Hero Cat Saves Boy From Dog Attack

Timing is everything.

As I was preparing to leave my home in Atlanta and head for the airport to catch a flight to Washington, DC for the kickoff event of the National Dog Bite Prevention Week, I got a call from the folks at HLN asking if I'd come into the studio to give my take on the same topic a lot of my friends and followers on Facebook have been asking about: the amazing hero cat who saved a boy from a vicious dog bite. You can watch my HLN interview where I break down the incident frame-by-frame here.

The video has gone viral, with much of the attention rightly going to Tara, the incredibly brave and assertive cat. But aside from the fascinating behavioral questions about this cat's protective instincts, the real story here once again ought to be one that's become all too common: dog bites.

Next week (May 18-24) is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, and this story is the perfect vehicle to raise awareness about the importance of this issue.

Although Jeremy Triantafilo, the boy in the video, was seriously bitten, thankfully his injuries are not life-threatening, as the damage was primarily limited to his leg. All too easily, however, this very serious event could have turned into an utter tragedy: if the dog had been able to attack the boy's neck or head, he most likely would not have survived. This video is an important reminder about how quickly seemingly innocuous events can turn into giant catastrophes, and also how quickly a dog bite can materialize.

logo-dbpw2014In a very welcome twist, in this case Jeremy's mother Erika was fortunately very close by and able to help the boy within seconds of the attack. Very often, these Youtube videos' tragic elements are needlessly compounded by negligent parenting, but not here. Children are left alone with dogs way too frequently, and this is the first ingredient in a recipe for disaster. Jeremy was not to blame, as he was not antagonizing or potentially even aware of the dog's presence.

So if the parent and boy didn't contribute to this, who is to blame? The owner of the dog that attacked. Clearly this dog has a very high and unpredictable prey drive, and this is compounded by a willingness not just to hunt, but also to act on these dangerous instincts. I don't know the back story of this dog, but I would be shocked if this dog had no history of aggressive or predatory behavior. As such, it's absolutely shameful that the owner allowed this dog to be off leash in public, apparently also unsupervised.

I feel so sorry for the boy in this video and his family, and I hope his recovery is a quick and successful one. As for the owner of the dog that attacked, I feel very strongly that in situations like this the owners should be held criminally accountable for their lack of supervision.

Watch Victoria discuss this dog attack on HLN.

In certain municipalities, dangerous dog laws are being re-written to focus on owner responsibility. I'm very proud of the relatively new law passed in my home state of Georgia that does just this, imposing stiff fines and significant repercussions for irresponsible owners.

During the National Dog Bite Prevention Week kick off event at the National Press Club in D.C., State Farm and other coalition members including the AVMA, The U.S. Postal Service, the American Humane Association and Prevent the Bite, stated how any breed of dog can bite, and any breed of dog can be a good family pet. Let's stop assigning blame for these tragedies on entire breeds of dog and instead focus on the individual cases and the human end of the leash (or lack of one!). Due to their progressive stance on not discriminating against owners of dogs based on the breeds they own, I'm very excited to be working with State Farm and other members of the National Dog Bite Prevention Week coalition to enhance awareness about the truth about pit bulls and the need to focus on individual behavior and owner responsibility rather than breed.

Until we as a society are collectively able to focus on the key elements of prevention, awareness, general dog safety and owner responsibility, these tragic attacks will keep happening. Luckily, thanks to a brave cat and an appropriately attendant mother, the boy in this incident survived with very serious leg injuries, but we've all seen this movie before, and I know we're all getting tired of seeing the unhappy endings.

Watch Victoria's take on the 'Hero Cat' video on HLN with Mike Galanos.

Read Victoria's Child-Dog Safety Guide.

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Positively Expert: Victoria Stilwell

Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer best known as the star of the internationally acclaimed TV series, It’s Me or the Dog. A bestselling author, Stilwell frequently appears in the media as a pet expert and is widely recognized and respected as a leader in the field of animal behavior.


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