Local experts push for better tracking of dog attacks in Hawaii

How often do dog attacks happen here in Hawaii?

It’s a question we’re asking following the tragic death of a baby bitten by a family dog.

On Tuesday, we told you about a Kaneohe mother who now lives in Las Vegas. Layla Tsuda is still reeling from the loss of her 6-month-old baby, Kamiko, who died after she was bitten by the family pit bull, Mana.

Dr. Joseph Edhlund, a veterinarian with Gentle Vets Pet Hospital, says dog attacks on humans happen more often than you think. He’s been following statistics involving dog attacks on humans for over a year.

“I started really looking into it. There’s a real flurry of deaths any day you want to look online. Look any time and you’ll find a dog attack within the previous few hours,” he said. “The Las Vegas police took two dog attack calls in 13 seconds. There are five attack calls in Los Angeles today. This is not a little problem. It’s a big problem.”

Nationwide, Edhlund says 45 percent of dog bite fatalities involved family dogs. Family pit bulls made up about 86 percent of the deaths.

Locally, Edhlund learned of an attack in Waimanalo. “I had a client in yesterday. He was walking on Waimanalo Beach (with a) little dog. Four big dogs came at him. He held his dog above his head to protect him and dog went for his legs and tore up his legs,” he said.

The Hawaiian Humane Society says in the past four months, two dog bite citations were issued, which involves an attack against a person with serious injuries, and one dangerous dog citation was issued, which could involve an attack against a person or another animal.

But the Hawaiian Humane Society says it only tracks dog bites on Oahu, and only when they’re reported. It also does not track attacks by breed.

Edhlund says Hawaii should officially track dog bites to better understand why dogs attack.

“It would be an extremely good idea to track the attacks. Be easy enough in the emergency rooms. It would be quite easy to follow,” he said. “I would certainly get behind to collect the data, because that data is being poorly collected all over the U.S. We could be a trendsetter and say yeah, let’s track the data from the emergency rooms.”

State Sen. Josh Green, who is from Hawaii Island and an emergency room physician, agrees.

“Dog bites that cause serious injuries should definitely be tracked and reported. There’s no question. I see a lot of these in the hospital. I took care of a guy, a dog bit off and ate his ear. So when you see these kinds of serious things, you want people to be aware,” he said.

Green says he plans to look into the matter.

“I think about it frequently. Every year, we get at least one or two serious injuries. We in Hawaii often have fatalities that could be prevented,” he said. “This is an area I’m going to look into. The state already could begin to report them. It’s just a question of whether there are resources in the department.”

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