Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How do you define a Rottweiler? Let's leave it to the Muleshoe City Council.

I took a random sampling of my dachshunds to meet some friends at Fort Woof Park this past Sunday. Channel 11 was there doing a story on a proposal that might be brought to the Texas State Legislature this spring. The legislature might once again consider giving Texas towns the authority to ban certain "dangerous" dog breeds.

I apologize for the lack of a Youtube, but here's a link to the Channel 11 video:

That's my friend Brenda at the end of the video (not in the picture above), sounding suspiciously like a libertarian, advocating personal responsibility and less government intervention. My friends Elaine and Dr. Liz were encouraging me to get in front of the camera and hold forth, but the only thing I could think of was a racial analogy. (Our prisons have a disproportionate number of Hispanics and African-Americans, but we would never dream of using the same logic to ban racial groups from certain areas based on the actions of a few bad apples, blah blah blah. I didn't feel comfortable trying to properly express that awkward comparison to everyone in Fort Worth/Dallas. And that's probably a good thing!)

Here's more info on the proposal from the Houston Chronicle:

In a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott, Republican state Rep. Tony Goolsby requested an opinion to clarify a state law that cities and counties have interpreted as preventing them from targeting breeds. He wrote that confusion caused by “varying interpretations” of the law has stopped local governments wanting to pursue such measures. Most of the confusion concerns whether the law would apply to a dog that has not been deemed “dangerous.”

Here's what I should have said to Channel 11, but couldn't pull my reasoning together until the ride home:

"The Texas State Legislature is possibly going to give the Abbot, White Settlement, Uvalde, Muleshoe, and Rio Frio City Councils the authority, expertise, and funding to determine exactly what is and isn't a Rottweiler? How do you tell the difference between a Rottweiler/Portuguese Water Dog/Labrador mix that is harmless and a similar one that's dangerous? Would it be legal to own a Pitt Bull/Cocker Spaniel mix? Where would you draw the line? This bill would be a feast for lawyers, which is probably what the advocates of this bill intended."

You know how frustrating it is to think of the perfect thing to say when the opportunity has already passed. Anyway, I checked it out with the Aggie. There's no way to be 100% sure what percentage of breeds make up any particular mutt dog.

Pitt Bull owners should be responsible for their dogs, and keep them safely enclosed. There are plenty of laws to that effect already on the books.
Parents should be responsible for their toddlers, and keep them safely enclosed. There are plenty of laws to that effect already on the books.
Voters should be responsible for their legislators, and keep them safely enclosed. There aren't nearly enough laws to that effect on the books.

We need a ban on bans.

"Good fences make good neighbors" - Robert Frost

Dog pics from here and here.


Mark said...

are certain breeds of dogs innately dangerous or is it just that the owners train/raise them that way.

I've not heard of any studies saying that 100% of a type of dog is evil and must be banned no matter how it is raised.

Anonymous said...

My opinion........which, that and a quarter won't buy you a cup of coffee....... is;

Dogs' of any breed are made "bad" not born! Bad owners' make bad dogs. I have never met a mean/bad puppy.

Suzette Watkins said...

I have found Pitt Bulls to be some of the most loving dogs! Are they dangerous? Yes, due to their pure strength. To me, it's sort of like a loaded gun. Do you handle it irresponsibly? No.
I'm all for finding a way to ban irresponsible parents (of two and four legged animals.)

Dr Ralph said...

Okay -- I'll play devil's advocate here, even though I really don't have (if you'll excuse the expression) a dog in this fight.

First a brief (true) story.

Many years ago, while walking to eat Mexican food with Ms. Ralph (8 months pregnant), large snarling dog leaps from porch and charges me. Unfortunately his bonehead owner had chosen to chain him to...a rose bush. I get bit. Owner is a dirt ball renter...I even end up paying my own emergency room bill.

The consensus so far seems to be the owners are the problem, not the dogs. Fine. How do we prevent this? Ground rule: the "dog bites are the cost of freedom" argument does not cut it here.

Ban all dogs? While not singling out any one breed may be "fair," this seems draconian, and unlikely to happen.

Make dog licenses mandatory and set the cost of licensing so high as to squeeze out at least some of the irresponsible owners? That also seems unlikely to happen, and will create a new set of scofflaws.

Set the penalties for dog bite incidents very high? This will only work if strictly enforced. Plus it is a reactive approach; certain scumbags will be no more inclined to obey this rule than any other. It's not going to help the neighborhood boy or girl mauled by Joe Dirtball's kid killer. Plus we've already seen the sort of bullshit sentimentality people fall back on when their "sweet pet" attacks another animal or person.

Do we let it be a civil matter, where dog-bite victims are forced to sue the owners? Talk about feasts for lawyers. Plus I doubt the guy I would have sued had much worth suing for.

Which brings us back to banning certain breeds. Is it a good solution to a problem?

Some folks get certain breeds because of their reputation for viciousness, then do what they can to make the dogs more so. I doubt a wiener dog is going to have quite the same cachet to the local thug intent on enhancing his reputation as a Rotweiller or pitbull (sorry, wiener dogs).

Is this enough reason to ban them?

I honestly don't know. I'm serious about having no axe to grind here.

Tell me what you think the solution is.

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

First, I knew Suzette would sound off here!! Second, Dr. Ralph with no axe to grind? You feeling OK buddy?

I was in Denver not too long ago and there was a news story where certain towns had banned Pit Bulls. Cops were going to houses where it was rumored (somebody ratted) that a Pit Bull or mix lived. Officer Friendly would knock on the door and would search with his dog warrant. If they saw a Pit, they took it. No behavioral issues needed to be reported. And it was terminated later. No good byes. No out of town adoptions.

Suzette and I believe that dogs are somewhere between a family member and piece of property property (say, a rose bush). However, dogs ain't humans. They're kind of like a human with a mental condition who is under your custodianship. Oh, it could be like a seven year old with Downs. A real sweetheart who is very loving. However, another one could be like a 30 year old guy built like a linebacker with Downs Syndrome who is also a mean drunk.

As a parent, you're probably OK to take the 7 year old out as long as you supervise, but can allow to play with others. But the parents of the massive 35 year old Lawrence Taylor with Downs AND mean drunk streak should be ALOT more careful, RESTRAIN constantly and keep him away from bars for God's sake!!

Civil cases for dog bites? Of course! I was and am a fan of Libby and Lola. Sorry. I hate to hear you got bit by a jackass's dog and couldn't recover your damages. But it shouldn't stop there. He should be eligible to stay for an involuntary vacation in one of our lovely air conditioned county facilities for 15 days - Negligent Assault with Dog. Not kidding.

If Whited feels less manly with wiener dogs.. I have a miniature wiener

- DOG! Miniature Wiener DOG!

Finally, I love the mixbreed dog names. So, that Pitt Bull/Cocker Spaniel would be a Bull Cock then? And the Pitt Bull/Shitzu is just too much of a softball. Any other good mixbreed names?

It's late and my humor just keeps getting dumber...

Anonymous said...

Dr. Ralph's story of being bitten (sorry you were bittn Dr.) by a tied dog goes stright to the point of DUMB owners.

Any dog that is tied feels threatened, when a stranger comes close to their territory they will charge or be aggressive, hence our current no "tie/teather" law. Most animals treated this way are also neglected. So it goes back to being an irresponsible owner,being a renter does not make him a scumbag,tying his dog does!

If a dog is properly fenced and a child or another animal enters that enclosure, well, then their guardians are responsible not the dog or lion or whatever.

No one likes to hear about a child being killed or injured but is it really the dogs fault?

Dr Ralph said...

I'll say it again: I basically agree with the prevailing notion that the real problem is dog owners.

So what is the solution?

One method, regulation, seems out of favor around here. Steep penalties might punish dog or douch-bag owner after the fact, but are of little solace to the victim. Plus, not to repeat myself, bullshit sentimentality will prevent any measures harsh enough to really be a deterrent. I'd be willing to discuss euthanizing the owner rather than the dog, but I doubt that's going to fly. And I've already said the "dog bites are the price we pay for liberty" argument doesn't cut it.

That being said, almost all the stories I hear about children being mauled, etc, involve certain breeds of dogs: pitbulls, rottweillers, etc. I've never read about a vicious wiener dog killing anyone (in an odd bit of irony, the only other time I was bit, it was by a wiener dog).

Still, I agree: the real problem is the owners.

So what is the solution?

Finally, if it had been my pregnant wife who'd been attacked, this would be a whole 'nother story -- since I'd probably be writing this from prison.

Dr Ralph said...

...And anonymous, my point about the dirtbag renter was more about the fact that he had no assets that could be collected, should I have sued - and the fact that he quickly disappeared with no forwarding address. There are plenty of douchebags in McMansions.

Suzette Watkins said...

The solution, imo, involves "bigger government" which none of us want, so....I think the solution starts in early childhood in teaching our children that dogs are social animals and that they need love, nuturing and socialization. As far as the ignorant adults who own/abuse/neglect dogs....hold them accountable..but it will cost us in municipal court preceedings, etc. To me, all ills of our society stem from irresponsible parenting.

Dr Ralph said...

So...we can force our libraries to spend money to "protect the children" from internet porn, but we're too cheap to protect them from vicious dogs in their own neighborhoods?


"Dog bites are the price we pay for liberty."

Dr Ralph said...

...Or to put it another way, we'll protect them from wieners, but not wiener dogs....

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Axeless Doctor,

One fourth of July about fifteen years ago, I was bitten by a pair of Labradors at Tandy Hills Park. It didn't cost me anything except pain, but one of the bruise eventually grew to be about 1 foot x 8 inches.
In that case, I believed, and still believe, that the best solution would have been concealed handgun permits. (Not legal at the time). There woulda been two dead Labradors.

Here's the problem with the government intervention angle, as I see it.

Say the Muleshoe City Council outlaws Rottweilers, Pitt Bulls, German Shitzhus, etc. They get it properly defined. They can determine, in True Nazi Eugenics fashion, what percentage of outlawed blood is in any questionable animal. The dog police do an outstanding job. The bad dogs go away from the city of Muleshoe.
But guess what else goes away over a 15-20 year period? Good solid fences.

Now let's assume that Muleshoe decides to outlaw (ahem) wieners from their library and computers. They appoint a porn czar, and give him the budget to ensure that no little Muleshoe Munchkin could ever be exposed to anything less than wholesome at the Muleshoe public library. The anti-wiener crusade is 100% effective, and nothing inappropriate is ever to be found within the Muleshoe books or computers. The bad stuff goes away.

But guess what else goes away over a 15-20 year period? Parents.

Then assume that the Muleshoe government has mandated that the Muleshoe banks give out Subprime Mortgage loans, the loans go into default, blah blah blah, and the current nationwide mess is duplicated in Muleshoe, Texas. But Muleshoe doesn't own any printing presses, and therefore can't magically create any money. So they have to cut back on spending....

Wouldn't it make sense, at that point, to eliminate the dog police and the porn czar?


But it's much more difficult, because houses don't have decent fences. Parents aren't accustomed to being responsible for their children. Big Brother has been covering all that.

A staggering number of govt programs and regulations began as the emotional response to a relatively small problem. And these responses never, ever seem to go away.

That's why libertarians generally have a default setting of "No" when asked about any government action.

Dr Ralph said...

WS - I remain axeless. I agree with you: no specie profiling. The question remains though, what do we do about dirtbag owners?

How do we keep your wiener dogs off my buns?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Ralph,

One dog bite, mauling or death from a "dirtbag/scumbag" owners dog,and we kill'um (the owner). No government interferance or new laws!