Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

There's Plenty of Blame to Share for Dog's Injuries

DEAR ABBY: "Heartbroken in New York" (March 8) expressed his concerns about his dog "Layla's" injuries after his son's friend "Isaac" tried to ride on the dog's back. He asked you whether he and his wife should inform Isaac's parents. You responded in the affirmative and stated Isaac's parents should be responsible for the damages to the dog.

I disagree. Dog owners are responsible for supervising their pets when children are present. Our dog Max, who I dearly loved and raised alongside our two children, was not by nature fond of children. Therefore, I never allowed him out of my sight when children were around. I supervised him constantly -- for the children's sakes as well as Max's.

"Heartbroken" was at least partly responsible because he decided to let Layla fend for herself around Isaac, "who doesn't have a dog." While what happened to the animal was extremely unfortunate, holding the other parents responsible for damages is unfair. -- A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

DEAR DIFFERENT: Thank you for your perspective, which was repeated by many readers. I hope the following responses will serve as important reminders to pet owners. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: "Heartbroken" should invite Isaac and his parents over to see Layla with their own eyes so they can understand the extent of the dog's injuries. Isaac needs to learn that if he hurts another living creature, there will be consequences. Because his parents missed teaching their son this lesson, "Heartbroken" should do it. Childhood is not about being protected from essential life lessons; it's a time to learn how to become caring, responsible adults. -- LISA IN ALBUQUERQUE

DEAR ABBY: I found it disturbing that Layla was being kept on pain medication for "three weeks and is growing progressively worse." That family needs a new vet. X-rays and an MRI should have already been in the works. Yes, such procedures are expensive, but they are also necessary to assist our speechless friends. -- HEALING HEARTS IN NEW YORK DEAR ABBY: The responsibility for any damages caused by an unsuspecting child to the dog should be the owner's to bear. "Heartbroken" made a mistake by leaving Layla alone with the children. I always keep my pets near me when neighbors visit. It's my job to protect my pet. If "Heartbroken" had taken the time to set boundaries about playing with the dog, this might have been avoided. What's sad is that Layla is suffering for it. -- MARY IN JOHNSTOWN, PA.

DEAR ABBY: You suggested Layla's owners tell Isaac's parents to explain the mistake he made and that they should pay for the damages. There is another important reason for this lesson to be explained. If Isaac tried to ride on the back of a less tolerant dog, he could have been bitten and seriously injured. Even an otherwise gentle dog could interpret a "ride" as a threat and respond aggressively. Pet ownership requires accepting responsibility, and that includes educating those who don't know in order to prevent accidents or injuries. -- SAFETY FIRST FOR DOGS AND KIDS

DEAR ABBY: I'm sorry about the injury to that dog. But I guarantee that if the dog had bitten Isaac, his parents would be suing or demanding payment of all medical bills. It's a sad day for all. -- GARRY IN DAYTON, OHIO

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)