve by rehasing it again and again .. lets take a step to see that it never happens again to anyone - child or adult in Palo Alto.


Posted by formerDogOwner
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2006 at 8:24 pm

On Sunday Dec. 10th morning, I took a short walk with a friend in my neighborhood where I have lived for 25 years. As we walked along Webster, a large German-shepherd-looking dog came charging across the street barking and baring its fangs at my friend. I quickly jumped in front of her and confronted the dog, taking an aggressive posture that intimidated the dog and thwarted the attack. The dog owners then appeared and called the dog, although it subsequently attempted another attack. When I called out them that their dog should be on a lease, they told me to stop being unreasonable - "I was not hurt", and took what I considered a very belligerent attitude, prompting me to call 911. Police and animal control officer Jeanetter Washington showed up shortly after that, and I provided a "dangerous dog" report. I overhead the dog owner saying to the police how silly it was to be called out for this non-incident. I mentioned to these officials that I was not anti-dog, but resorted to this measure because the attitude of the dog owners was so belligerent, irresponsible and unsympathetic to what we perceived as a vicious animal attack, which could have been tragic for a child. This was the most threatening situation I have been in with a dog in my life.
Needless to say, I was shocked to read a few days about the attack on Sean Martin - exactly the scenario I was imagining with what I experienced.
So, at this point, I want to testify there is at least one more very dangerous dog (especially for children) in Palo Alto, and in my opinion, at least one more very dangerous dog owner. And, nothing will be done about it according to animal control until there is another attack. My sympathies go out to parents who are trying to keep their children safe in this city. Webster is a popular route for children going to Addison.
I would definitely support legal action against dog owners that intentionally take their dogs off leash illegaly, and action against the city, given they are not providing a safe environment.

Posted by SP
a resident of Stanford
on Dec 14, 2006 at 9:39 pm

My sympathies to Sean and the Martin family. I was bitten by a 'friendly' dog at age 7, and have never owned one myself. This perpetual problem can be dealt with, if the City chooses to do so:
1. License all dogs whose owners live in the city.
2. Require all dog owners to carry insurance. Dog health insurance is available- why not liability insurance?
3. Enforce existing laws- with staff funded by licensing fees.
4. Structure off-leash fines in escalating amounts, starting with $100.00 for the first violation.
Responsible dog owners can also set good examples for other dog owners who feel they are 'above the law'. Hopefully we will not hear of another incident involving an unleashes dog and a child.

Posted by former downtown north resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 15, 2006 at 8:17 pm

I used to live in the downtown north area and often took my son to Johnson park. I was always concerned about the dogs that were let off leash in the grassy area, mostly in the evenings. I once or twice asked folks to watch their dogs if my son was in close proximity and was almost always made to feel as if I had some sort of problem. I was just trying to be cautious and it was met with hostility every time.

I have since moved to Southern California, and we have the same problem here on our beaches. My last "run-in" involved a man with his dog running off-leash in the surf where my son was playing, in a "dogs must be on-leash" area. His response? "Well, I think you should put your son on a leash. What if he bites my dog?" What do you do in cases where the owner is more aggressive than the dog? I no longer approach dog owners on the subject and just leave the area when dogs are off-leash. Not worth it.

Posted by Ruth - new dog owner
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 15, 2006 at 10:13 pm

Could anyone please provide a list of dog-runs in Palo Alto, or places where dogs can legally be off-leash? I have used the Mitchell Park dog-run, but I often find that it's too crowded and muddy.

Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 15, 2006 at 10:40 pm

There is one in Greer Park. It is hard to find. It is near the parking lot and backs up to an office complex on Bayshore. Never seen anyone use it. It is smaller than Mitchell Park and I think there is grass there rather than mud.

Posted by Stella
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 16, 2006 at 2:45 am

Clearly this was a horrifying occurrence, and my sympathy goes out to the young boy.

I still have scarring where I was bitten in the abdomen by a spaniel when I was 4 years old. However, despite that attack, I was not traumatized, did not need therapy, and did not develop a fear of dogs. I even boasted about my stitches. I’ve been puzzled as to why any and every event in our society seems to cause trauma. I was living in the UK when I was bitten, and there was no hysteria around my treatment. No one involved seem to find it necessary to send me for therapy, nor did any one make a huge fuss or suggest that I might become afraid of dogs in general. As a result, none of these fears arose. Indeed, I grew up liking dogs, and now have 2 of my own.

Instead of clamoring that the child is now afraid of dogs, the parents would be well advised to introduce their son to a variety of dogs so their son can quickly overcome his apprehensions.

Posted by Bob
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 16, 2006 at 7:50 am

I respect the discussion, but am not moved to not allow my dog to run off leash. The dog has been an integral element to raising our family, teaching warmth, and caring. The dog also has its own desires to run across fields and chase squirrels. My strategy has been to go to parks or open space areas late at night or early in the morning. If I see anyone, I have been putting the dog on leash. The dog responds well to voice commands.

The tone of the discussion is so vitriolic, and denies any mutual accommodation. This is now the pattern of our Palo Alto culture -- we wonder how factional violence occurs in Iraq? At sometimes I feel our discussion in town square is not so far from that form of violence.

Dog owners now are in the often generated category: the "bad" citizen. They join those Palo Alto parents who might tolerate teens having a beer at their house (against the judgement of the majority) - in their judgement that hosting kids under their eye is better than them cruising the streets. The parents are scoff laws.

I will run my dog respectful of the concerns above. I only offer this "one-way" communication to a group that is stuck in their rhetoric on this issue. I am not lost on the need to be very careful when I have my dog off leash, and not to be tempted to have dogs and kids mingling in public places. The tragedy inspires me, and I will be even more careful. But I love watching my dog run in the park at night (another breach of the law) chasing the moon shadows while I get a break from the dishes and the day.

Posted by green
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 16, 2006 at 8:42 am

dogs need to run and people, children and adults, need to be protected from dog attacks. the solution, although not a perfect one, should be to allocate dog-run times at all city parks. how about 6-8 in the mornings and 6-8 in the evenings. he schedules should be staggered so people who want to take their kids to play at certain hours can find a park with no dogs.

Posted by Jenny
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Dec 16, 2006 at 2:02 pm

My deepest sympathies to you and your son. That sounds painfully traumatizing for him, and I wish him a quick recovery.
I personally think that the law that all dogs must be on leash in public areas should be strictly enforced as to prevent any further incidents like this. There should be a large fine, like $700, and if a dog does injure somebody, the owner should be punished far more than having the dog put to sleep. They should serve jail time as well.
Also, children should be able to run around the playground without having to worry about dogs mauling them. A dog off leash doesn't belong on a playground with small children. There was a dog park merely 200 yards away, so I don't see why the owner couldn't just walk over there and let the dog run around. It is none other than the owner's fault for this incident.
I love dogs, but they shouldn't be off leash around small children where they might attack them.

Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2006 at 2:35 pm

I know what it is like to "lose" my children at the park, for no more than 20 minutes or so, but my one pair of eyes on two young children can't be completely watchful 100% of the time, particularly when trying to get their drinks, or sand toys gathered up. Apart from this, watching for undesirables, both the two legged and four legged kinds, makes a trip to the park very stressful, not the relaxing time it should be. My children have "vanished" because they walk off to the water fountain or the nearby basketball hoop, or go kick a ball with some older children playing soccer. It would make a lot of sense to have fences around the playground areas at parks so that children were not able to wander off and off-leash dogs could not wander in. I know this is not exactly what this thread is about, but keeping children safe in a fenced in playground would make them a lot safer in my opinion. So many of our playgrounds are quite close to the roadway (I have no idea what bright spark decided that on their park design) that it scares me that one day some child will follow a ball or ride a tricycle straight into the road and get hit. Rather than keeping our dogs fenced in and away from children, lets also have the fences around the children so the dogs can't get in and the children can't get out. Many other countries follow this pattern and I certainly value children over dogs any day.

Posted by Becky Maguire
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 18, 2006 at 8:46 pm

Dear Greg and Sean,
I'm SO sorry to hear about this! I happened upon it reading the paper and was saddened to read about Sean. Please let him know that all his teachers and friends at CTC miss him and love him and we are sending healing thoughts his way for a very speedy recovery!
Becky Maguire

Posted by Alex
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 18, 2006 at 11:07 pm

Dear Mr. Martin,

For the sake of all other children of Palo Alto, please sue the city for as much money as possible. I don't think anything else will make the administration change or enforce the existing dog laws.
Lets put large dog owners on the leash!

P.S. I wish your son complete and speedy recovery.

Posted by Terry
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 19, 2006 at 10:03 am

I have to agree with Alex above. Many (most?) people who sue claim to be doing it as a public service, but are really just doing it to make money, in my opinion. But in this case, you would really be doing the entire city of Palo Alto a public service. As a PA resident and taxpayer, I'm sure any lawsuit would be indirectly coming out of my pocket, but I would welcome it. To hear the city officials say that they "may" issue a citation to the dog owner is just laughable. If the owner doesn't get punished in this case, I'm curious to know from city officials just what exactly you would have to do to get a citation.

Posted by DogLover
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 3, 2007 at 5:50 pm

It was amazing to watch this thread grow after my original posting. I think there were a lot of great comments. I'm sad to report that on a vist yesterday to Seale Park, there were 2 large dogs off leash. When one party did put their dog on a leash, it was to walk her into the partially fenced play area to wander around in the sand and walk on the play structures.

The people I see walking dogs off leash or letting the play off leash at parks don't seem like "evil" people. I just wish they would wake up and recognize the risk that doing so poses. The legal trouble they face will be nothing compared to how emotionally bad they'd feel if their dog caused an incident like the one earlier last month.

I certainly hope that the boy who was attacked is back to living a normal life now.

Posted by Tulley
a resident of El Carmelo School
on Jan 14, 2007 at 1:32 pm

On Friday I was walking through Mitchell Park just as children were arriving at Fairmeadow Elementary School for the day. Children were walking, biking and running through the park on their way to school. There on the grass near the parking lot, next to the toddler play structure was a woman throwing the ball so that her two large dogs could run and chase it. I could imangine one of the dogs deciding to run and catch one of the running children instead. It did not happen, but could have. I did not know those dogs, and I was struck by the thoughtlessness of the dog owner to let her dogs off leash at that place and at that time. As someone said earlier in this thread, there's a dog run just across the grass at Mitchell Park. I hope that dog owners who ignore the leash laws will be cited.
When my daughter was about three years old, she was standing outside of our house holding a piece of board. Our neighbor's dogs came bounding out of their house, hoping to play, I assume. When my daughter saw the German Shepherds running towards her, she became frightened and dropped the board. Unfortunately the board made a loud sound when it hit the sidewalk and one of the dogs, startled, bit her on the face. She is grown up now, but still has the scars on her face. Dogs, kids and the combination of the two can be unpredictable. Dog owners need to keep their dogs on leash when kids are present, whether or not it's required by law.

Posted by Greg Martin
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2007 at 10:01 pm

Thanks for all the great comments and support from the community. It was much appreciated. Just a quick update on Sean - he has fully recovered (physically at least). Big dogs and/or dogs off-leash still frighten him, but he's back to normal physically, although he does have some pretty cool scars he can impress his friends with when he gets older.

Thanks again. Greg

Posted by Dick
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 29, 2007 at 9:00 pm

Be careful. That owner is apparently still out there and he/she has another dog of the same type.

Posted by Juliet
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 29, 2007 at 10:11 pm

Dogs are expensive and getting a dog is a commitment of money and attention. Maybe dog owners and lovers should collect some money and improve the dog runs in the parks so that they will be more enjoyable to the pet and relieve the public of the financial burden.
Scofflaw dog owners should be dealt with, in addition to fines, a little public embarrassment would be good, as is the case with other crimes.

Posted by Gary
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 3, 2007 at 3:31 pm

I think I've seen the owner walking yet ANOTHER dog! I considered detaining him myself and making a citizen's arrest. (I am a licensed gun owner and former law enforcement officer.)

I hope the man doesn't cause any more harm. I also hope no harm comes to HIM, but hey "accidents happen"...

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