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We dogs dead!

By Terry Joseph
Apr 26, 2000

Last week, even as Christians intensified Lenten observances, new information came to light about the creation of living things, once thought to be the exclusive domain of God Himself.

We learned, for instance, that at least three canine breeds were not of His making at all, but had been put on earth by dark Satanic principalities, presumably to destroy mankind; one bite at a time.

By the same opportunity, we also discovered that the Senate was not created to necessarily ensure careful audit of political expediency, or bring sobriety to hysterical responses originating from another level of the law-making process.

It all happened during the passage of the Dangerous Dogs Bill when, in the tradition of Ancient Rome, Senators unanimously gave selected animals the thumbs-down, condemning those breeds to extinction; either by attrition or the shorter route of lethal injection. Pitbulls, Fila Brasilieros and Japanese Tosas were sentenced to death or sexless life imprisonment; framed for crimes clearly committed by their masters.

So, perhaps for fear of appearing inhumane so soon after a young boy had been savaged by a pitbull as he played on a swing in a public park, the Senators thought it unnecessary to examine the problem any further. Not even Senator Kuei Tung, whose Royal Castle fast-food chain sells an edible product called "devil dogs", objected to the same name being given to the condemned breeds by his parliamentary colleagues.

Mark you, of the estimated 4,200 pitbull terriers said to be living here, less than .0001 percent of that number has been involved in fatal incidents since 1995. Man-made motor vehicles, which can match the pitbull five-year fatality figure overnight, were not even introduced to the debate by way of comparison.

Of course, cars will not kill pedestrians, if properly handled or secured in garages and never allowed onto public roads or children's playgrounds. But then, neither will pitbulls, given the same circumstances. As is true of all situations involving the handling of potentially fatal weapons, the responsibility to ensure that death or injury does not result lies with the handler.

But the pitbull, trained to neutralise any perceived threat to its owner, was now being described as "dangerous", only because it did precisely what it was conditioned to do. Ironically, everyone was suddenly behaving as if the animal had been irretrievably disobedient. The Senators obviously agreed. And once again, we had cavalierly shifted to the wrong quarter, the onus for responsibility.

The Senators evidently did not spend enough time finding out how the same problem was treated in other civilised countries, since the rest of the world has long discovered that breed-specific legislation is clearly not the answer. In the instant case, further undisturbed passage of the Bill might even lead owners of pitbulls and other named dogs to set them loose, if the penalties outlined are found to be too steep for the responsible majority.

The Senators should perhaps have looked at the results of a five-year study, published in the Cincinnati Law Review (vol. 53, pg 1077), which specifically considered Rottweilers and pitbull terriers. The exhaustive study concluded in part that: "Statistics do not support the assertion that any one breed was dangerous. When legislation is focused on the type of dog, it fails because it is unenforceable, confusing, and costly. Focusing legislation on dogs that are 'vicious' distracts attention from the real problem, which is the irresponsibility of their owners."

In fact, there are several models of existing non-breed-specific legislation (e.g.: the State of California) that offer competent guidelines for dealing with irresponsible owners and do not punish those who maintain their dogs safely and humanely. Lawmakers must understand that the irresponsible owners don't care what kind of dog they lose the right to own. They will soon find another breed to fit their needs. Remember how we felt about Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and German Shepherds just a few years ago?

But maybe when an uncontrollably vicious cross-breed emerges, only then will it become clear to our lawmakers that the dog is not the out-of-control creature in this debate. "Dog," mother used to say, "is God spelt backwards.

"A dog is man's best friend. Do not kick a dog, ill-treat it or be unfair to the animal in any way, because The Creator will personally intervene in its defence."

Hopefully, that intervention will come from a spirit quite unlike the one credited by the Senate with the creation of some breeds and will occur well before the Bill attempts to make its way through the House of Representatives.

And if the Members of that Honourable House cannot bring to the debate some greater intelligence on the subject, then Parliament would have failed in its responsibility to make sensible and enforceable laws; in which case all ah we dogs dead for sure!

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