All Dogs Can Bite

February 10, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
A valley mother whose son was mauled to death by a pack of dogs has turned her tragedy into a mission.Her crusade began 2 years ago and today along with the SPCA, Chrystal Babcock is educating children across the valley about the dangers of dogs.

At the tender age of 4, preschoolers in southeast Fresno are learning a lesson that will stay with them for years to come.

It's a fine line: how do you teach children to be cautious of canines yet not overly afraid?

They learn techniques that could save their lives. With fingers tucked away, the kids stand tall like trees, faces pointed up, toward the sky.

Brenda Mitchell, SPCA Educator, says "Now the reason why we're doing this is because we don't ever want to make eye contact with a dog, because that's kind of intimidating, huh."

Then, the kids practice the best way to protect their little bodies should a dog ever knock them to the ground.

"When you see a dog you go like this. When the dog push you down, you go like this," Mitchell tells the kids.

Unfortunately, some of these children will put these skills to use at some point during their childhood.

Grace Appleton, SPCA, says "The reality is that children are going to be confronted by a dog on the street or even their own personal dog in their home probably more than they would be the risk of a fire in their home."

Chrystal Babcock talks to the children who remind her of what she's lost. "The term used for the way my son was hurt was called mauling. It was a very, very bad accident. And he's not here to share his story with you and I am."

Her son, Tyler Babcock died in January of 2005, while playing in his grandparents pasture near Clovis. He was attacked by 2 or 3 dogs that turned on him.

Without being too graphic Chrystal describes what happened to Tyler. She warns the children even friendly pets can turn on you without any warning.

"I always want to make sure that you are aware that the animals have the ability to be aggressive," Babcock tells the students.

She hopes Tyler's warm, playful smile shows the children he was just like them. "He was a happy child, full of life, and he's no different than any child out there. Unfortunately he was harmed by the very animals that he loved. And I don't want kids to be scared of dogs or anything but I want them to know that they should be cautious. They need to be aware," says Babcock.

It's a natural instinct for children approached by a dog to either reach out or run away. These kids know better now.

Parents who watched the presentation describe it as a real eye opener, and age appropriate even for 3 and 4 year olds.

Tara Chennault, preschool parent, says "I thought it was good. It was a lot more basic than I thought. The kids in here are really young but I think they grasp it... The lady that put it on she was phenomenal."

It took a while after Tyler died for his mother to embrace the very animals that killed her son, but she says she wants every kid to know that while dogs may be a man's best friend, they can also be his worst enemy.

"Please don't let what happened to my son Tyler happen to you or someone you love. You are all in my heart and I believe all children are special and precious."

Every year 8,000 children learn about dog safety through the "All Dogs Can Bite" program. The program also teaches kids about being responsible dog owners.

If you would like to learn more about the program or how to stay safe around dogs Click Here for a link to the Central California SPCA website.


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