In this space back in February 2012, I addressed the issue of hunters being shot by their dogs. These rare cases of canine culpability inevitably result from a stray paw, or a stray’s paw, happening onto the trigger of an unsecured firearm. The dogs may be wearing one, but the police don’t get a collar, because the incidents are accidents. Well, they’re probably accidents—some dogs can be cagey. (Okay, I admit that writing those shameless sentences really hit the Spot.)
Anyway, recent events inspired me to revisit this dog-shoots-man topic, which of course is a fascinating variation on the man-bites-dog story.
In February the online British newspaper the Independent ran a story with a headline that started out goofy—“Man Shot by His Pet Dog ...”—but then turned sensibly serious—“... Is Ruled Unfit to Own Guns.” The tale begins in 2016, when a German man got a shot in the arm—and not in a good way—when his supposed best friend, according to the article, “managed to release the trigger on a loaded rifle left in his car.” Oddly enough, dogs and firearms both have muzzles, which in this case, was at least one too many.
The victim, described as a “passionate hunter,” then had his rifle license and hunting permit revoked. He appealed that decision, which a court has just recently decided not to roll over. The news article quotes the ruling’s reasoning, which is as follows: “it must be assumed that he will handle firearms and ammunition carelessly in the future as well.” Bull’s-eye.
By the way, in a subversive act of dogmatic commentary, the New York Daily News illustrated its coverage of this story with a photograph of a happy, healthy deer: buck unshot. Which, after posing for the camera, presumably wandered away into the woods, stag.
(The Daily News also reported that the initial revocation of the man’s credentials was made by the municipality of Pfaffenhofen. Which is a fun word to say but is also intriguing because, according to Google Translate, Affen Hof means “monkey court” in English. And depending on the firearm’s visual-aid accoutrement, we could have had a Scopes trial.)
Back in the U.S.A., in November 2018 a man in New Mexico joined his brother from another fatherland. Again, the Independent was on the case. “Man Shot by Pet Dog ...,” the headline began before turning even more surreal, “... Insists ‘He [the dog] Didn’t Mean to Do It.’” And I believe that. Because the dog was a 120-pound Rottweiler mix and therefore didn’t need any help to inflict damage. Although a gun still makes it easier.
The seriously injured man was in his pickup truck with the shooter and the gun that he left “positioned in the truck with the barrel facing up, towards [the man],” according to a sheriff’s spokesperson quoted in the piece.
I’m sincerely happy to say that the man, who reportedly suffered “three broken ribs, a punctured lung and a broken scapula,” survived. And I’m sincerely sad to say that as this piece went to the printer, the Associated Press reported that the dog had died—shot by a rancher after it escaped from its owner’s property. As has been said many times, we don’t deserve dogs.
The actual good news on shooting accidents, whatever species pulls the trigger, is that deaths caused by them in the U.S. are down. The Los Angeles Times reports that in 2015, the most recent year with available data, “there were 489 people killed in unintentional shootings..., down from 824 deaths in 1999,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Experts attribute the decline to a mix of gun safety education programs, state laws regulating gun storage in homes and a drop in the number of households that have guns,” the article says.
So to anyone who thinks such measures won’t make us all safer: that dog won’t hunt.