Colleen Lynn ran every morning as part of her routine until a leashed pit bull attacked her one morning, sending her to the hospital.
The incident turned the Austin resident into an advocate of dog attack victims and inspired her to launch www.DogsBite.org.
About 1,000 people need emergency medical care daily to treat dog bite injuries. Last year, Texas led all states in fatal dog attacks with five deaths, according to the organization.
DogsBite.org is a research and education nonprofit organization dedicated to the issue of severe and fatal dog attacks, according to the organization.
“Society doesn’t treat dog attack victims very well,” Lynn said. “We get blamed.”
Dog attack victims are frowned upon because it’s hard for people to believe a dog attacked without reason, she said.
There is a profound sense that if a dog attacked a person, it’s because they must’ve done something to anger the dog, she said.
Some research has been done of post-traumatic stress in children after being attacked but none on adults, Lynn said.
“It’s a universal thing that victims will say. You can’t be who you were before the attack. There’s a part of your identity that is simply gone,” Lynn said. “You’re left injured. Some of your friends walk away from you because they don’t agree with you. The post traumatic effects are very intense and that’s rarely talked about.”
Even if a physical scar isn’t left, victims will feel like they have been robbed of something, she said.
DogsBite.org focuses on Molosser dogs. Dogs that come from this group such as pit bulls, American Bulldogs and Rottweilers are more prone to aggressive behavior, she said.
People in general have to be aware that it’s not always the breed that plays a part in an attack, Steven Bartolotta, Arlington Police Department spokesman said. A dog may simply be territorial of its house or owner, he said.
Kelly Snider, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals of Texas behavior analyst, said to look out for “calming signals.” These signals usually occur as soon as a dog becomes aware that a situation may need “calming down,” according to www.greenacreskennel.com.
Behaviors include the dog licking its lips, licking its nose, turning its head away to avoid making eye contact or simply moving away, Snider said. If those things don’t work, the dog may become very still and stare at the person it is concerned about. At that point, they may charge or lunge at that person, she said.
“The challenge is that these things can happen with different amounts of speed,” Snider said. “What may take one dog half an hour to go through the whole process, another dog may go through the process in just seconds.”
If the dog is in a situation that is new to them, it’s difficult to predict how it’s going to react, she said. Snider recommends always keeping a close eye on the dog to become familiar with its ways, she said.
Simple guidelines of protection go out the window when attacked, Bartolotta said. If attacked, a person should try to become dominant by yelling to get the dogs attention. Try to stay as calm as possible and don’t run, Bartolotta said.
“No one is ever going to outrun a dog,” Bartolotta said. “If you try and run from a dog it’s going to come get you because that is a sign of weakness.”
Whether the person is a victim or sees a person being attacked, it is best to call 911 so they can dispatch animal services, he said.
“The police need to know and animal services needs to know there is an aggressive dog out there,” Bartolotta said. “Because if it attacked you, it can attack anyone else.”
There are state laws that allow people to defend themselves without repercussion, said Mike McCord , UTA Police acting assistant chief.
“Utilizing pepper spray or something like that could be justified depending on the circumstance,” McCord said.
He recommends this as a last resort only because it may anger the dog more, he said.