To Any Dog That Bites: Bite the Dust
Friendly Pet Or Public Menace?
It's a rare bird indeed who doesn't like, or love, domesticated animals, especially pets.
Not all of us own pets, but, often, that's because of the great amount of care they require; for some, it's the expense involved.
I haven't done any research on the subject, but I'd guess that dogs, cats and tropical fish are among the most popular pets. But I know people who enjoy having less popular animals in their homes, such as snakes and raccoons -- even pigs.
Who wouldn't like one of those cute, frail little toy terriers, or a happy-go-lucky collie or German shepherd. And, those frisky, independent little kittens may not be everyone's favorite, but there are those who couldn't live without them.
Naturally, sometimes, some animals behave like animals.
Reports of Vicious Attacks
Over the last several months, there have been a flurry of stories about such dogs as Pit Bulls, Akitas and doberman pinschers viciously attacking people, both adults and children.
Most recently, in West Haven, a 5-year-old boy was attacked for no apparent reason by a Pit Bull who "practically ate this boy's cheek off his face." The woman who owned the dog was credited with saving the boy's life by shielding the child with her body. Doctors reattached part of the boy's cheek. The dog was euthanized.
The boy's father wants the city to ban the aggressive dogs for good. "Pit Bulls," he pointed out, "are not neighborhood dogs."
Mauling Shakes Up Dog Owner
The dog's owner was shaken by the mauling. She said she always tried to be responsible with her Pit Bulls, walking them at night on a leash and keeping them in the house.
In many cases, the owners of potentially dangerous "pets" have behaved irresponsibly; but, in this case, the owner was responsible. Nevertheless, a child was severely injured.
The issue of what to do with potentially dangerous animals, particularly Pit Bulls and other aggressive breeds of dogs, is growing into a controversy approaching the one now raging about gun control. In some ways, the issues are similar.
To me, having a guard dog look -- or leap -- at you is little different from having a handgun or rifle pointing at you. It's intimidating to say the least and potentially dangerous. A guard dog once leaped at me when I entered a gasoline station office to pay my tab. I was saved only by the fact that I stopped short of the chain that pulled the attacking dog up short.
The truth is, you can't blame an animal for behaving like an animal. But you can hold human beings responsible when they put you, or me, in harm's way because of these animals.
New Laws Needed
We need laws that will protect unsuspecting children, and adults, from unknowingly walking into a booby trap in the form of a crazed animal -- whatever its kind or breed.
Our system of government doesn't provide a logical way for citizens to solve such problems. And this one won't be addressed until the public becomes sufficiently aroused to bring the issue to the attention of our lawmakers.
When are we, as a community and as a nation, going to find a better way to address problems before they smack us in the face. We can't wait for some legislator to become interested and offer an unstudied solution that often results in poor legislation.
Can't we create some kind of community body that looks into questions before they become problems, study them, look at the options and then offer them to the legislature for appropriate action?
I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on April 20, 1996. Some time earlier a fellow worker had been viciously attacked by a neighbor's Akita, injuring him seriously and permanently.