“Firefighter Bitten in Dog Rescue” has a happy ending

Posted on January 23rd, 2010 by Anna Nirva

Yesterday, a frightened, cold, and exhausted German Shepherd mix desperately tried to climb out of a concrete channel of the Los Angeles River in Vernon, CA, wearing his nails down to bloody stubs. The LA City Fire Dept. dispatched firefighters trained in animal rescue and a helicopter. Firefighter Joe St. George dangled from the helicopter, waded through raging waters, and secured the dog in his arms. They were lifted up and carried to land, and the dog was rushed to emergency care. He was a stray, perhaps frightened from his home by recent thunderstorms.

Joe St. George was bitten in the hand by the terrified dog. Imagine being that dog. He was lost and alone, and then he fell into a river. He was fighting for his life in the fast, cold water. A loud, scary helicopter appears, and a big moving black thing drops into the water and approaches. The black thing is a strange man who grabs his head and body. What a nightmare for an ordinary dog! He tried to defend himself.

Fox News in Los Angeles reported this story, and — brace yourself — they explained the dog bite as a fearful response to a terrifying situation. The dog was not euthanized, but instead given emergency care, and he is fine today (although his owner has not yet been found). Joe St. George explained on the air that he understood why he was bitten, and he was not angry at the dog. News commentators were sympathetic to the dog’s fear as well.

This news station is a mainstream media in one of the nation’s largest cities. How far we have come! This story would not have been reported 10 years ago as not newsworthy, or even 5 years ago because of the bite which could be controversial. But in 2010, Fox News reported it, and other major media such as Headline News also carried the story this morning. The media is responding to us, the audience, and we want news like this because we value the lives of animals. But there is a long way to go. Many communities still shoot stray companion animals instead of rescue them. And if the dog bites in self-defense, it is all over for the dog. If you live in a community like that, please work for change!

Read more and see amazing videos here: www.myfoxla.com

    3 Responses to ““Firefighter Bitten in Dog Rescue” has a happy ending”

    1. karen says:

      Really is a wonderful story of compassion… sincere thanks to Mr St George for saving this dog!

    2. joy says:

      What hopeful news that a scared dog biting someone is seen as a simple and explainable reaction to a bad situation and NOT proof of viciousness!

    3. Jerry Dunham says:

      This is a surprising and wonderful response on the part of the news media. I wish that attitude were more pervasive.

      I live in the most animal-progressive city in Texas, but I can’t write that we’ve gotten quite that far yet. While our news media might be sympathetic, our city shelter is ambivalent.

      If this were to happen here this dog would be taken to the shelter and isolated for rabies quarantine (necessary anywhere), but then, if the owner were not found, would not be allowed into the adoption program because of the “bite history”, no matter how well the dog passed a temperament test. The only ways out would be with a rescue group or in a body bag, and many rescue groups, being overloaded and only able to take a few, will skip dogs noted as having a bite history in favor of ones deemed less risky. The shelter’s rescue co-ordinator would work hard to find a group to help, but the bite would make it more difficult.

      Let’s continue to applaud those in the news media, our local shelters and rescuers when they are willing to look beyond a dog or cat bite to understand the cause.

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