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Washington State Not Alone in Feral Dog Pack Problems

August 13th, 2011

It’s long been stated in the working world of the working Border collie that one never knows when the dog will “turn on.” By this we mean the point at which a dog’s instincts kick in and he shows interest in the stock.

However, that dog, without a handler who has taught and demanded behavioral parameters off-stock, continuously monitors behavior of the dog, and is knowledgeable about the fact that the dog is a dog and, if left unmonitored, can, and will, succumb to atavistic drives, can quickly change working interest into predatory interest. This is what has probably been the case in numerous feral dog & dog pack attacks this year.

Some dogs are just dumped. Others have owners who, instead of walking them, simply let the dogs out to run or ‘do their business’. For a few dogs this works. For many, and breed is not a determinant, depending on their temperaments, daily behavioral guidance, intelligence, and what they experience on their ‘walk-about’, this is NOT how one should teach social behavior for interaction with humans. The only behavior the dogs learn is to ‘pack up’.

Dogs fail to return home, or stay away longer and longer, and eventually discover each other and, voila`, a pack is born. It really is that simple. People may not WANT to admit it, but it really is that simple. Dogs learn from each other. What one dog doesn’t think of, another may, and when it comes to atavistic pack behaviors, dogs are quick learners. They’re just not behaviors that integrate into social interaction with people.

Even two or more dogs within a household setting can easily pack-up and it’s a very short step to turn feral. Dogs without solid behavioral parameters, set and maintained by humans, revert to feral very easily and quickly. It’s hard to imagine a Chihuahua going feral and probably, truth be told, smaller dogs would be a victim of something long before they could become feral. However, the genetics of the dog is still much closer to nature that we’d like to admit.

It was reported in the Huffington Post that a feral pack of 5 dogs had begun killing in late March of this year in a wide area about forty miles north of Spokane.

Residents were worried in the extreme and police reported they’d never seen anything like it. The dogs had killed goats, small farm animals, and even a 350 pound llama. The pack was rarely seen during the day and did most of their hunting at night. Residents denied knowing or accepting responsibility for any of the dogs.

Whether one likes to admit it or not, feral dogs, or feral packs, are not that unusual. Nor are their pack instincts and actions. Any dog can go feral under the right set of circumstances.

Humans often don’t understand what those circumstances are and actually, unintentionally, push dogs into behaviors and actions that only strengthen skills needed to survive in feral situations. Case in point, play time at the dog park. The rough-n-tumble, growling, physical contact, hard play that is often seen at the dog parks is greeted with joy by owners as ‘dogs having fun’. Wrong.

Feral Dog Fight NC

Dog Parks Hone Fighting Skills

Those engagements between dogs, the growly contact, the on-the-hind-legs, open-mouthed, “wrestling” they do, is actually a skill that is needed to be mastered for fighting and killing so needed in the world of the feral pack.

Lest anyone believe that only rural dogs tend to go feral, or that the Washington state pack is an anomaly, it should be noted that feral dog pack attacks are on the rise in the U.S.

Here is a list of what I’ve been able to compile:

Dec 8, 2010, Sundance, NM (Navajo Nation land near Gallup) A man, who suffered from seizures and had been taken to the hospital because of that problem the day before his death, was found lying on the ground.
Medical investigators’ report stated it was unknown whether the man “suffered a seizure before the dogs attacked or whether he was conscious when they started mauling him.”

Jan 11 Mt Vernon NY, A man in Westchester, NY waas attacked by a Rottweiler, pit bull, and a Wheaton terrier mix. Two of the animals were known to have been involved in an earlier killing of a neighborhood Yorkie. This was a group of dogs identified as from a local auto body shop.

Jan 14, Indianapolis IN, An east-side Indianapolis neighborhood has experienced a wild dog problem for nearly a year. The known pack of dogs struck again. “”They started coming after us and we made it to the porch and they were probably 10, 15 feet away from us and they were running full force at us,” Jeff Salsbery said.”

Feb 2, Detroit, MI, “…some estimates suggest as tens of thousands of stray dogs may wander the city’s 138 square miles. And Harry Ward, head of Detroit animal control, told the Free Press the problem has only worsened in recent years as the city’s economy bottomed out.”

Feb. 3, Augusta GA, Residents of Summerville, GA, say they are very concerned about a pack of wild dogs in their neighborhood.
“David Dunagan, the chairman of the Summerville Crime Watch Committee, said 15-20 cats and one dog have been killed since the pack of about five appeared two weeks ago.”

April 10, San Antonio TX, A pack of wild dogs attacked a woman jogger on the Trinity Campus about 10 a.m. The dogs did not resemble the image of the typical stray dog: They looked cared-for, resembled each other, however none had collars indicating ownership. “According to Vee DuBose, co-director of the Cat Alliance, San Antonio has hundreds of stray dogs, many of which run in packs.”

June 8, Cleveland OH, Kahmal Darby, 13, was walking through an east side neighborhood of Cleveland when a three-dog pack attacked him about 8 a.m. It’s believed the dogs could be abandoned-pets-turned-wild and are now a pack.

July 5, New Orleans, LA, “We have just received information regarding a pack of dangerous wild dogs in the Mid-City area, most recently in the 100 block of S. Scott St. The incident occurred on Monday, July 4th between 2:00 and 2:30 a.m. when a neighbor was awakened by a disturbance in their back yard and observed 3 dogs, one being a dark colored, huge rottweiler, the second a light colored German Shepherd mix and the third being a mutt attacking a neighborhood cat. The cat did not survive the attack…The Mid City Security District and SPCA have been notified, and Officer Frank has confirmed that this is the second report of a cat being killed by a group of dogs that match the same description in the last 2 weeks in the same general vicinity.”

Jul 8, Stonewall, Pontotoc Co., OK, Daniel Murray, out jogging, ran into six vicious dogs that brutally attacked him five times.

Jul. 16, St. Louis MO, “U.S. Department of Agriculture, defines a feral dog as “a domestic dog that has reverted back to the wild state and is no longer directly dependent upon humans for successful reproduction.” The feral dogs in St. Louis have never been touched by humans and form packs to help them survive in their search for food and shelter..”

Aug 2, Fayetteville, NC, “A company hired to address the wild dog issue removed six dogs over the weekend from packs roaming the city. They’ll keep that up for the next 30 days in a bid to eliminate the packs of dozens of dogs that have terrorized residents and pets…Many feral dogs are savvy to the standard cage traps used to catch them…Animal Services has ordered humane snare traps that…will be placed in the small tunnels the pack dogs use to move through wooded areas…the problem originates from dogs who are lost, abandoned or turned loose by their owners.”

Aug 4, Newport, TN A 10-year-old suffered a dog attack near his home. “Cocke County Sheriff Armondo Fontes told us wild dogs are common in this area, “You have a pack of dogs that are just neglected and left unattended by the owner. You have several people that live in this small area, and when these dogs are left to run loose they form a pack.”… The Cocke County Sheriff’s Department came back to the area and found six more abandoned dogs.”

Aug 6, W. Orange, NJ, “Police responded to call about an injured deer that appeared to have been attacked by three wild dogs on Mount Vernon Avenue…incidents of wild dogs chasing down animals and people has happened several times in the past when abandoned animals turn wild or breed in the reservations…police department was “aggressively pursuing” these dogs, setting up traps and trying to locate the animals.”

Feral is as feral does and while much is being touted about “educating” owners, dog trainers must bear the brunt of some of this onus. Current “socializing” methods being promoted via puppy class and through “play” by some trainers leave owners with a dangerous and inaccurate understanding of dogs. Education will not completely solve the developing problem of feral dogs and packs. It will, however, give the owners a better understanding of exactly what IS acceptable behavior and responses towards them, and the world at large, and how to teach and maintain it from the dog’s perspective.

(Sources available upon request)

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  1. From Steve Shaffer, August 14, 2011:

    Hmmm, could change a few words and have an article about the feral humans in England and how they “pack up”. A trainer once observed that dogs are a lot like people, that’s why we (can) get along together so well.

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