Pit bull attack stories are getting to be as ritualized as kabuki theatre. First, there’s the awful headline, (“Child mauled!”), the dog’s owner is dismayed, ("We just can’t imagine why Fluffy did this.”), neighbors complain, (“Everybody knew that dog was gonna hurt somebody someday.”), elected officials call for “breed specific dog bans,” kennel clubs fire up their base and protest. Then the whole thing disappears from the news and nothing is done until the next headline.
Pit bull attack stories are also written in such a way that only slowly, over days, does the context emerge and invariably it turns out that it was the owner, not the dog, who was guilty of Walking While Stupid.
The latest fatal attack of a 12year-old in San Francisco was typical, but with one interesting wrinkle. This time Mummy Dearest has been charged with child endangerment because the evidence was clear that she knew in advance that the two family pit bulls were, uh, problematic. That’s why she shut her son in the cellar with orders that he stay locked in there while she ran errands. And why did this woman know that her dogs were, uh, trouble? Here’s how the SFGate.com story put it: “She said she had been worried about the family’s male dog, Rex, because he had been acting possessively towards the other pit bull, Ella, who was in heat.”
Gee, do you think? Then Mummy noted that it was her son’s “time to go. When you’re born, you’re destined to go, and this was his time.”
It is a matter of supreme irony in this case that it’s highly probable that the four-legged pit bull, Ella, who will undoubtedly be destroyed, would have been a better mommy for her puppies than this two-legged version was for her offspring.
While the woman in this case is out of the running for the Mother of The Year Award, the attack is so typical of such cases: Clueless owners, at-risk (or dead) kids and/or neighbors, dead dogs, outraged government officials, legislation that either goes nowhere or hits the wrong target so that nothing gets done until the next outrage.
And it’s the “getting something done” part that is so difficult because, as a society, we demand the freedom to do what we want, when we want it, and are outraged whenever a government agency dares to step in to tell us what to do with our private property (and dogs are considered property); we demand our right to abuse animals however we see fit and woe betide anyone who meddles in our abuse; we refuse to pay sufficient taxes to finance comprehensive animal welfare programs (low cost spay/neuter, humane education, high-rate adoption programs, community outreach, sufficient and effective enforcement of laws now on the books, etc.) but have no problem paying extra to clean up the messes our indifferent attitude costs us; our constitution guarantees we are all innocent until after mauled bodies and/or abused and dead dogs are found lying around; and finally, we haven’t been able to figure out how to legislate against people Walking While Stupid.
A quick visit to our various county dog shelters will give you an idea of how much dog-stupidity is out there: He peed on the rug so I dumped him back at the pound. The dog’s out in the back yard all day and night and his barking is driving me crazy. My dog’s name is “Killer,” and I don’t believe in neutering dogs. He only bit that other dog a few times. Look, he’s growling at me. Isn’t that cute? We wanted the children to witness “the miracle of birth” so we let Missy have a litter of puppies. Want one?
Well, you get the drift. And so it goes, our Dog Mauling, Vicious Dog Headline Kabuki Theatre of the Absurd continues on. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is seeking to have the city “stiffen fines for not licensing dogs, ban ‘backyard breeding’ operations and require owners of certain breeds to obtain liability insurance.” And require that pit bulls be spayed or neutered.
Good luck to him. In too many cases, it’s the owners who should be spayed or neutered, but that’ll never happen. So for The Walking While Stupid Crowd, it’ll be business as usual – more dead kids, more dead dogs, and How much is that doggie in the window, anyway?