Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dog ban punishes victims

From The Ranger

The U.S. Humane Society estimates that there are 77.5 million dogs in the United States alone. From schnauzers to poodles, chihuahuas to rottweilers, even pit bulls to yorkies, dogs are man's best friend. They are there for us throughout their entire lives. They love us unconditionally; they protect us and play with us. They don't care if we spend all day at home in our pajamas or don't wear any makeup. Yet some breeds have been stigmatized and feared based solely on hearsay and rumors.
In January 2011, two attorneys from Tyler proposed a law that would make it a third degree felony to own a pit bull in Texas. The Texas Penal Code, Section 12.34, states that a third degree felony (is punishable by): "(a) imprisonment in the institutional division for any term of not more than 10 years or less than 2 years (b) In addition to imprisonment, an individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the third degree may be punished by a fine not to exceed $10,000."
You know what is considered a third degree felony in Texas? Deadly conduct with a firearm, escape from felony custody, indecent exposure to a child and assault while intoxicated. Owning a pit bull would be equal to exposing yourself to a child or attacking someone while drunk. This law would not be targeting dogfighters; instead, it would be against all owners of pit bulls. People you see every day, someone's grandmother, soon could see herself sharing a cell with a murderer for the kind of dog she owns.
According to dogsbite.org, between January 2006 and December 2008, 88 fatal dog bites were recorded in the United States, of which 52 where committed by pit bulls. A person is more likely to be killed in a drunk driving accident, from suicide, homicide, diabetes or a whole range of different ways than by a dog bite.
People are cautious of pit bulls; they are big and powerful. It is easy to see that if one were to attack, it would be hard to stop it. Many times, however, an attack by a pit bull can be traced back to its owner or abuse in its past. When people are cruel and vicious, we look at their past and see if there has been abuse or neglect. We use that as a basis for why they acted a certain way. But with pit bulls, most people say it's because that breed is vicious.
Understandably, vicious animals should not be kept as pets. That is why it's generally a bad idea to keep tigers, bears and honey badgers as a family pet. Yet if the entire pit bull breed were vicious, there would be thousands of attacks a year.
Pits couldn't be trained to be anything but vicious killing machines. They would be unpredictable, and no person who came near a pit bull would escape unharmed. Yet not all pit bulls are vicious. Many are used as therapy dogs, rescue dogs and even guide dogs. Even the ones that are abused and raised to be fighting dogs can be rehabilitated. The dogs that are raised to be fighters are taught from birth that they must attack to survive. Wouldn't you be vicious if someone had trained you to fight and kill so that you can live?
Instead of enacting legislation meant to punish animals, we should make laws against people who train their dogs to fight. Several laws against dog fighting and cruelty toward animals exist, but they do not stop people from fighting dogs. Instead of punishing the animal that is just reacting to its circumstances, we should be doing more about the people who inflict that life on their pets.
There is a public outcry when people are treated that way, but treating animals like this is less shocking, as if their lives count for nothing. For every Michael Vick story, there are thousands of dogfighters who aren't caught or don't make the news. But every attack made by pit bulls somehow seems to make at least the local news.
There rarely is any information about the animal's living conditions and what led it to attack. If no one speaks out against the proposed law, there soon will be bans on every species that attacks a person. Chihuahuas might soon be banned for their mauling of unprotected ankles. Irish shepherds could be outlawed for causing multiple allergy attacks.
Stand up and protect your right to choose your own pet. If you don't soon, you might not have the chance.

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