Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Yesterday's Staten Island Pit Bull Attack

“An off-leash dog is a tired dog, and a tired dog is a good dog.” We wonder how that jibes with the events described in Staten Island Man Is Mauled by Neighbor's Pit Bulls in today’s New York Times. The dogs stripped most of the skin of one arm and one leg and left bite marks across the parts of the body of the victim, a 90-year-old man, that they did not shred. Neighbors said that the dogs rarely were on a leash.

According to this update, the victim has had a leg amputated. The Staten Island Advance reports that he might lose an arm too. Also, the owner has now been “charged” with having unlicensed dogs and not having his dogs on a leash. But these aren’t crimes; they’re only violations, punishable by a small fine. To put the owner away for as long as he deserves, prosecutors are going to have to come up with something better, such as criminally negligent homicide when the victim dies of his wounds, as would seem inevitable. But what if the victim lives? Sure he could sue, but not if this were the first time the dogs had bitten anyone, and besides: how much will anyone be able to collect from this owner? Perhaps it is time for the state legislature to enact a law that an assault by an animal that is illegally off-leash is deemed to be an assault by the owner, subject to the same criminal penalties as if the owner had committed it. Unduly harsh? We think not.

As one would expect, commentary on the web is focusing on precisely the wrong issue, the breed of dog in the attack and whether that breed should be banned. This sort of attack could happen with other breeds of dogs as well. The problem was not that they were pit bulls. The problem was that they were chronically off-leash and that, as usual, the cops knew about it and did nothing.

A related matter: as we pointed out here , short of hiring a lawyer, you have pretty much no recourse if your dog is attacked by an unleashed pit bull--or by any other dog--in New York City. You can't even file a police report.


Datnioides said...

As a responsible owner of a pit bull that I have owned for 10 years and trained myself, I am highly offended by Peter Vallone’s latest broadsides against the pit bull breed. Mr Vallone, the owner of a Bichon Frise, has been agitating to overturn New York State’s law prohibiting legislation against specified breeds in order to ban pit bulls in New York City. Seizing upon the emotions stirred up by the two highly publicized pit bull attacks, one in Staten Island and one in Brooklyn, Mr. Vallone has blindly and stupidly decided to blame the breed of the dogs involved. Apparently he has decided to ignore the other common denominator in these attacks: the criminal thug dog owners who don’t deserve to keep a pet rat, let alone a powerful dog breed.

Like so many other lazy, unimaginative politicians confronting this issue, Mr. Vallone has taken the easy way out by calling for a ban. Thousands upon thousands of good dogs aka pit bulls live in New York City with decent folks who take responsibility for their pets. I guess they don’t count for jack diddley squat with Mr. Vallone. What about the criminally irresponsible dog owners involved in the attacks? Why don’t they get the blame?

The Staten Island idiot was a convicted rapist of a 14 year old girl. His dogs were untrained and allowed to run as a pack around the area, intruding into other people’s yards – a recipe for disaster. Neighbours’ repeated calls to police about the threatening, off leash pits constantly roaming the neighbourhood were ignored by the cops. Or, as has been my experience, the complaints were refused because the caller didn’t know the name of the owner and the address where the dogs lived. Come on now! Isn’t it the responsibility of animal control to find the owner and the dogs? Oh, but that might require additional funding for the chronically understaffed animal control agency, and requiring cops to take complaints about off leash dogs seriously. When is that going to happen?

NYCDOG and FIDO have both promoted letting your dog off leash to “run free” as something of a virtue, and now keeping your dog on leash all the time is seen as cruelty. Yes, I have been chastised on the internets by NYCDOG members for keeping my pit bull on a leash all the time. I was stigmatized for being a responsible pit bull owner, never letting my dog off leash to “play and socialize” with other dogs. No matter that my dog is happy, calm, obedience trained to the max, and knows her place in the world. Yep, I’m a bad owner for never letting her “run free”!! Insanity!! This is a pit we are talking about, a game breed bred for centuries to ignore pain and fight to the death. The greatest people loving breed in the world, but dog aggression can be an issue without obedience training! Face reality folks! What dog group is speaking for the responsible dog owners in the city? Right now – none. No wonder the politicians are confused, when all they get is screaming, emotion, and mixed messages from the pro-dog groups.

As for the other moron in Brooklyn, who put his savage dogs through a window to bite his estranged girlfriend, and ended up savaging a child instead, here is another stellar example of human society using his dogs as a weapon. There are reports (google New York pit bull attacks) that this jackass kept his dog chained up all the time in his apartment and “no one could get near the vicious dog”. I have already commented below about the tendency of certain ghetto elements to keep dogs tied up on short chains in overcrowded apartments, dogs that are constantly beaten and abused. Even the sweetest natured dog would be made into a savage monster by such treatment. To blame the breed for this horrible incident is really beside the point.

Blaming dogs for people problems is not going to solve these problems. We need to prosecute these dog owners for the horrific damage done to other people due to negligence and irresponsibility. If necessary introduce legislation to make these owners criminally liable. Increase the penalties for not licensing your dog, for not immunizing your dog, and especially for breaking the leash law. Increase the penalties for animal cruelty as well. Keeping a dog on a short chain in an apartment all its life puts people’s lives in danger. Children and the elderly are most at risk from dog attacks.

Peter Vallone, your bichon frise is not an angel, and my Bed-Stuy born American Pit Bull Terrier is not a devil. They’re just dogs – animals that can react unpredictably in ways we find horrific. They should be properly controlled and confined, and owners should be permanently deprived of the privilege of dog ownership if they fail in their responsibilities. Breed bans are a stupid and ineffectual way to solve this complicated social issue.

noisejoke said...

dat - very well stated. You present a subtle and rational viewpoint. However, while I'm sorry you feel you've been demonized by some folks who won't mind their business and somehow demand you let your dog offleash, none of these events or issues have anything to do with official designated and specific Off Leash hours, at specific places. Your dog is yours - there is no legal nor moral mandate requiring you to bring your dog to Off Leash hours in Prospect Park. Conversely, these horrible and unlawful events have nothing to do with me and my dogs and their privilege to be offleash at specific hours in specific areas os the park.