A few weeks ago, a colleague and I were stalked and attacked by a pack of dogs in the Lau Sua area of Bukit Brown.
The two of us had gone to Lau Sua to do some documentation work. We encountered a pack of 6 to 8 dogs that we thought were a pack of strays. The dogs were encountered in the area around the building that Bukit Brown enthusiasts call the tomb house. It appeared that the dogs and their “owner” (they seemed more like strays that are living with the tomb keeper rather than his pets), the Bukit Brown tomb keeper call the dwelling their home.
Jiamin and I had to go through the area 3 times during the course of our work during that afternoon. The first time we went by the house we were greeted by a dog pack that was curious about our presence. The dogs came up and sniffed us while a guest of the tomb house spoke to us. He told us that the dogs will not attack if we did not touch anything within the house. Jiamin and I stopped to take some photos of the house from the outside and of the dog pack before moving onward.
We encountered the dog pack a second time when we had to backtrack from the orchard that we discovered within Lau Sua. Again we passed through the tomb house area without incident with the pack keeping their distance from us and while barking at us. On both occasions, Jiamin and I stood still and remained calm until the dogs got bored with our presence and retreated from us.
We encountered the dog pack a third time when we had to pass by the tomb house area in our attempt to leave Lau Sua and head towards Lornie Road. We had no choice but to go through the tomb house area because that was the only path that leads towards the main road.
This time the dog pack was simply not content to watch us from a distance. They stalked us as we trekked the path away from the tomb house. The dogs flitted in and out the tree cover as they followed us from a close distance. We could not always see where the individual dogs were but we could hear them as they rustled through the foliage in their bid to follow us. Jiamin and I could not shake the sinking feeling that we were having in the pits of our stomachs as the stalking continued.
“You go ahead in front so if anything happens they will be coming for me not you.” I told Jiamin in a calm and firm voice. She complied by taking the lead while I followed, taking care to watch out for the dogs with my peripheral vision as we tried to head towards the safety of the open road. A few seconds after I had told Jiamin to take the lead, one of the dogs darted up from behind and bit my left leg. It almost felt like it was giving me a test bite because it let go of my leg as soon as I shouted out in pain. My colleague and I stopped in our tracks as we turned around to face the pack.
“Are you okay? How bad is it?” Jiamin asked.
“We can check how bad the wound is after we get to safety.” I grunted through my grimace. I started yelling at the dogs in my angered state. Luckily, the yelling gave the dogs pause and they slowly backed away during my shouting spree. We started backing away as well and stopped to examine my wound the minute we knew we had left the pack behind.
I was bleeding, but not profusely. It looked like a flesh wound and the area around the wound was more than a little tender. I experienced some mild discomfort as I tried to walk but the pain was manageable. We managed to make it to Lornie Road without further incident. The next day I went to the local polyclinic to have a doctor examine the injury. I was informed that I would not require rabies shots because of Singapore’s status as a non rabies country. Instead, I was given a tetanus shot and a course of antibiotics.
I now faced a dilemma. The attack occurred in a public area. Even though the Bukit Brown area is mostly uninhabited, it is still frequented by people who visit the area for recreational purposes. People some times bring their pet dogs or young children there for walks. If the dog pack was bold enough to attack adults, then children could be at risk. Animal rights or not, the issue was now one of public safety and I decided that the relevant authorities needed to be informed.
A friend suggested that I first call animal rights group ACRES, to see if they had any suggestions about the Bukit Brown dog situation before I went to AVA. I was surprised to discover that the people I spoke to on the phone had no clue as to what ACRES’ procedure was regarding dog attacks. The representative I spoke to told me that the person in charge was not around and ACRES would call me back if I left them my contact details. I never received a return phone call from ACRES.
Feeling exasperated, I called AVA on their animal issue hotline. The person I spoke to seemed completely nonchalant as I related what had happened when I was at Lau Sua. He was especially nonplussed when I brought up the issue of public safety. I was told that AVA would send someone to the Lau Sua area to check out the dog situation. The call ended without the AVA representative even asking me for my name and contact information!
Over a week has past and there has been no word on any action taken by AVA. I recently learned from a source that the same dog pack attacked another woman when she entered the Lau Sua area. It appears that neither to the dogs’ “owner”, nor the animal rights people, nor the authorities cares about the dog pack’s behavior or the fact that the animals represent a risk to public safety.
Frankly the apathy I have seen on all sides is deplorable. No one seems to have a since of urgency or understanding of their liability in the matter. Therefore I am writing this piece to inform people of the safety risk of going to Bukit Brown, particularly the Lau Sua area. Consider you, the reader, warned about the dog situation. But if you decide that you still would like to explore Bukit Brown at your own risk, here are some tips on how you should react if you encounter the same pack of dogs:
• If approached by a stray dog or a dog without its owner watch the dog’s body language for some warning signs on its intent during its approach towards you. If the dog advances towards you with its head held high or low, it is probably not going to attack. A dog whose head is level means business.
• Remain Calm at all times. Dogs can read human emotions. Panicking and appearing fearful will only excite the animal’s predatory instinct and make it more confident in approaching you. A firm shout of “No!” should make the animal hesitate in approaching you and buy you time to back away.
• Assume a non threatening position and make no sudden movements. Do not make direct eye contact with the dogs. Keep the dog in your peripheral vision as you monitor the unfolding situation. Direct eye contact is considered a sign of aggression to dogs and is not recommended when facing down an angry pack.
• Most importantly: DO NOT RUN FROM THE DOG! Running will trigger the dog’s predator response and cause it to pursue you even more vigorously. Running is also futile because you will not be able to outrun one dog, let alone a pack of 6-8. Remain calm and stand your ground. Dogs have short attention spans and they should grow bored after a while of inaction and leave you alone. Slowly back away from the dogs once they lose interest in you. NEVER turn your back on the dog until you have backed away into a safe distance.
• In the event you are attacked and the dog has latched onto you, it will begin to pull and shake the wound to inflict even more damage on your person. Struggling to pull yourself away will from the dog’s jaws only result open torn wounds. In this situation your best option would be to fight back. If you cannot easily escape from the dog’s grip, use your entire body weight on the animal, specifically with your knees or elbows. Dogs cannot wrestle and you will break their bones fairly quickly. Straddle the animal and concentrate force on areas such as the throat or ribs while minding to keep your face out of clawing/biting range.
• If facing multiple dogs, going for eyes, nose and limbs will prove the most effective versus tackling/crushing one dog at a time. A dog pack will attack as a group but if they feel that they cannot successfully attack you, they will back off as a pack. HOWEVER, if the dogs are not actively lunging for you, DO NOT attack with your limbs or taunt them. Throwing rocks or anything you can find within your grasp can discourage a pack of dogs before an attack begins.
• In the event you are with someone during a dog attack, do not attempt to pull the victim away from the animal. You will only end up causing more injury to the victim. Instead find a stick to hit the dog across the back of its neck or nose. That should cause the dog to stop and release the victim.
• After an attack perform the necessary first aid to staunch the bleeding. See a healthcare professional as soon as possible because dog bites are highly infectious.
For more tips on how to handle a dog attack visit link.
I will be writing updates about the dog situation at Bukit Brown if I receive any. Until then be advised that you could be walking into dangerous territory when you visit the area and take the necessary precautions. Bring a walking stick or umbrella with you so you can fend off the dog pack if you find yourself in the same situation I was.
Note: Names have been changed in this piece to protect individuals’ privacy.