Muzzle the terrorists in our midst (December 10, 2003)
You may have missed a recent story on terrorism in Colorado. It didn't make the headlines, even though one person was brutally murdered, with two others injured. The carnage was horrifying to witnesses. According to a firefighter with 37 years of experience, "I've never seen a person chewed up like this." The scene was so bloody several firefighters sought counselling.
The terrorists were suicidally single-minded fanatics from a family known to lawmakers as armed, trained and dangerous, with a record of previous attempts. Family relatives have been implicated in terrorism elsewhere.
Al-Qaeda? No, these terrorists were dogs: American Pit Bulls, whose cumulative victim tally doubtless exceeds Osama Bin Laden's. Their owner wasn't charged because that county didn't have any dog control laws. She is free to raise her surviving Pit Bull puppies to attack again. Why isn't she in the dog owner equivalent of Guantanamo Bay? Beats me.
Ugly dog attack stories abound. In New Brunswick earlier this year three Rottweilers tore a child apart. The dogs' owner said, "They were perfect pets. It's a shock to me."
It's always a shock to the owner. But breed traits are common knowledge. Mystery writer Ruth Rendell's latest book about a serial murderer is called The Rottweiler. There's a reason she didn't call it The Greyhound. Because people "get it."
People buy dogs for all kinds of reasons, many of them pretty dumb and ill-considered. The puppies are so cute. Or they love Spuds McKenzie. It takes an experienced, unsentimental trainer to make aggressive breeds 100% reliable around people. Permissive, besotted owners anthropomorphize their pets, then blame the "provocative" victims when they attack.
Given the suffering dogs cause, there should be a canine Homeland Security Bill. I discovered few Canadian figures, but those few proportionately reflect these American stats: Dogs bite four to five million Americans every year. Serious injuries are up nearly 40% from 1986. Children are victims of 60% of bites and 80% of fatal attacks. Nearly half of all American kids have been bitten by the age of 12. Pit Bulls or crosses alone account for more than a third of dog bite fatalities.
Pit Bulls -- loaded guns with hair triggers and no safety catches -- are especially horrible because their powerful jaws have super-canine strength. Unlike other biting dogs, Pit Bulls don't let go. They are impervious to pain. Neither hoses, blows or kicks will stop them. Other dogs warn of their anger with growls or body language, but again, like terrorists, Pit Bulls attack silently and with no perceived provocation. They are the dogs of choice for drug warlords and street thugs who breed strains with an ever-increasing appetite for aggression, and are now systematically implicated in the anarchy and brutality of the criminal world.
The breeders, trainers and Kennel Clubs know all this. Yet dog civil libertarians resist "profiling" or penalties that impinge on the dog's "right to due process" (their actual words). Gordon Carvill, president of the American Dog Owners' Association, is implacable on breed profiling, falsely claiming, "There is no dog born in this world with a predisposition to aggression." This is canine political correctness run amok. Disinterested experts overwhelmingly disprove this claim with ease.
In 1998 1,237 dog attacks were reported in Canada, initiated by the usual suspects: Pit Bulls and Rottweilers (together accounting for half the attacks), but also German Shepherds, Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. Yet all "official" animal organizations stress that "an individual dog may be a good and loving pet even though its breed may be considered likely to attack."
True, but hardly comforting. For who'd want even the "good and loving" members of the Bin Laden clan as air traffic controllers? These caninists bring to mind the moral relativists who insist that poverty and despair create suicide bombers because all cultures and creeds proclaim equally worthy values.
In the United States 37 states impose partial bans on breeds such as Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and Dobermans. In Manitoba, Winnipeg bans Pit Bulls, and in Quebec, Sherbrooke and Chapais ban Pitt Bulls and Rottweilers. Some communities have muzzle laws. Calgary has halved aggressive incidents through strict licensing enforcement: Officials keep computerized complaints against individual dogs and impound them or require them to wear a muzzle if a threat. Eighty per cent of Calgary's 100,000 dogs are now licensed.
Pit Bull and Rottweiler breeders should be forced to include cigarette-type warnings with every dog sale, saying "Warning: The breed of dog you are buying is responsible for most fatal attacks on humans." At the very least owners should be liable for damages in unprovoked attacks: They should suffer punitive damages and/or jail time.
My vet says Labrador Retrievers are the only dogs that never try to bite him. That's why I have a Lab. Why doesn't everyone?
© National Post 2003