"This breed of dog is known to be very gentle."
"What can anyone say, but that it's terribly tragic?"
J-Cast News (March 10) reported that death of a 10-month-old baby girl after having been bitten by a golden retriever in Hachioji City last week spurred a surprisingly large number of comments on news sites and bulletin boards.
On March 9, the victim was at her grandparents' home, four kilometers from her parents' residence. Earlier in the day, the child had been left at a nursery, but she developed a fever. Her mother was at work, so she called her parents, who agreed to look after the child at their home, as was the family's occasional practice.
That evening, the child was crawling around the living room on the ground floor when the grandparents' pet golden retriever snapped at the base of her neck. Her grandmother had been watching the child from close by, but had not been able to protect her from the animal. The grandfather quickly telephoned for an ambulance and the child was taken to a nearby hospital, but about two hours later she was pronounced dead.
The dog was a four-year-old male golden retriever weighing 40 kilograms. According to the grandparents, the animal was gentle and seldom even barked at strangers. There was a cage in the house for keeping the animal, but it was allowed to roam freely inside the house. The grandparents also own three other dogs, including an Akita and two smaller breeds. Next to their front entrance they had posted a "Beware of Dog" warning.
According to the Minami Ohsawa police station, the grandparents had told investigators that the child had not shouted at the dog or done anything to provoke it. Comments posted on news sites speculated as to the cause of the attack, such as "I wonder if the dog felt jealousy toward the baby" and "Even the most sociable dogs are known to have their bad moods."
The Social Health Welfare Department at the Hachioji Public Health Center, which is responsible for the welfare of pets such as dogs and cats, told J-Cast News' reporter that the dog's owner had not requested that the animal be taken into custody.
The reporter also asked if dogs biting small children was a frequent occurrence.
"Frequent incidents of biting aren't limited to small children," the official replied. "This is because many cases of dogs biting adults happen while the animal is being walked. Biting by smaller breeds such as Dachshunds and the like is more common than by larger dogs. I haven't heard of many cases of bites by golden retrievers."
The official was asked what he thought what caused the animal to bite.
"It may occur from a sense of jealousy, or the animal may not be walked often enough, and develop stress when being fed or when defecating. If it doesn't like someone, it might become aggressive," he said. "Dogs form a hierarchy toward the humans they encounter and it appears that their attitude toward children is different (from adults)," the official continued. "And animals, unlike humans, are guided by instinct. So while their owners might suppose them to be safe, they need to exercise caution. In the case of small children, it goes without saying that when allowing them to touch or play with a dog, adults need to exercise added caution to ensure the child's safety."
According to the Animal Welfare and Management Office of the Ministry of the Environment, in 2015, 4,208 incidents involving serious dog bites were reported nationwide, of which two involved deaths of people who were neither the owners or the owners' family member. Bites of owners/family members accounted for no more than 5% of the total bites reported, but the office cautioned that by no means should dog owners regard any dog as being completely safe.© Japan Today