During the spring and summer when children spend more time outdoors, the chance of being bitten or attacked by a dog increases. Dogs seem to be everywhere in Bethel. On the way to the post office you may see a black dog. When you go to AC you may see a brown dog. On the way to the boat harbor, you may see spotted dogs. Perhaps there is even a strange dog or two running free around your house.
The problem is you cannot determine which dog has dangerous tendencies and which dog is friendly until it is too late. It is just as likely a stray dog will bite a young child as it that the stray dog will be friendly. Recall in May, a 3-year-old girl was tragically killed in Napaskiak in a dog yard. A YKHC employee estimated that over ten dog bites are treated annually at YKHC, and "some of them are trauma cases too, mauling."
In Alaska, dog owners are responsible when a dog bites someone else, regardless of fault, for injuries caused by the dog which stem from a dangerous tendency, which was known to the owner prior to the bite. In other words, if a dog's owner knows or should have known of their dog's dangerous tendency, and the dangerous tendency resulted in an injury to another person, the dog owner may be held responsible and have to pay the injured person for the harm caused.
To further protect the public, a Bethel ordinance provides that all dogs located outside the confines of their owners' or keepers' homes shall be restrained at a safe distance from public streets, public walkways and public parks and playgrounds. The ordinance further provides all dogs located outside property owned or controlled by their owners or keepers and within the Bethel dog restraint boundaries shall be securely restrained by means of a chain, harness or leash. All dogs located outside the Bethel dog restraint boundaries shall be under voice control. A map of the boundaries, which includes most of the populated parts of Bethel, is available at City Hall.
The ordinance is not followed very well. According to Bethel Police Department Call Detail Reports, during the last week of July a number of dog incidents occurred in Bethel. BPD and an ambulance were called for a boy bitten by a dog in Pinky's Park. BPD responded to a call regarding two dogs chasing kids. The next day, BPD responded to a caller who was afraid kids would be attacked by a loose Rottweiler. Later in the week, BPD captured a large black dog running through the AC Store, responded to a call regarding a black dog in front of the BNC building, and captured a stray dog on Kilbuck.
Children are most at risk from the stray dogs running around Bethel. Nothing in the Bethel ordinance requires that a dog which has bitten people be destroyed. So those dogs may still be running around Bethel. Protect your child from being injured by stray dogs. Teach your child to never pet a dog without first asking the dog's owner and never hit or tease a dog. Teach the child to never approach a dog that is not with a person. Tell the child that they should not approach any dog he or she does not know. If you are in Bethel, to further protect your family, should you spot a stray dog call the Bethel Police Department and ask them to pick up the dog.