Guest Column: Doggone it!—Part 3

Guest Column: Doggone it!—Part 3

By Brendan O. Doherty

We are lucky to be able to own dogs in the first place. Other towns have banned vicious dogs or fighting breeds. I say there is nothing extreme about regulating pit bulls, mastiffs, and rotweillers, at least until all owners of these dogs know how to regulate them either by virtue or by habit. Until the weird, negative attitude in this city gives way to something more mature. Until there is no longer a need for such organizations as Rot Rescue. I am talking about the self-respect of our wider society.

I was minding my own business on my organization’s wooded lot. Two pit bulls were wandering around, relieving themselves, etc., on that property. I rounded up the dogs and led them off the private property. Soon, a fellow came barreling onto the property, yelling at me—backed up, of course, by his dogs and two other guys. He proceeded to try to lodge his face down my throat, thinking, perhaps, he had just been invited onto the set of the Jerry Springer show. In this way, he tried to convince me that his dogs were nice, fun dogs, and that I was trying to take over his neighborhood. I informed him that this behavior was called assault. He told me he was so angry at me because I was “some white guy.” So here we have a pit bull on private property, stray by its master’s permission, somehow granting its master the right not only to (allegedly) trespass on private property, but to (allegedly) perpetrate assault, threats, verbal obscenity, and so forth, even if they were hate crimes. By the time it was all over, he was shaking my hand and apologizing for being drunk, but this newcomer never demonstrated just why he and his dogs were such fine examples for the neighborhood.

Again, I think all dogs are wonderful. But I don’t think some dogs are so wonderful that they or their owners may tell us all to stay inside as if we were the dogs, or else to roll over and accept whatever magnanimous agenda their owners command. I am not talking about individuals; I am talking about a real trend in our city: stray dogs, vicious dogs, intimidating dogs. I am talking about a people problem letting it go wild, dulling away the cheerfulness and sweeter wilderness that used to breathe easily in our neighborhoods. Maybe, just maybe, the idea of keeping dogs fenced up, of taking them for walks on a leash, of disciplining them to be socially aware, considerate, and respectful, has existed for hundreds of years because this was a policy that worked for hundreds of years. Now, when we walk down the street, we have to calculate and negotiate totally unnecessary threats. Who let the dogs out?

What do I propose? Appropriate fencing or leashing of all dogs. Set-back fencing or privacy fencing for all fighting breeds, and special licenses for ownership of more than one fighting breed dog, especially in trouble areas of the city, with mandatory neutering/spaying. Increased funding for animal control. A more efficient “911”-type system for reporting animal nuisances and emergencies, including the distress of all pets, operable at all hours. A better system of tracking and mapping animal ownership and nuisance trends. A ban of vicious dogs. Finally, all dogs should take courses on cat-friendliness, and be prohibited from watching Jurassic Park.


Brendan O. Doherty is a local environmental health advocate.

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