Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dog ordinances: A grim situation

From Savannah Now

ON ITS web site, the Humane Society of the United States calls the pit bull "America's most abused dog."
It says pit bulls "attract many people who want them for all the wrong reasons" (dogfighting), and they comprise an estimated 70 percent of dogs housed and euthanized in urban animal shelter systems.
"It's a grim situation for a breed whose sweet temperament around children once earned it the nickname of 'the nanny dog,'" concluded the national organization (which has no affiliation with the local Humane Society).
No doubt that's true.
However, things aren't so rosy for a 7-year-old Savannah child who was playing in a park when two pit bulls who were running loose attacked him June 21.
Javon Roberson had been in critical condition with massive facial wounds he suffered when one of the female dogs grabbed his face in her jaws. Thankfully, three men in the neighborhood heard children screaming and ran to help, beating the canine attackers with bricks and probably saving Javon's life.
Since then, Savannah City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney has directed the metro police department's Animal Control to review city ordinances to see whether they should be strengthened in the wake of this attack.
That's a must. One place to start is HUSA, which offers several places to look:
• Stronger enforcement of existing dangerous dog laws. How many cases does Animal Control make each week or month? Of citations or charges issued, what have local judges done?
• Protection from untrained and unsupervised dogs of any breed or mix. Any dog can bite and be a nuisance when owned by an irresponsible owner who keeps the animal chained up and unsocialized.
• Encourage more dog ownership seminars and canine safety education.
Police officials said last Friday that a 19-year-old woman whose parents owned the dogs that attacked the children will not be charged. Apparently, that's because no criminal statutes seem to apply to what happened - two dogs accidentally let out of a minivan (which the 19 year old had been driving) by an 11-year-old child, according to police.
Civilly, it's another matter. Can an argument be made that the owners were negligent in leaving the dogs in the care of a 19 year old and allowing them to be carelessly transported? That's up to lawyers and a judge to hash out.
Meanwhile, this horrible attack has done one useful thing - focused intense public scrutiny on the responsibilities of every person who owns a dog, especially pit bulls and pit bull mixes.

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