Do We All Need Baseball Bats?
Tacoma, WA - The Tacoma News Tribune published an excellent opinion piece just after two pit bulls severely attacked Huong Le in SeaTac. The town of SeaTac is positioned between the two larger cities of Tacoma and Seattle. Tacoma also has its fair share of pit bull attacks.
Enough, already. How many times does a pit bull have to kill a child, maim a neighbor or slaughter another dog before the breed’s champions admit the obvious? Pit bulls and their fighting-breed cousins are, plain and simple, a threat.
Sure, there are sweet pit bull pups that don’t so much as growl, even when the kids are tugging on their ears or the cats go near the food bowl. A neighbor says Big Guy and Rimshot were gentle and playful – until the day they were not. And that’s the day they tried to dismember Huong Le underneath her SeaTac porch landing.
Le is in a Seattle hospital recovering from having her ears ripped off, her jaw broken, her right arm and wrist crushed, and her scalp torn open in the Monday attack. Any dog can turn, but pit bulls turn more often than other breeds. The Seattle Animal Shelter reports that pit bulls make up only 4 percent of licensed dogs, yet account for 22 percent of reported bites.
Pit bull lovers say the breed is unfairly targeted, the victim of bad breeders, bad owners, bad animal control officers and bad statistics. When a dog attacks, anything but the dog is to blame. Encouraging responsible pet ownership is a worthy goal, and plenty of pit bull owners train and socialize their dogs. But let’s get one thing straight: Derelict pit bull owners and breeders don’t kill people. Pit bulls kill people.
The problem with laws that “ban the deed, not the breed” is that they inevitably put communities in a reactive posture. Problem owners usually don’t become known until after there are problems, so cities take the chance that they’ll be able to identify trouble before it rips someone’s face off.
SeaTac goes further than pit bull supporters would like, automatically deeming the dogs “dangerous” and requiring owners to contain or muzzle them. But those laws were of little help to Huong Le’s neighbors, who couldn’t get overtaxed animal enforcement officers to respond when the dogs were on the loose.
If cities don’t ban the dogs outright, they at least need to give neighborhoods more leverage to pressure dog owners to comply with animal control laws. Auburn empowers neighborhoods by requiring that the owners of “dangerous” dogs post a bond and carry insurance. A pit bull can become “dangerous” – and therefore really expensive – for nothing more than running loose. You can imagine that neighbors stay on the watch.
The cries of pit bull owners who would have cities treat their dogs like any other are wearing thin.
Huong Le should be able to walk from her SeaTac home to the school bus stop and back without worrying that she’ll end up in pieces. Grandparents shouldn’t have to pull out their shotgun and pepper spray to have the grandkids come over to play. Couples shouldn’t have to grab a baseball bat before they set out for a walk around the neighborhood.
Communities shouldn’t feel helpless to protect themselves against vicious dogs and the irresponsible people who defend them.
09/13/08: Coverage of the Seattle Area Pit Bull Attack and Activism