Thorson: Put the bite on leash law violators
By Robert M. Thorson/Syndicated columnist
Sunday, January 21, 2007 - Updated: 12:15 AM EST
"Why don't you keep your dogs leashed?"
That's what I yelled at the owner shortly after two pit bulls attacked me on Second Beach in Newport, R.I., where unleashed dogs are against the law.
"They needed some room!" That's what she huffed at me, as if I had somehow provoked her dogs into violence. She never apologized. Instead, she grumbled, "I get your point."
No she does not! My point is that she's selfish. She had no right to ruin my sunset stroll by sending my heart rate into the stratosphere and my adrenaline level to the tingle-twitch stage. They bit me hard enough to bruise my arm and slime my favorite sweater with a frothy, tea-colored liquid composed of God-knows-what from God-knows-where. Yuck!
I was minding my own business, walking to the rhythm of the waves and my pace. Beach people were scattered here and there, some with leashed dogs, several without. Thirty yards ahead of me, two massive dogs that appeared to be American pit bull terriers began sprinting in my direction, one two lengths behind the other. I assumed that they were playing a game of chase. But at the last minute, both veered sharply toward me, each with its own role in what turned out to be a coordinated attack to bring me down like prey.
The first one went low to the left, grabbing my ankle. This, I later realized, was to divert my attention. While I was turning left to kick the first dog away, the second one leaped high to my right. It clamped down on my upper arm, yanking my body around.
By the time I could punch a left hook to the face of the arm-biter, the leg-biter had circled behind me, bitten my rib cage and was jerking me down toward the ground by my sweater.
Only then did I hear a voice from a distance calling off the dogs. They backed away snarling. The owner fussed with a third dog, presumably to re-leash it before walking my way to put her carnivores under control. That's when she got mad. Not at her dogs, but at me for having the gall to demand why she let her monsters run wild on a beach where children, frail elderly and small dogs are present.
After walking away, I slowly overtook another dog lover, this one following the rules. An elegantly dressed, late-middle-aged woman was leading a leashed Scottish terrier with one hand, and carrying a half-filled plastic poop bag with the other. While passing, I remarked how much I appreciated her keeping her dog leashed.
After responding politely, she volunteered something else, "People are so selfish. It's annoying when they don't clean up their dogs' messes." Then, as I stepped around a burger-sized pile of poop, she added that she, too, had cut her walk short to avoid several large unleashed dogs. Such canines have been known to kill small pooches like hers.
After arriving home and beginning to wash my damaged sweater, I reluctantly told my wife what had happened. She has long been worried about unprovoked dog attacks, and for good reason: Our own son was severely mauled as a 4-year-old, bitten so hard that his lung was punctured.
Now she's going to worry even more, every time. Three responsible day tourists the law-abiding dog owner, my wife and I are now less likely to return to that particular public beach, less likely to support the local economy. Even if we do return, all three of us will enjoy it slightly less because we'll be slightly more on guard.
One selfish hulk of a dog owner made sure of that. Police departments of towns and cities have no excuse for not enforcing leash and poop-scoop laws. All they have to do is stiffen the penalties to cover the costs of enforcement, put a plain-clothes police officer on the beach with a digital camera, and publish the names of offenders in the newspaper. Man's best friend need not be a violent threat or public nuisance.
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