Posted Date: May 19, 2016
Experiencing a dog bite at an agility trial can lead to a variety of consequences - what would you do?
It's a beautiful day at an outdoor agility trial. You're sitting ringside enjoying your friends' runs, when all of a sudden you feel pressure on your left arm and there's a dog attached to it -- ouch! The owner calls the dog, which lets go of your arm -- thank goodness you were wearing a long-sleeved shirt, so the dog's teeth didn't break the skin. The owner apologizes and walks away with their dog.
Make no mistake, you have just been bitten regardless of whether your skin is or is not broken, sleeve torn or if there's not even a mark on your skin.
What would you do in this circumstance?
- Dismiss it as the dog being excited by the action in the ring?
- Find the owner and have a heart-to-heart talk?
- Report it to the show chair? Or to the proper local animal control authorities?
Let's try this scenario: Same beautiful day, same relaxed setting, but this time you see this dog grab the leg of someone minding their own business, sitting in their chair. To complicate matters, you find out the person just bitten by this dog is the handler's friend. What would you do then?
Every show committee has been provided with the tool to handle such occurrences -- the Disciplinary Action Committee Guidelines and reporting form. As outlined in Appendix C - Rules of Conduct & Disciplinary Actions, the host group as represented by the event's Organizing Committee and the event's judge(s) share in the responsibility for maintaining the standards of conduct outlined in this appendix. The judge has sole responsibility for determining when it is appropriate to excuse a dog and competitor from the ring, based on the rules of performance or for matters related to competitor conduct. The Organizing Committee, or DAC when used, has the responsibility to determine if misconduct has occurred and should result in expulsion of a competitor and/or dogs from the event.
What you should do is report the incident to the show chair so that the handler's and dog's actions can be addressed.
Many competitors will say they don't want to get anyone in trouble. What if this isn't the first time this dog has bitten someone without report and consequence? Anyone who is the victim of this type of incident, or who has witnessed this type of incident, but has not reported it, is just as negligent as the handler of the dog who continues to allow the behavior. Consider that the next bite could be to a child.
Reporting an incident as described above, altercations between dogs or event conduct by a competitor prejudicial to the sport is inarguably the most unpleasant part of an agility trial. However, it is critical that we take responsibility in doing so.
What will happen if a report is filed?
The DAC Guidelines provides a flowchart of steps based upon the severity of the incident and includes a checklist of actions. In a nutshell, the "accused," "claimant," witnesses and show committee are assembled to hear all sides to render a decision based upon guidelines in the USDAA Rules & Regulations.
When you see something that doesn't feel or look right but you're not sure, have a chat with the show chair or even the judge. Just remember, you may feel you're protecting the dog and handler, but the likelihood that a dog that bites once will do so again without behavioral intervention is strong.
Photo credit: An Eye on the House via photopin (license)