Now, normally when I use the phrase in my title, I'm referring to people who let their kids run rampant where I work, touching merchandise, swinging off things, and generally making a nuisance of themselves.
However, in this instance, I mean all the parents who think it is OK (because, let's face it, we can't really blame the kids, they don't know any better) to allow their children to approach strange dogs and shriek at them, lunge at them, pet them, grab at them, etc, etc, etc, without a concern in the world and certainly without asking permission.
Prompted by this report I found online today, which actually made me really angry. Reading the article, it sounds like the child attacked the Labrador and not, as declared in the headline, the other way around. You're a dog, you're tied up outside a shop (which, IMO, isn't right either for more than a couple of minutes in an emergency, but that's another matter), suddenly a mini-human appears and "Someone said the mum's back was turned for just a second and in that time the girl grabbed the dog by its neck." You can't get run away, you can't hide anywhere, you are, for all you know, being attacked by a creature that's going for your neck . . . What do you do? Dogs bite. In anger, in fear, in self-defence, dogs bite, whether you are an adult or a child.
My dog was lovely. Of course I will say that, but he was a gorgeous bundle of pure white fluff and love. But, he was bad around children, because he was born into a house with boistrous young children, and for whatever reason (we never found out what the kids of his Mum's humans did) he was always wary of them. When he was young, before he was trained, we trialled taking him out muzzled. The number of people, men and women, young and old, who would tell their kids (without asking us) "It's safe to stroke him, he's got a muzzle on so he can't bite you." REALLY?! You see a dog (albeit a small fluffy bichon frise) with a muzzle on in public, and your first thought is "Gee, that dog must be safe around kids, I'll send mine to find out!" People like that should not be allowed to breed, and I make no apology for that opinion. Then nine times out of ten WE would get a dirty look from the parents for sending the kid away from the dog (nicely, and after explaining that he wasn't very friendly to children), or picking him up to get him away from their sticky (biteable) fingers. Now, he never bit anyone. I don't know for a fact that he would have bitten a child given the chance. But the point is that we couldn't know that he wouldn't, and so we never gave him the chance, despite people continually sending their kids over to pet him. Even when he was old and clearly had no eyes (literally), some people thought it was OK to let a child arrive unannounced by his side and pet him. Surprise, old, blind dog...Here's a poking, petting child! There were times, if it hadn't meant such severe consequences for us and him, I would gladly have let him bite whoever had approached him, especially the ones who just keep trying and trying even after being asked to go away. But our primary concern was always getting him away from them, more out of concern for his safety than theirs, I'll be 100% honest on that one.
Maybe it's harder for me to understand because I was brought up to respect animals. I was expected to ask if I could stroke any animal before approaching it, and I don't mean ask my parents, I mean ask the person with the animal, even if they were people and animals that we knew, and then, if it was OK, approach the animal gently and quietly. Even now, I don't just randomly approach a dog without talking to the owner first and asking if I can say hello to the dog.
I know some dogs have bad owners. Some dogs attack at random. They bite kids who don't seem, to our eyes, to do anything to them, and worse, babies. I firmly believe, and always will, that there is no such thing as a "bad dog". There are bad owners and misunderstood dogs, they are very common, and usually come in pairs. I know a couple of people who had dogs for years, and then had a baby, and had to re-home their dog because they discovered that the dog just wasn't happy around children. I can't imagine what it must be like to have to give up a family pet for the safety of your child, but I hope they take comfort in the fact that the did what was right for the child AND for the dog. Some people can't make that decision, or don't realise that it needs making in time, and horrible incidents occur.
I'm not excusing those irresponsible dog owners, the ones who's dogs shouldn't be off the lead, or should be muzzled in public and aren't. I've twice experienced dogs like that (you try being an Infant-school-sized child floored by a St Bernard, or a child cornered in a shop car park by the shop's two Rottweiler x German Shepherd guard dogs), and it's certainly not pleasant. But if the dog is on a lead, it's not rocket science to stop your child from getting bitten. Just keep it away from the dog that you don't know.
You wouldn't let your child wander up to a random person sat on the street outside a shop and strike up a conversation, would you (and if you think any different watch how some people scoot their kids past Big Issue sellers for no good reason)? So why some people consider it safe to allow their kids to approach an animal, with animal instincts and century's-old in-built defence mechanisms and enter their personal space without permission is beyond me.
I hope there is CCTV, and I hope that dog does not get put down. And, of course, that the little girl in question is OK and learns how to interact safely with animals. No-one should ever have to be afraid of dogs. They are wonderful!