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State and national aggressive dog registry needed

The attack came quickly.

One moment Logan Chaffee was playing in his yard in the city of Medford. The next moment a neighbor’s dog broke out of his fenced yard and was biting the elementary-aged child. Why the dog picked Logan as its target out of the others he was playing with is anyone’s guess. By the time a passing driver stopped and pulled the dog off him, Logan had received five puncture wounds from the animal’s sharp teeth, including one within inches of his eye.

Torn clothes can be replaced. Puncture wounds will eventually heal and scars fade with time. What endures is the memory of the attack and the loss of a sense of safety and security in your own yard.

For Logan the world became a scarier place that winter afternoon.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Nationally there are about 4.5 million dog bites reported across the country each year. The good news is that number has gone down compared to past decades. The bad news is that there are still 4.5 million dog attacks and that an overwhelming number of those attacks occur against children who will carry the physical and emotional scars for their lifetimes.

In Logan’s case, the dog was a fairly recent addition to the neighborhood, having been rescued from an out of state shelter and brought to the community the previous December. There have been reports that the dog had ended up in a shelter because it had bitten people in the state where it came from. The dog has since been re-homed out of state. The ways the laws are written now, we can only hope it doesn’t attack any children in its new community.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There are many reasons why a dog might bite someone. Some are unprovoked, while others can be justified. Regardless, the laws when it comes to how dog bites are handled are built on if there is a pattern of behavior and severity.

The challenge is that when a dog gets adopted from one area to another and especially across state lines the sharing of any bite history data is voluntary.

Wisconsin should create a registry of all dog bite incidents and have it follow the animal involved and reported to local law enforcement when an animal moves.

Wisconsin already requires dogs to have a veterinary check and quarantine when there is a biting incident reported. It would be fairly simple to add having the animal microchipped and added to a statewide database along with the case information. As with the sexual offender registry, the cost would be covered by the offenders, or in this case the offending animal’s owner as a responsibility of pet ownership. Ideally, this would be part of a national system so that someone looking at adopting or purchasing an animal from elsewhere would be able to quickly check to see if the animal has a history of aggressive behavior.

Wisconsin leaders must also ensure that the state does not become a dumping ground for troubled animals by requiring full disclosure on biting incidents for agencies and websites that facilitate out of state adoptions.

There are many reasons why a dog bite may occur. The circumstances of each incident must be taken into account when deciding the fate of the animal regardless of its pedigree.

At the same time, law enforcement and public health leaders must put prioritize protecting children, like Logan, and the millions of others like him who suffer needlessly due to overly-aggressive dogs.