Dangerous Dogs, Dangerous Owners
The “dangerous dog” question is one that every community struggles with. Many jurisdictions have passed laws defining “dangerous” and spelling out protocols for dogs who have threatened, bitten, mauled or even killed a human. An incident last Saturday in Trinity Pines, California, highlights the challenges the judicial system faces when trying to make humane decisions about the fate of dogs who have bitten. (Trinity County Dog Attack)
In March of 2010, two Pit Bulls and a Rottweiler attacked a 53-year-old man who lost his right leg as a result. Trinity County’s animal control officer Christine Edwards recommended the Pit Bulls be destroyed and the Rottweiler be declared vicious. County administrative officer Dero Forslund returned the dogs to 19-year-old owner Timothy Smith, on condition they be kept under lock and key, after numerous neighbors testified on the dog’s behalf. The dogs were returned to Smith on May 4th.
On Saturday, May 15th, the dogs escaped through an open window of a shed and attacked a man walking by. The victim received hospital treatment and was released. This time animal control will recommend that all three dogs be destroyed, as the Rottweiler was reportedly more involved in the second attack than the first one.
One cannot fault animal control for diligently doing their job of protecting the public when they ordered the dogs destroyed after the first attack. One cannot fault the administrative officer for making a fair and empathetic decision based on feedback from the community. Trinity County should be commended for having a non-breed-specific ordinance in place that allows for empathy and judicial judgment in deciding the fate of a living being. One cannot even fault the dog’s owner for trying to save his dogs’ lives. However, one can be appalled by his utter failure to keep his dogs – and his neighbors – safe, after he and his canine companions were given a second chance for a life together.
It’s unfortunate that this case involves two breeds that are unfairly stereotyped as dangerous. Owners of such dogs have a heavy burden of responsibility, not just to keep their dogs and neighbors safe, but to protect the reputation of dogs subject to societal suspicion and stereotype. It’s tragic that three dogs will probably die because their owner failed them in all of these areas of responsibility.
The system didn’t fail in this case, the owner did. Shame on you, Timothy Smith!