Narrabeen local Leo Agha was taking his dog for a morning walk on Warriewood beach when they fell victim to an "unprovoked attack." Now he's calling on dog owners to "be responsible".
Last Sunday Mr Agha was walking his 6-month old cavoodle, Lola, on her leash on the grassy area near the Surf Life Saving Kiosk. He said they were only at the park for a couple of minutes before a larger dog ran towards them.
"A lady came over with her dog to say hello, she asked nicely if her dog could greet my dog. After they left, I took a few steps, then I spotted a dog running off the leash and towards us," he said.
"I instinctively leant down to protect [my dog] and grabbed her towards me. But the other dog was fast and sneaky, he got my left hand in the back of his jaw and her neck in the front."
Mr Agha struggled to get his hand, and Lola's neck, out of the dog's jaw. He said he "couldn't believe how powerful" the dog's bite was.
Fortunately, local vet Dr. Juliet Smithyman from the Pittwater Animal Hospital was nearby. She stepped in and was able to get the dog to open its mouth to release Leo and Lola.
"I was so lucky. She was off duty. And she stepped in saying she was a vet. She was so professional. In the same second she intervened, she freed my hand," Leo explains.
"My dog was saved. Otherwise, I'm telling you, that dog would have a few of my fingers and my dog."
Being a vet, Dr. Smithyman knew how to safely get the dog to release its grip. But she said untrained bystanders shouldn't physically intervene if they witness an incident like this as the dog can "panic" and the situation can become more dangerous.
"There's a high risk you could be bitten so it's best not to put your hands near where the dogs are biting. Often the simplest solution is to squirt or throw water or some kind of liquid on the dog, just to break that contact," she suggested.
If two leashed dogs are fighting, but not locked on, Dr. Smithyman says it is okay to pull them away from each other. But if one dog is locked onto another, pulling one dog will just drag the other with it or cause more damage.
While dogs can be unpredictable sometimes, Dr. Smithyman said it is the responsibility of owners to understand their dogs' anxieties and be mindful of others.
"If you know you have a nervous dog, keeping them on the lead allows you to get them away from a situation before it can happen," she said.
"Sometimes it's worth walking with a muzzle in your pocket so if you get to somewhere where you want to stop, but there are a lot of things your dog finds threatening, pop a muzzle on so people and other dogs are safe."
Even if your dog is friendly, Dr. Smithyman said it's always better to ask permission before letting your dog approach another. "If you met someone you've never met before and they're instantly hugging you or coming up very close to you, it would make you feel quite uncomfortable. And the same thing happens for dogs."
Mr Agha was taken to Northern Beaches Hospital, where he received treatment for puncture wounds and tears on six fingers and his hands. Lola was taken to the Northside Emergency Veterinary Service, where she stayed overnight and had surgery.
Both are recovering, but Mr Agha says the event has left them "shaken" and wary about going back to the beach. He is "incredibly grateful" for Dr. Smithyman's help.
Council are currently investigating the incident.
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