Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on July 7th.

The deadly dog attack that happened in Brocklehurst last week was by far the most commented-on news story in a long time. A witness said the victim had a seizure, which allegedly triggered an attack from the dog, resulting in the man’s death.

Never mind the breed debate, it was disconcerting to see too many people feeling sorry for the dog before they expressed the same for the human that was killed. Some were wondering whether the man did something to provoke the dog.

As a dog owner and dog lover in general, I felt uneasy to see the pity directed towards the canine primarily. Victim blaming is a horrible affair.

The prospect of the dog being euthanized proved more unsettling to many than the atrocity of the story. I get it; I feel sorry when dogs that belong to irresponsible owners get the blame for what is after all, the humans’ lack of responsibility. In this case, a person was killed by a dog.

No matter the breed, that is never acceptable.

It’s tough to find excuses for such a tragedy, and tougher yet to regain trust in an animal that attacked and killed.

Yes, dogs can be rehabilitated but would you trust one that killed a human?

Experienced dog trainers may want to weigh in on that, but I dare think not many people would want to share their home with a dog that killed humans or dogs.

I was never attacked but came close enough a few times.

There was this one yard with landscape fabric for a backyard fence. That time when my sons and I strolled through the back lane with our year-old pup and had that resident dog bark madly and almost jump over the fence snarling, was enough to convince me to never return there. Protective behaviour, yes, but what if?

Another yard in a different part of town had three dogs baring their teeth and slamming into the fence whenever someone walking by. The owner was keeping things ‘under control’ by yelling and hosing the dogs until they backed away from the fence. Again, what if?

To be clear: dogs are not at fault. They are animals and they act accordingly, but they have us to look after them and take responsibility for their behaviour. The many tomes written on the subject and the volume of information available online and via dog trainers is outstanding.

A basic level of dog behaviour knowledge should be required before adopting.

Sometimes it can take years to make a behaviour go away but if we care, we do it, right?

Also, having compassion towards dogs is a wonderful thing. I know that having a dog has made me a better human. But as dog owners, we ought to be able to ensure that no other being, human or not, will get hurt by our canine companions.

Part of our responsibility as dog owners is to never excuse their behaviour but to humbly assess and work with them to improve.

I got to see rescued dogs that were aggressive move from a dark fearful place to where they could socialize and trust other dogs and people. It is possible.

Hence my point about the misdirected pity. The fact is, and we ought to be objective because of the gravity of it, a dog killed a person. It could have been a child, or anyone else walking down the street that may have provoked the dog. But that’s not an excuse.

Dogs are invaluable companions, but they are animals and we have the responsibility to help them stay within the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. And just as well, we must learn to respect theirs. ‘Reading’ a dog’s body language is part of that responsibility.

Mistakes notwithstanding, killing another being – human or otherwise, is not acceptable and loving our dogs means we should never tolerate or excuse such tragedies. Or worse yet, blame the victim.