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September 30, 2010

Video games responsible for pets run amok?

Yes, now you can blame video games for your pets going berserk.

Don't believe me? See this article from the Daily Mail in the UK (h/t: Games Radar) that reports on a 9-year-old girl in the UK whose lip was bitten off by a bull mastiff, allegedly because the dog heard another dog barking. Megan Walker was playing Nintendogs on the Nintendo DS at the time, and I guess her dog was barking, setting off the vicious attack.

According to the Mail:

"Megan Walker's family say a friend’s bull mastiff cross went berserk when it heard barking on a Nintendo DS game.

It dragged Megan, nine, off a sofa as she played the virtual pet puppy game Nintendogs.

The dog sank its teeth into her face, bit her several times and ripped off her top lip.

Quick-thinking police officers put the piece of lip on ice and surgeons were able to sew it back on.

"I think this game should carry some kind of warning,' said the girl’s grandma Jean Taylor.

'People should be told not to play it when there are dogs in the room.  I blame the game for what happened to Megan. If they hadn’t been playing it I don’t think the dog would have gone for her.'"

Really? Is it really the game's fault? If the bull mastiff was set off by the barking in a video game (I've never played it, so I have no idea how "realistic" the sounds are), wouldn't the dog be set off by the sound of *any* dog barking? Sure, if the barking's outside, the dog won't necessarily attack a person. But it sure would be a good indication that something's wrong with the dog, wouldn't it?

People should know their dogs enough to realize that there might be a problem. Megan was apparently at a friend's house. Shouldn't that family have known that the dog would be set off by barking? Or are there so few dogs in the neighborhood that it's never been an issue before?

No, I'm not necessarily blaming the family here (though I know it sounds like it). What I am saying is that it's ridiculous to blame the game, especially to the point of saying "there should be a warning on the game!" (At least Grandma isn't calling for an outright ban on the game...there's a first!).

I do think that, if you own a breed of dog that is known for violent actions (pit bulls, etc), you should be more aware of the personality of your dog, especially around other people. They may be trained well to respond to you, but what if you're not there? Should you make sure your guests are aware of things? Or just make sure you never leave your dog alone with guests?

Incidentally, I love how they slide this little tidbit in to the end of the article:

"Ms Melville was unavailable for comment, but it is understood that she told police that Megan may have kicked Saracen and that is why he attacked her."

Gee, wouldn't that change the complexion of the entire story? But no. Let's sensationalize the game aspect instead.

Colour me not-surprised.


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