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Making pit bull & other dog owners more responsible
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Responsible pit bull owners do have a point.

The good dogs get broad-brushed by the bad ones.

Yet they can’t deny that pit bulls trained - or abused - to take advantage of their powerful jaws or those that have a natural vicious streak are dangerous.

There are also other dog breeds that can be vicious and attack other dogs, animals and humans.

Yet statistics compiled by the most neutral party in the dog bite fatality debate - the Center for Disease Control - notes of the 199 deaths from dog bites in the United States from 1979 through 1996 almost a third or 60 of those were caused by pit bulls. Rounding out the top 5 dog breeds for fatalities during that time period were Rottweilers 29, German Shepherds 19, Huskies 14, and wolf hybrids 14.

My preference for dogs is Dalmatians. I have also been bitten three times - once as a kid by a Great Dane that was being agitated by some teen-agers as I was walking by, once by a mixed breed dog while I was bicycling and once by a Chihuahua on the ankle while I was running after the owner opened the front door for it to go to the bathroom and instead it made a beeline for me. I also have been sent to the hospital on a back board after being knocked unconscious for 35 minutes by a dog whose owner let it run lose in the country that charged me as I was bicycling downhill.

I have also had two fairly serious encounters with pit bulls in the past year in my neighborhood. One while I was walking my two Dalmatians on leash when a loose pit bull charged them. Fortunately my bigger Dalmatian turned into a spotted version of the Tasmania Devil snarling like I’d never seen him do before.

The other time I was in my front yard watering while talking to a neighbor when two loose pit bulls started charging me from behind snarling as they ran. The neighbor was able to shoo them off after telling me not to move.

Last week’s fatal pit bull attack on another dog - it has happened before in Manteca - renewed the need to address aggressive dogs. Yes, the city has zeroed in on pit bulls- and can legally do so - by requiring them to be fixed unless certain steps and expensive licensing takes place.

Pit bull defenders like to come up with all sorts of statistics that say you’re 16 times more likely to drown in a 5-gallon pail of water in your lifetime than be mauled to death by a pit bull. About 40 people die drowning in that amount of water yearly whether it is in a toilet or a pail each year with almost all being children.

But here’s one statistic for you to ponder: How many people have been killed by Labradors, Beagles or even poodles that can be pretty vicious dogs in their own right?

You won’t find a single death for any of those breeds and countless others in the United States going back to 1979. Rest assured they bite people given almost 5 million people are reportedly bitten each year in the United States that had roughly 60 million dogs.

My dogs do not leave the yard unless they are on a leash. I also made sure I had a strong, secure 7-foot fence before adopting Dalmatians from Save a Spot Dalmatian Rescue in Turlock. If I can’t follow city leash law, treat my dogs humanely and keep my dogs secured I have no business having them.

I bet you the vast amount of dog owners - even those who own what are lumped together as pit bulls - do the same thing.

So what’s the solution?

It starts with paying the piper - in this case - the city to license dogs. I just got a replacement dog for one that died of a stroke. I will be heading to City Hall this week to pay for her licensing. My other dog - who I have failed to license - will go to the vet to get up-to-date shots and he’ll be licensed as well. Both, by the way, are fixed as that is the only way you can get them from Save a Spot Dalmatian Rescue in Turlock which is fine by me. There are tons of good dogs out there that need homes. I don’t need to breed my own.

Even if my dogs never get loose and therefore are never picked up by animal control, as a responsible dog owner I need to make sure that the renegades out there have to pay consequences by refusing to follow the rules of a civilized society. It is only right that I help fund animal control services so they can pick up “strays” that are often have irresponsible owners.

Sure, it doesn’t seem fair but people who don’t own dogs may think otherwise.

We also need tougher laws elevating death or serious maiming by a dog to a point where the owner is treated exactly as if he was driving drunk when someone is killed or seriously injured or while using a weapon.

It is the dog’s owner - not the victim or the dog for that matter - that made deliberate decisions to keep a vicious dog or to treat one to the point it can main or kill people.