Pit bull case ruling raises question about non-prosecution
February 4, 2009
It's so hard to understand. We let our small children play with loaded pistols all the time and nothing ever went wrong . Then suddenly, to our shock and dismay, our 4-year-old blew a hole in himself! Who could have seen this coming? That gun was always such a great toy, with no problems if we and the kids handled it properly.
We simply cannot figure out how this could happen.
You never hear such a dialogue recounted in a news story because, I suppose, few people are stupid enough to let small children play with loaded guns. Even if they were, they would not try to argue that problems were unforeseeable.
Pistols are designed to blow holes in living things, just as pit bulls -- unlike most dogs -- are designed, through hundreds of generations of deliberate breeding, to aggressively rip apart living things. If you replace ''pistol'' with ''pit bull'' in the above dialogue, it's the sort of thing you frequently will hear when one of these curs mangles a child.
As we learned the other day, a pit bull mongrel was an element in the criminal case against a Carbon County woman. The story said the Pennsylvania Superior Court, one rung down from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, overturned the conviction of Wendy Colleen Kneller of Weissport, who had been prosecuted on animal cruelty charges.
Kneller and her sweetheart, Randy Miller, had a pit bull named Bouta that attacked Kneller's 4-year-old son, it was reported, and they conspired to have Miller whack Bouta with a shovel and then shoot him.
They were not prosecuted for child endangerment, but Carbon County District Attorney Gary Dobias did prosecute them for being unpleasant to Bouta.
The animal cruelty convictions were overturned by a three-judge ruling a year ago, and now the full Superior Court, in an 8-1 decision, has upheld that ruling. There is no state law, the Superiors determined, that prohibits people from dispatching their own animals. Such a law, no doubt, could cause problems for farmers.
''If the Legislature wishes to make it criminal to shoot one's own dog or cat, it must do so in a clear, unambiguous manner'' said the latest opinion, written by Judge Richard Klein. ''It did not do so in this case.''
Imagine that! The judges want there to be a law against something before a DA prosecutes you for it. They believe in the rule of law , which must have their wanton Supreme Court brethren reeling in horror.
There are laws against mistreating children, so I asked DA Dobias why he did not prosecute Kneller for that. (Previous stories said she had 16 dogs, mostly pit bull mongrels, in her home, and they were so scary a state trooper was afraid to enter when he went to investigate the tragic demise of Bouta.)
''There was a dispute over whether these dogs were dangerous,'' Dobias replied, saying he has not decided whether to appeal the Superior Court ruling.
A dispute ? Involving a house full of 16 pit bulls?
I must confess that I am detested by some animal rights zealots because I believe the rights of human beings transcend the rights of dogs, and not the other way around. When it comes to pit bulls and similar breeds, that goes double.
Years ago, for example, I bashed the prosecution of a Saylorsburg man who shot a pit bull that was attacking him, his family and his pet dog, on his own property.
Until that bogus case got the heave-ho, it was pursued by Monroe County's then-Assistant DA E. David Christine. (As proof of that county's voter acumen, Christine is now DA, replacing Mark Pazuhanich, who was elected judge, but whose career was interrupted by his no-contest plea for molesting a 10-year-old girl.)
My opinion of pit bulls and other vicious breeds does not extend to all dogs. In fact, one of my favorite breeds is the golden retriever, and my favorite golden was Sam, the gentle pet of my son Neal and his family.
Sam was only 8 years old when, last week, his life ended because of a painful tumor. He was put to sleep by a veterinarian, not killed with a shovel and a gun.
He will be missed. Bouta will not, at least not by firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.