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Unexpected BS After Dog Attack

In our ongoing discussion of the dog attack Mr. Stix and I survived in November 2021, let's look at some full-blown baloney that happens. Hope you never *need to know this, but just in case, here you go. Learn more about some of the unexpected BS you may experience after dog attack (s). Post features both an infographic and details explaining my experience with each additional element of trauma.

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After dog attack infographic

1. After dog attack (s), animal control puts you under the microscope too.

Part of this stems, I think, from #3 below and how little the first responders, law enforcement folks, and animal control officer (ACO) asked or said (or apparently listened).

However, several days into the legal process, I received what felt like a snotty email from the ACO falsely accusing me of not having all 3 of my dogs licensed through the county. I would quote the actual email, but looking back through all the paperwork and communications triggers my PTSD. I showed it to friends, and everyone agreed it sounded snotty. 

At the point when I received the email, I still naively assumed things about the ACO's role and the ACO themselves, so I assumed some sort of technical glitch or database update lag since we'd recently renewed our county licenses for all 3 dogs for 2021. For the record, they've all been licensed since puppyhood and adoption in September, October, and November respectively.

In my reply, I suggested perhaps a glitch or lag caused the inaccurate information and politely provided proof of licensing. That proof went entirely unacknowledged until I asked (maybe a week later) if it'd been received and resolved. 

I never got an acknowledgement or apology for the inaccurate information or false accusation. 

Quite a bit later, when I'd realized #5 and #6 below, I received another email asking if Mr. Stix wore a leash when the 2 big / aggressive dogs attacked us. The ACO didn't recall asking me that. They didn't. However, in my verbal description of the attack while still in shock from the trauma, I specifically said I had him on leash (as always!). I even explained and mimed how and why I keep the leash in my left hand and my bait bag on the right, etc. It felt like they were fishing for something to blame on me or nail me on with citations or fines too. I fought the urge to say more, and I simply replied, "yes."

2. The aggressive dogs may have more rights than you do.

[See also #4 below.]

I remain infinitely grateful for the swift, comprehensive, and compassionate response by my doctor and her team, including immediate referrals for mental health support, x-rays which revealed my broken thumb, and such. 

The medical team instantly asked about possible exposure to saliva from dog bites or saliva getting flung into my mouth, nose, or eyes during the prolonged dog attack — since I also suffered blows to the face and a nosebleed. Description of the dog attack

My doctor showed me on her computer how the standard protocol after dog attack (s) included a series of several rabies prophylaxis shots unless we 100% knew the current vaccination status of the 2 dangerous dogs that attacked us. 

The ACO refused to give me that information, saying it wasn't required because my winter clothes prevented skin punctures. When I countered with the fact that the dogs DID BREAK Mr. Stix's skin in many places, the ACO told me that didn't count as a situation where the law requires disclosure of vaccination status of the attacking dogs. 

Those dogs had rights. I did not.

I asked several friends in the veterinary profession and animal welfare world (several of whom worked as ACOs in the past) for ideas on other ways I might figure out the truth about either disclosure rules or if the dogs were properly vaccinated. I really wanted to avoid rabies prophylaxis shots because it's a difficult and lengthy process. 

One pal suggested asking if the ACO would tell me if the 2 dogs were licensed by the county because that process requires proof of rabies vaccination. I did not ask that, but later legal information I received revealed that the dogs were indeed NOT licensed. [FYI - There's dog bite data I might write about at some point that shows the higher prevalence of aggression / dog bites / dog attacks from dogs that are not licensed.]

Ultimately, through consultation with both my veterinarian and my primary care doctor, I successfully avoided rabies prophylaxis shots, and I didn't die of rabies, so there's that. 

Still, it's incredibly frustrating — especially as a professional journalist — to have officials refuse to answer questions that feel infinitely reasonable to ask. 

Another local expert with decades of experience with various ACOs for our county that it wasn't just me or my situation and that "They're always @$$holes." This person was not surprised with how I was treated. 

3. After dog attack, interview / investigate don't mean what you think they mean.

Yes, really. Since I literally ask people questions for a living, my definition of the words interview and investigate apparently differ greatly from those in various roles in the legal process. 

  • Nobody in law enforcement / ACO roles ever asked to see Mr. Stix the day of the dog attack. 
  • Nobody ever asked to see our damaged winter clothing nor took it as evidence. When I brought it outside, officials declined to even look at it.
  • ACO interviews featured 1 and only 1 question for each of the witnesses. Surprisingly, that question was NOT about what people witnessed themselves during the attack. [eyeroll]
  • Prosecution team never contacted witnesses. I assume they would have, if the defendant had not accepted the plea deal and forced a trial, but who knows?

4. The first attack is free policy.

One of the hardest parts of surviving a dog attack is the way people throughout the process constantly minimize the experience by saying some version of "it's only their first attack" and how the laws get set up to make the first dog bite or first dog attack "free."

First of all, so that means it doesn't count somehow? Trust me when I say it absolutely [insert swear word of choice here] counts in my life. The ongoing physical and emotional injuries and trauma matter and to believe it hasn't happened before (and won't happen again ... eyeroll) is absurd gaslighting. I know what happened. I was there. I was the ONLY person who experienced the entire attack from start to finish. 

Second of all, we don't know it's truly the first-ever dog attack for sure because a large percentage of dog bites and attacks GO UNREPORTED. Since these 2 dogs attacked me and Mr. Stix in November 2021, I learned about dog who bit several people before someone finally reported it to animal control. So, it shows up as a first bite, but it absolutely is not. It's more like bite number 4 or 5. In that dog's jurisdiction, a "second" bite would likely result in being ordered for euthanasia. 

This is one of MANY reasons I'm proud of setting the legal precedent in hopes of increasing the chances of real justice and consequences for future victims of these dogs. Whether it's truly the first attack or not, it's on the legal record now! I believe they will attack again, given the opportunity.

If I'm wrong, they can think whatever they want about me. If I'm right, then everyone who didn't take it seriously is to blame and legally liable, including those choosing to keep dangerous dogs as pets. 

Sidebar for future victims of these dogs (and their lawyers), if you find my name in your legal research of our case, I'm available to testify as needed about these dogs. 

5. Just because people do their various jobs throughout the legal process does NOT mean they actually care.

Having never survived a random crime of violence before and coming from a family that includes some first responders and law enforcement folks, my assumptions turned out to be WAY off. I naively thought people in these jobs cared. 

There's a whole process to these legal things, and none of it's rooted in giving a rat's @$$ about you or even considering how that process itself causes additional damage and trauma. 

I am, however, grateful to the person who answered my initial call to animal control after dog attack who was so kind and to the paralegal who found our case in the court docket (after it seemed to be missing). I'm also thankful for the help of the victim's advocate from the district attorney's office who made sure I knew what was happening and that I could attend both court dates virtually and was available to provide behind-the-scenes information as needed during those hearings. 

6. While doing their various jobs throughout the legal process, expect people to minimize and gaslight your lived experiences.

As I mentioned in "Dog Attack Details Ready or Not," the dogs' owner had no idea the dogs were loose and marauding around the neighborhood. After learning what happened, they NEVER said a single word to me about the dog attack, but that doesn't mean I didn't hear things. 

Their response felt like a threat. It was audible and echoing from their residence about 1/3 mile up the road throughout our mountain valley for 30+ minutes. Hint: not fireworks.

When I pointed this out to law enforcement staying with me until ACO arrived, the 2 officers told me 2 things, both of which represent off-the-charts gaslighting:

  • What I could hear was not illegal
  • What I could hear had nothing to do with the attack

Initially, I assumed run-of-the-mill ageism and sexism. However, when my husband raced home to be with us after dog attack, the noises continued, and one of the first things he said to the 2 officers and the ACO once on site was "You understand that's meant to intimidate." And, they dismissed him too. 

So, you can be living threats in real time and still not be taken seriously. 

7. Throughout the legal process weird things happen and things fall through the cracks.

It's really more of an overload or mistakes issue and nothing personal, but it still frustrating, so keep track of where things stand with your case and the expected next step and then follow up to make sure that next step actually happened. 

In my experience, the most important steps to monitor include:

  • *All the charges filed / citations delivered
  • Case turned over to prosecutors
  • Court dates scheduled and attendance options provided
  • How you'll be informed of outcomes if you cannot attend

I strongly recommend attending yourself (virtually or in person) so that you know firsthand what happened. I say that because the official notifications I received by snail mail later felt misleading and confusing. Better to have real-world experience of those hearings. 

After Dog Attack ...

Probably more I could say here and other examples of ways dog attacks mess things up for survivors on many fronts, but that's enough for today. 

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

katie waterman - July 10, 2022

No one should have to jump through hoops and go through what you are going through!

patricia joron - July 8, 2022

Hi Roxanne,

My heart aches for you and Mr Stix. I hope it does not offend you but I will be praying for both of you that you both heal from this horrific experience. Hugs and love to you both.

Isabella Deisley - July 8, 2022

Hi Roxanne,
I would definitely write (or call) your State Representative’s office, asking for action regarding ACO.

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