Sunday, July 26, 2009

Taking a break

The Safe Life is going on hiatus while I concentrate on my home business of distributing greeting cards. I encourage you to join me on

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dog Attack

Photo: Tudor

In the US alone, nearly 5 million people are attacked by dogs every year, and 1,000 people go to emergency rooms every day as a result of a dog attack. Most dog's live up to the term "man's best friend." Others on the other hand, are dogs which belong to irresponsible owners who have neglected their dogs or who intentionally encourage aggressiveness can be truly dangerous. Even properly trained domestic pets can attack under certain conditions. Old dogs can be grouchy, females may be defensive about their litter, and others just do not fancy strangers and children. Some dogs might snap if subject to rough handling or play.

Dogs through millenniums of evolution are cunning, swift, agile, strong, territorial, and voracious predators despite domestication; even small ones have large, sharp teeth and claws and powerful muscles in their jaws and legs, and can inflict serious injuries. Large dogs can knock people down with the usual effects of falls from other causes.

If a dog does not have a connection to you as far as liking or respect or if the dog has been conditioned to be aggressive, or should you invade what the dog considers their territory, then the dog's natural predatory instincts will come out.

Warning Signs of Attack

Here is description of canine body postures.

  • Fear Aggression - a fear aggressive dog will have a tucked tail between it's legs, move stiffly, freeze still and have widely opened eyes.
  • Threat Aggression - this dog will growl, bark very much, raise their hackles (hair on back) to appear bigger, carry their tail low toward the ground diagonally or pointing it down vertically between it's lags. These are all signs of a very unsure and unconfident dog. Leave this dog alone as it will likely bite you if you go closer.
  • Extreme Fear & Threat Aggression - this dog will attempt to appear smaller by crouching down, tucking it's tail between it's legs while growling, snarling* and barking. These dogs are extremely unsure and unconfident of the situation. They very likely to bite, if confronted further. *Snarling is a dog scared stiff with their mouth closed while it growls and the dog may pull up it's lips, which makes a nose (snorting like) sound to the growling.
  • Moderate Fear & Threat Aggression - These dogs will also crouch down with barks and growling without any snarling. They aren't as unsure and unconfident as the one above, but they are still very dangerous to approach.
  • Low Fear and Low Aggression - A dog which is trying to appear bigger by raising their hackle (hair on back) to appear bigger, and carry their tail high (level with their body or higher) with a slow wag. These dogs will not likely be a threat toward people. They will only appear to be threatening toward people. They are confident and very educated about human behavior. They will usually bark continuously with a monotone bark, stand their ground and will attack only when they are provoked by a stranger who shows threatening behavior with anger and/or hitting the dog. The high tail is a sign that this dog has confidence. If your dog doesn't have a tail, you can only go by their constant bark with no growling.

How to Avoid an Attack

From, here are some excellent suggestions to deter or defend a dog attack.

  • Avoid eye contact with an aggressive dog.
  • If you are jogging, stop jogging and walk by the dog, avoiding eye contact and sudden movement. Avoid the temptation to rebuke the owner of an aggressive dog for allowing their menacing and unleashed dog to remain in your direct path. Aggressive dogs are often a reflection of their owner's character. If you notice the aggressive dog unleashed again, contact the police with a good description of the dog, the owner and time of day. Try to remember the dog's name if it was called during your presence.
  • If the dog runs towards you exhibiting aggressive behaviour (growling or barking), stand your ground without sudden movement. Brace yourself and command the dog as if you were its owner: "No!" "Down!" "Sit!" "Stay!" Do this repeatedly. Do not raise your hands in a fight stance prematurely as this may antagonize the dog and you might lose your one chance at stopping the attacking dog through commands.
  • If the dog is small and presents no danger for your neck area you may want to try to kick it. A good blow to the nose or to the body will stop most small dogs.
  • If a large dog attacks, take a fight stance with one leg in front of the other to maximize balance and protect your inner body. If you are athletic, you may want to use your foot as a primary weapon. This response could mean jeopardizing your balance. Should you fall, you lose your height advantage to a dog.
  • A large dog may lunge for your throat. Protect this area of your body first and foremost with your arm tucked into your throat as far as you can without pulling back.
  • Punch the dog on the nose as hard as you can. Twist or pull the dog's ears. The dog's eyes are another soft spot which you should attack if required to defend yourself. Another strategy is to kick the dog in the rib cage. This will wind it and could stun it enough to ward off any more attacks. Yell for help. Yell "Call 911, I am being attacked by a dog."

Children and Dog Attacks

Normally children a child's first best friend is often the family pet. Yet we often forget that dogs are natural pack animals that obey certain rules and expect others around them to follow the same rules. We have to teach children to follow certain rules around dogs.

First rule for adults to remember is to properly supervise children around dogs. Unsupervised children are far more vulnerable to a fatal dog attack. From Safety Around Dogs the reasons for attacks against unsupervised children:

  • Dogs are much less likely to attack a child in the presence of an adult, particularly in the presence of the owner.
  • In the event that a dog does attack a child in the presence of an adult, the intervention of the adult often prevents the attack from becoming a fatality.
  • Children, because of their small size, are usually not able to sustain an attack until help arrives. Many adults survived severe dog attacks simply by virtue of the fact that they were able to sustain and fend the dogs off to some degree until assistance arrived.
  • Children often engage in dangerous behavior (approaching too close to a chained dog or trying to hug/kiss an unfamiliar animal) that a supervising adult would have prevented.

Go over these rules from doggone safe with your children.

  • Do not hug a dog, put your face close to his face or lie on him. Do sit beside your dog, rub his chest or scratch him on the side of the neck.
  • Do not play chase-me games with a dog. Do play hide and seek - where the dog has to find you or an object that you hide.
  • Do not play tug-of-war games with a dog. Do play fetch with the dog - teach the dog to trade the object for a treat so he won't try to tug.
  • Do not lean over or step over a dog. Do respect a dog's resting place - go around him or ask an adult to move the dog.
  • Do not bother a dog who is sleeping, eating, has a toy or bone, is hurt or has puppies. Do wait for the dog to come to you for attention.
  • Do not dress a dog up in play clothes. Do dress up your stuffed animals.
  • Do not hit a dog or poke him with a stick. Do be gentle with dogs.
  • Do not pull a dog's ears, tail or fur. Do scratch the dog's chest or the side of her neck - most dogs enjoy this.
  • Do not stick fingers or hands into the dog's crate. Do ask an adult to let the dog out of the crate if you want to pet her.
  • Do not play in the dog's crate. Do play "in and out of the crate" with the dog - toss a treat in - dog goes in to get it - dog comes back out - toss another treat in etc (with adult supervision).

Download the AKC Handbook about Safety Around Dogs. It offers games and discussion topics that you can go over together with your children.

Man's Best Friend

Dogs are truly man's best friend. By some estimates there are over 52 million dogs in the United States and the majority are loyal, loving pets owned by responsible, caring owners. However we still have to remember that dogs are animals that operate with a different set of rules than we do.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Photo: Hazel Mote

There was a high profile violent carjacking locally lately. The carjackers led the police on wild chase, with one being killed in the crash and the other escaping on foot. It seems that there are almost daily reports of cases across the nation of carjackings.

Carjacking is really nothing new. Since the automobile came into existence, there were people who forcibly took the vehicle away from its driver. I watched the new Dillinger movie yesterday and there was a scene of Baby Face Nelson taking a car away from a FBI agent. You can imagine, it didn’t go well for the agent. What we call carjacking became noticeable in the 1980s after the media published stories of bizarre situations and the violence associated with the crime. There were cases of infants in the carjacked vehicle or the driver was abducted and either raped and or killed. The media coined the phrase "carjacking" and the crime of auto theft was elevated to something almost, I hate to say more hip. With this publicity, other criminals "copied" the crime of carjacking. Another reason carjacking has become more widespread, is that it is harder to steal a parked car. With auto alarms, wheel locking systems such as “club” type devices, and engine starter disabler, it has become far easier to wait until someone opens the car up and take it from them.

The Scout

As in most other crimes, there are two parts to the event. First the criminal is scouting for a victim. He is going to look for an easy target. The criminal is going to look for a lone victim, the car will probably be in a parking lot with a lot of coming and goings so there are plenty of victims to choose from, the lot will have an exit on a busy street. Being near a freeway ramp is also a good location. Sometimes they will stake out an intersection with a stop light as to go for the car when it is at the red light.

How to avoid being chosen as a victim

Wear a seat belt – Besides being good safety practice that will save your life in an accident, a seat belt makes it hard to pull you out of the car. For a carjacking to go smoothly, they want to get you out and them in as quickly as possible. A carjacker will go for someone not wearing a belt over someone with a belt because it is less hassle.

Immediately Lock Your Doors When You Get In Your Car – Once again, their aim is to get you out and them in as quickly as possible. If your door is locked this will maybe cause them to go onto someone else.

Look around before You Put the Key into the Lock – Always have a sense of presence around you, especially in the before mentioned high risk areas. Don't park in isolated or visually obstructed areas near walls or heavy foliage. Make sure you can see around you when you park the car. If it is dark or will be dark when you return, make sure it is well lighted. If someone tries to approach, change direction or run to a busy store. As you enter the car, you are most vulnerable and that is when they will make their move. Watch out for young males loitering in the area (handing out flyers, etc). If there are people hanging around the area, go back to where you came from and ask for an escort.

Get In and Out of the Car Quickly - Make it your habit to always start your car and drive away immediately. Don't be a target by turning your back while loading packages into the car. Don’t rearrange the packages in car. Put them in and go. Children tend to take awhile to get into the car. You should teach and practice with them, getting into the car quickly.

Drive with a Sense of Presence - In the city, always drive with your car doors locked and windows rolled up. Do not open the door or roll down the window to talk to anyone. There is nothing important that someone coming up on the street is going to tell you. If it seems to be an honest emergency, only roll down the window two inches. When stopping at a light or a stop sign, leave yourself maneuver room. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to see the back tires of the car in front of you. This will give you enough room to pull away. You might need to go over the curb, but given the choice of a violent carjacking and driving over some lawns you should choose the lawns.

The Attack

If you are unfortunately are chosen by a criminal as a victim and he attacks you, you need to remember that this is not usually a professional, high brow criminal. These are violent predators that will do what it takes to get what they want. Your car is not your life and you should make every effort to get away. Let them have the car.

How to Minimize the Attack

Throw Your Car Keys – Make them choose between you and the car. Most of the time, they are after the car and will take it and go. If they are after you, at least this gives you the knowledge of their true motives and can shape your defense from that point on. It is best not to throw the keys at the attacker. First, it gives them the keys relatively easily. Secondly, you could anger them and even if they were originally only after the car, they could become violent towards you.

Beware of a Bump in Traffic - If you are bumped in traffic, by young males, be suspicious of the accident. If there is an accident, wave to follow, drive to a gas station or busy place before getting out.

If your car and belongs are taken – Immediately cancel your credit cards. Do not go home alone. Have people (more than one) accompany you home. Change the locks before doing anything else. Sign up for an Identify Theft watch service. Most of the criminals who steal cars are tied into identity theft rings and your belongings will go instantly into the hopper.

If it starts to go bad, by this I mean if they look like they are taking you, you first need to try to get away. Don’t threaten or attack them. They typically do not work alone and will in most cases be able to overpower you. Never agree to be kidnapped. Drop the cars keys and run and yell, “Call 911, I’ve been carjacked.” If you are taken and are forced to drive, consider crashing your car near a busy intersection to attract attention. Try to get away at every opportunity. Let bystanders know what is happening so they can come to your aid and call the police. . Once you get away, yell “Call 911, I’ve been carjacked.”

Hopefully, this has made you more aware and you will see a potential scene before it becomes one. The important piece to take way is to be aware of your surroundings and go with your gut if it feels wrong.

As a final item, carjackings do not always end badly. Below is a clip of an attempted carjacking where the victim was able to get away and summon help. In this case, it did not go well for the carjackers.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Keep Your Child Safe

There is a child missing in the local area. She left a friend’s house around eight in the evening for a short walk home. The search has been going on for a few days. I hope that she will be found safe, but as each day passes, hope fades. My son is beyond the age of worrying whether he could be adducted, but my wife and I tried to make him as a safe as possible while he was growing up. has some good steps for parents of younger children on keeping them safe:

· Know where your children are. Have your children tell you or ask permission before leaving the house and give them a time to check in or be home. When possible, have them leave a phone number of where they will be.

· Help children learn important phone numbers. Have your children practice reciting their home phone number and address, and your work and cell phone numbers. If they have trouble memorizing these, write them down on a card and have them carry it at all times. Tell your children where you will be and the best way to reach you.

· Set limits on where your children can go in your neighborhood. Do you want them crossing busy roads? Playing in alleys or abandoned buildings? Are there certain homes in your neighborhood that you don't want your children to go to?

· Get to know your children's friends. Meet their parents before letting your children to go to their home and keep a list of their phone numbers. If you can't meet their parents, call and talk to them. Ask what your children might do at their house and if they will be supervised.

· Choose a safe house in your neighborhood. Pick a neighbor's house where your children can go if they need help. Point out other places they can go for help, like stores, libraries, and police stations.

· Work together with your neighbors. Watch out for suspicious and unusual behavior in your neighborhood. Get to know your neighbors and their children so you can look out for one another.

The constant theme is to be involved in your child’s life, to know where they are at and take part in activities. Besides keeping them safer, it will pay dividends in the building your relationship with them.

If believe your child is missing, suggests these steps:

· If your child is missing from home, search the house checking closets, piles of laundry, in and under beds, inside old refrigerators—wherever a child may crawl or hide.

· If you still cannot find your child, immediately call your local law-enforcement agency.

· If your child disappears in a store, notify the store manager or security office. Then immediately call your local law-enforcement agency. Many stores have a Code Adam plan of action--if a child is missing in the store, employees immediately mobilize to look for the missing child.

· When you call law enforcement, provide your child's name, date of birth, height, weight, and any other unique identifiers such as eyeglasses and braces. Tell them when you noticed that your child was missing and what clothing he or she was wearing.

· Request that your child's name and identifying information be immediately entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File.

· After you have reported your child missing to law enforcement, call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children toll free 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).