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Brownie’s ‘act’ an enigma

TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.

Brownie’s ‘act’ an enigma

Even before Lucknow Municipal Corporation can finally decide Brownie’s fate, the authority has been flooded with calls from people willing to adopt the Pitbull...

Brownie’s ‘act’ an enigma

From her owner Amit, who remembers the Pitbull as the most adorable and loving pet who spent most of her time with his mother and the rest of the time playing with his other dog; to her Vet, who has treated her since puppyhood, everyone is shocked at the incident and finds it hard to believe she could have mauled an old lady. The dog is also behaving in an exemplary way at the centre where she is in remand’. Then, what went wrong? Read on

Avantika Tripathi

Bidding adieu to his three-year-old dog, a Pitbull, was not easy for Amit Tripathi, a gym trainer and a dog lover, as he was not sure about the fate of his four-legged friend named Brownie whom he had brought home when she was just 25 days old. “Nagar Nigam officials barged into my house, tried to drag her from the leash into the animal catching van that was parked outside my house. Being a pet lover, it was perhaps the second most painful sight to witness after my mother’s death on July 12. I told the officers, I can’t let you treat my Brownie inhumanely,” recollects Tripathi, who also claims to have Brownie’s registration. But, with tremendous pressure from the Nagar Nigam officials and no other option left, Tripathi dropped his Brownie into the animal-catching van, gave her a pat on the head, calmed her down a bit and, then reluctantly, turned his back on her. “She didn’t bark, not even once, neither showed any restlessness (despite being a hyperactive dog) as if she was aware that she was being abandoned by her master for the wrongdoing she had committed, and the van left soon after,” he further says. Brownie was taken into custody by the Nagar Nigam officials on July 15, three days after she apparently mauled Tripathi’s 82-year-old mother, Sushiela.

The incident

Just like on any other day, on July 12 too, Tripathi, a gym trainer by profession, left home early at 4 am, leaving behind his mother Sushiela and pets - a three-year-old Pitbull and a six- year-old Labrador- at home. The seemingly normal day soon turned haywire after Tripathi’s phone started to ring around 6 am. “Since mobile is not allowed inside the gym, I usually leave my phone in my training bag. Around 6:30am, a friend of mine came to the gym and informed me that Brownie had bitten my mother and that she was bleeding profusely. I at once rushed to my house along with my friend to take a stock of the situation,” Tripathi further recollects. On reaching home, he was greeted by a mayhem. “I saw a huge gathering around my house, the police were banging the door. I immediately went inside the house and saw my mother lying on the floor, in a pool of blood. People told me that Brownie had attacked my mother. On seeing me, she hid herself behind the sofa. I could see the feeling of guilt and remorse in her eyes,” says Tripathi, who still finds it hard to believe that Brownie, who used to spend most of her time with his mother, could attack her. He rushed his mother to Balrampur hospital, where doctors referred her to Trauma Centre where she succumbed to her injuries during treatment.

“One Sushiela Tripathi, 82, of Bengali Tola locality was attacked by her pet dog. Her body was recovered and sent for post-mortem. We are coordinating with the officials of Lucknow Municipal Corporation regarding the incident,” said Yogesh Kumar, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Qaiserbagh, in a press statement.

12 wounds that claimed Sushiela’s life

Sushiela’s autopsy report cited excessive bleeding as the cause of death. Besides, the report also revealed that there were 12 severe wounds on her body, some on both of her hands, inner thigh and abdomen that perhaps caused excessive bleeding. “She was too old to suffer such a large number of injuries,” a senior doctor with the health department said. Tripathi maintains he still can’t believe that Brownie attacked his mother as she was the one with whom she spent most of her time. “I am still trying to figure out what triggered Brownie, the adorable dog which I had brought some three years back from a friend when she was just a pup,” wonders Tripathi. It may be mentioned here that a physical copy of the post-mortem report is yet to be received by Amit, who has so far not done the paperwork needed for the same. It is only upon reading the report that one can be clear whether the wounds were canine punctures or caused by something else.

Pitbull bred to bait bulls

Bull and Terrier breeds were created in the early 19th century England for the popular spectator sports of bull and bear baiting, state the dog experts while highlighting the history of the Pitbull. “When those sports were deemed inhumane and declared illegal in 1835, dog-fighting sprung up in its place and thus was the trait for dog aggression bred into the genetic line,” says RK Singh, an expert and former director Wajid Ali Shah Zoological Garden alias Lucknow Zoo. Singh further says when these ‘bull dogs’ accompanied immigrants to America, they began new career as all-around farm dogs. Their jobs included hunting wild game, guarding the property from animal intruders, and providing companionship. In keeping with the ‘bigger is better’ mindset of their new country, the settlers developed a dog larger than it had been in England. In 1898, the United Kennel Club (UKC), Britain's equivalent of the American Kennel Club (AKC), named these bull dogs the American Pit Bull Terrier. The experts claim when raised with proper training and socialisation, the American Pit Bull Terrier makes an excellent companion for children. This dog is loving and gentle with people and often makes a lousy guard dog because of his tail-wagging eagerness to greet the person at the door. American Pitbull Terriers are devoted and loyal to their family and will, if necessary, defend them to death.

Brownie’s 3-year-long association

“I have heard a lot about this breed, Pitbull. Some claimed it to be the most aggressive, attacking breed while others claimed it to be the most ferocious dog to be at home. And there were very few who used to speak about the positive aspects of keeping Pitbull at home. It is for the same reason I never wanted a Pitbull at home,” says Tripathi. But the perception changed within seconds when he first met Brownie, around 3 years back at his friend’s house. “I found it to be the cutest pup ever and, without giving a second thought, I decided to bring it home as my second pet,” he recollects. Unlike what I heard so far about this breed, Brownie turned out to be the most adorable and loving pet who used to spend most of her time with my mother, and the rest of the time she could be seen playing with my six-year-old female Labrador. But yes, she is a hyperactive dog, who often gets triggered by a doorbell or whistle of a cooker, or by any other sound. “I can assume that something might have triggered Brownie, who first attacked my mother but later realized her mistake,” he adds.

 Tug-of-War between animal lovers and others

The incident hogged the headlines soon after. “Old woman killed by her pet Pitbull in Lucknow”, “Lucknow woman mauled to death by her Pitbull dog”, among others. But other than creating headlines, the incident resulted in a fight between dog lovers versus others on social media. “I’m an aunt to the sweetest and gentlest rescued dog on the planet. That’s right, he’s a Pitbull. On the other hand, I was mauled by a poorly reared Goldendoodle. It’s not the breed. It’s how you raise them,” reads a post on Twitter. Another twitterati writes: “We also read about children killing their parents. Exceptions are always there.” Another post from an animal activist Kamna Pandey reads: “Amit has two dogs - a lab and a Pitbull, never chained or caged, freely moving in his 6000 sq foot house and would sleep with Amit on his bed. He has obnoxious neighbours because of whom he didn’t take them out for walks and they would relieve themselves on the terrace itself. What happened was an unfortunate accident, no one knows what triggered it. My best two guesses after discussing with Amit are -His mother could have tripped over a sleeping Brownie who grabbed what was closest to her mouth, unfortunately, it being the mother’s neck. The two dogs could have gotten into a fight and the mother intervened. In either case, before Brownie could even realise, the damage was done. The screaming and stone pelting neighbours only panicked Brownie further, putting her in a defensive guarding state for the mother.” Other than the ones backing Brownie, there were many who were against Brownie and called Pitbull the most dangerous breed of dogs to be kept at home.

What Brownies doctor says

Brownie’s behaviour was equally shocking for her doctor Anil Kumar Singh as well who has been treating her since she was a pup. “The news was a shocker for me as I am among the few who know Brownie well. I still remember how she used to visit our clinic in Daliganj,” recollects Dr Anil Kumar Singh, Brownie’s vet. Singh maintains she had been a loving, adorable and obedient pet. “Whenever she used to visit my clinic for vaccination, she used to play with other dogs and hardly ever showed any sign of aggression or anger. Hence it is still very difficult for me to understand what triggered Brownie,” he added.

Panic among hunting breed owners and locals

Not only in Tripathi’s neighbours, but the impact of the incident is also being seen among the hunting breed owners who have started maintaining a distance from their pets, who they have raised like their own children. There are also reports that some pet owners have abandoned their pets or are putting them up for adoption. “Indeed, there is fear among the pet owners. I too have got calls from around 20 persons, all owners of the dogs including German Shepherd, Boxer, Rottweiler, and Husky. Some newspapers reported the incident where a woman from Gomti Nagar had bought two puppies of Pug species for her children. Both are over two years old now. She reportedly used to treat them like her own children. However, after this incident, her neighbours started protesting. Now she has decided to give them up for adoption. There are many such cases of protesting neighbours coming to light after the incident. The height of panic can be gauged from the fact that a family who used to reside in Nehru Enclave called the police after it witnessed a man moving around with four of his Pitbull dogs in the society.

What experts say about Pitbull as a breed

Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, Pitbull and German Shepherds topped the lists of dogs some considered dangerous in the not-too-distant past. These days, Pitbull often make headlines and rarely a good one. The intensity of such reports has forged a frightening image of the breed as having a hair-trigger temper and a lock-jawed bite. “But Pitbull advocates and some experts say the dogs get a bad rap. They say the dogs are not inherently aggressive, but in many cases suffer at the hands of irresponsible owners drawn to the dogs’ macho image who encourage aggression for fighting and protection,” says GC Mishra, an expert and a retired Field Director, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve. He ads that in general, Pitbull aren’t aggressive with people but are “less tolerant” of other dogs than many other breeds. They also have “great tenacity”. They put their mind to something, and they do it. That is what makes them great dogs for sports like weight pulling. They are very strong, athletic animals.

Brownie, the most decent and obedient dog

On July 15, three days after Brownie attacked Tripathi’s mother, the team of Nagar Nigam officials seized Brownie on the complaints of the locals and neighbours who opposed the presence of Brownie in their vicinity. “Our team has brought the Pitbull to study her behaviour as to why she behaved in such a violent manner,” informs Arvind Kumar Rao, joint director Animal Welfare, Lucknow Municipal Corporation. Rao says the seizure of the dog has been initiated by exercising powers under ‘Control and Regulation of Dogs bye-law 2003’, under which state and civic bodies have the power to seize dogs and penalise owners for their wrong behaviour. Also, Nagar Nigam has issued an advisory, asking people to avoid keeping hunting dog breeds such as Pitbull, Rottweiler, Siberian Husky, Doberman Pinscher and Boxer as pets because they are more likely to get ferocious and aggressive. “It is important to consider the nature of the breed before making a dog a pet. One must consider the environment they have lived in. The hunting breeds like Pitbull often find it difficult to co-exist in our environment and can easily turn violent, harming people around them. Hence, they should not be kept at home,” says Inderjit Singh, municipal commissioner, Lucknow. Brownie, however, has been caged at a sterilisation centre in Jharara where she would be kept for another few days under observation. However, the officials are yet to decide the fate of Brownie, whether she would be handed over to her master or to someone else. Before Municipal Corporation can finally decide Brownie’s fate, the authority has been flooded with calls from people willing to adopt Brownie.

What must an autopsy report pinpoint?

Post-mortem report has to incorporate the type of injury- whether by a blunt object, incised object or sharp-edged weapon, and whether abrasion, contusion, or other forms of injury as classified in the medico-legal literature. Also, the time duration between the injury and the post-mortem would be indicator whether the post-mortem is accurate. The fresher the post-mortem, the more probability of identifying reasons and causes. Of course animal bites can be identified on the basis of deep incised wounds, and their depths- whether they are of rat, cat, dog, monkey or other bigger animals like leopard and tiger as wound size would vary from animal to animal. Hair etc found on the body by investigators would also be an indicator. However, this is found by investigators and not during the post-mortem. If the case is fresh, then the toxins and the bio-chemical changes in the body can also be recovered, if the body has not putrefied. And the biochemical examination would also reveal the predator. -former DGP, UP, Dr Vikram Singh


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