Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tighten the leash on owners of pit bulls

From Jackson Citizen Patriot

There's no constitutional right to own a pit bull.
Dog ownership is a privilege, and dog owners should receive only as long a leash as they can justify through their actions. Society presumes that people can keep these and other powerful dogs as pets, but only if animal owners can be trusted to act responsibly.
Based on some horrifying recent attacks, it's time for Jackson County to pull that leash tighter.
In July, Joe Williams was talking to a friend in a driveway in Jackson when a pit bull attacked him from behind. He was left with 100 stitches to his arm and puncture wounds to his chest.
Less than two weeks ago, 6-year-old Tyah Norris was mauled by three pit bulls. She could be hospitalized for months, and hopefully not scarred for life.
Pit bulls had a bad enough reputation already. We've all heard of the dogs attacking other dogs or people. Many people rush to these dogs' defense, insisting that these are isolated cases involving mistakes or careless owners. Others maintain that the dogs are inherently more dangerous than other breeds.
Frankly, it's not an argument worth having. Judge pit bulls by the damage they have inflicted on others' lives, from that of a little girl to a full-grown adult man.
For whatever the reason, there are too many examples of this breed of dog threatening the well-being of local residents. It's time for local police and community leaders to take whatever steps they can to put this threat down.
The most direct action would be a ban on pit bulls. It can be done, but as with any law, it's only as effective as how well it's enforced.
On Tuesday, a 4-day-old child in Waterford Township, near Detroit, was hospitalized after being bitten by the family pit bull. Waterford Township has banned the breed since 1989. The law clearly made no difference, nor did it prevent a pit bull from mauling another dog in the same community last weekend.
Jackson County and local governments have other options. They can tighten up existing rules that require local dog owners to license their pets through the county. In practice, the local pet license regulation is toothless. It's really a money grab for the county, pocketing cash from pet owners who are nice enough to pay.
What if the county raised license fees to, say, $100 a year for pit bulls and other breeds it determined to be a higher risk to the public? Then, take any extra money to pay for animal control officers to better enforce local laws. If one thing is clear from recent attacks, it's that local pit bull owners are not registering their pets. Other possibilities are requirements for spaying and neutering, and registration with law enforcement.
Falling short of an outright ban, there has to be room for rules that face the situation in Jackson County. And the situation is this: Pit bulls are a problem. They have harmed too many people, and there's nothing to stop them from doing so again.
Some dog owners may protest otherwise, but the time for debating this issue or for being sensitive to owners' feelings is past. Let's acknowledge the risk and set about protecting the public.

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I, personally, love Pit Bulls as well as all dogs and most animals.
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