What Is So Hard To Understand?
Posted Sunday, June 6, 2010, at 9:06 AM
by Melanie Coy
What part of "they WILL take your dogs away if you do not take responsibility" is so difficult for people to understand? We had two incidents, going into the Memorial Day weekend, of blatant ignorance on the part of people that should be old enough to understand this simple concept. Apparently the notion of cause and effect is too complicated to penetrate the fog of stupidity that permeates the pshyche of this new wave of Pit Bull owner.
The first incident to come across my computer was from a community in northern Illinois that less than three months ago fought to eliminate the breed specific language from proposed changes to their animal control ordinances. When the ordinances were changed to reflect generic, fair penalties for any dog owner not being responsible, one of the proponents of the push to ban or restrict Pit Bulls said the issue would come up again. Guess what....he was right.
On May 28th, 2010, police officers in Elgin Illinois shot and killed two Pit Bulls after they allegedly attacked a nine year old boy in front of about 100 people in an Elgin city park. Councilman Prigge was quoted as saying "I knew we would be back here. I'm rearing to go on this." You can bet he is too.
The Pit Bull owners of Elgin dodged another bullet. It was decided not to revisit the subject of breed specific bans or restrictions in their newly enacted animal control ordinances. Do not think you have an open account.
According to the link I received to the Southeast Missourian's Speak Out column, on the night of May 29th, there was an incident during the Tunes at Twilight concert right here in Cape Girardeau. I have attended these concerts. I have taken my dogs on occasion but for the most part I consider outings such as this "my time". I have no problem with other people bringing well behaved, managed pets. This is a wonderful opportunity to enhance social skills. What I do have a problem with is the owner of the Pit Bull that was running loose and jumped the leashed dog belonging to the author of the Speak Out comment.
Do you honestly think Cape Girardeau is immune to breed bans and restrictions? The subject has come up before. I would like to remind you we have a new mayor and two new council people. Just like I warned the Pit Bull owners in the City of Jackson a couple of weeks ago, I am warning the Pit owners in the City of Cape Girardeau, pull yourselves together or we will be facing bans and restrictions just like these other communities. I take this very personally because you are going to cause problems for my dogs. I am going to be the one that gets the call to clean up your mess, again.
We also have a southern county considering a ban on Pit Bulls across the board. My understanding is a county wide ban would supersede individual rules. That would make it illegal to own a Pit Bull in every community, regardless of local ordinances. I would normally be outraged and working on a strategy to counter this action. The principals involved in the proposal took me on a tour of their county. I saw first hand why they are considering such a drastic ruling.
Saturday, May 30, I got to experience what has been dubbed the "Dog Fighting Triangle". What I saw caused my emotions to swing between anger, frustration and sorrow. It has also made me wonder if throwing up my hands and allowing these dogs to be legislated into extinction would not be a form of mercy for them. Their circumstances just keep getting worse and it all comes right back to people.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to preach about addressing the human issue, when faced with the reality of how much easier and better for the dogs it would be to simply ban the breed. There are whole communities whose daily lives revolve around the torture of these animals. It has become irrelevant that these same people are involved in illegal fire arms, drugs and abusing their families. There seems to be nothing that can be done to get rid of this influence. I honestly feel that focusing on banning the dogs is an attempt to alleviate that feeling of helplessness. The dogs have become the easiest target because they are so much more visible. Does this make us safer? No, but it makes us feel that we have done something.
I will not be euthanizing my dogs simply because it is easier than fighting this epidemic of stupidity and irresponsibility. I will continue to take these incidents as a personal assault against me and my rights. I will continue to fight to save this breed. What I will not do is allow these criminals to go unpunished for their crimes against society. By enacting breed bans and focusing on these dogs, that is what is happening. The danger is not being addressed. We cannot allow our lawmakers to continue to ignore these criminals by targeting the perceived danger presented by a dog. The dog is not the problem. The person trying to hide behind that dog is.
If we are going to enact ordinances or laws aimed at restoring security to our communities, then let them address the people at the root of our problems. Keep the rules generic, and enforce the rules fairly, to insure no one is allowed to endanger our citizens or our pets, including mine. Make sure the penalties match the crimes. Above all, make sure no one is allowed to project their crimes onto any animal. Pit Bulls are not our problem. These criminals not being held accountable for their crimes are.
SIDE NOTE TO PEOPLE TROUBLED BY DOGS AT LARGE AND THE OWNERS OF THESE DOGS:
Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 273, Dogs-Cats
Dogs may be killed when. (Condensed)
273.030 If any person shall discover any dog or dogs in the act of killing, wounding or chasing a domesticated animal or animals, such person is authorized to immediately pursue and kill such dog or dogs; provided, however that such dog or dogs shall not be killed in any enclosure to or being in lawful possession of the owner of such dog or dogs.
Killing or injuring a dog, reasonable apprehension of imminent harm is an absolute defense. (Condensed)
1. In any action for damages or a criminal prosecution against any person for killing or injuring a dog, a showing by a preponderance of the evidence that such person was in reasonable apprehension of imminent harmful contact by the dog or was acting to prevent such imminent harmful contact against another person by the dog shall constitute an absolute defense to criminal prosecution or civil liability for the killing or injuring of such animal.
2. If a person has, on at least two occasions, complained to the county sheriff or to the appropriate animal control authority in his or her jurisdiction that a dog, not on a leash, has trespassed on property that such person owns, rents or leases or on any property that constitutes such persons' residence, and when at least one of the prior two complaints was motivated by reasonable apprehension for such person's safety of another person or apprehension of substantial damage to livestock or property, then any subsequent trespass by such dog shall constitute prima facia evidence that such person was in reasonable apprehension of imminent harmful contact. the county sheriff or animal control authority to which any complaint under this section is made shall notify the owner of the alleged trespassing dog of such complaint. Failure by the county sheriff or animal control authority to notify dog owner under this subsection shall not invalidate or be construed in any way to limit any other provision of this subsection.
Animal Abuse-penalties (Condensed)
1. A person is guilty of animal abuse when a person:
(3.) Having ownership or custody of an animal knowingly fails to provide adequate care or adequate control.
2. Animal abuse is a class A Misdemeanor, unless the defendant has previously plead guilty to or has been found guilty of animal abuse.
The county sheriff's department is the agency to contact for abuse complaints. You can also contact your county health department. When these agencies are not responsive to investigate complaints, please contact the Missouri Highway Patrol. They insure the laws of the State of Missouri are upheld.
Melanie Coy has been a pit bull fancier for 29 years. She's also been involved in obedience and other training and showing animals. Coy became involved in animal legislative issues in the mid-80s to dispel myths about the pit bull breed and fight against breed-specific laws. She advocates responsible dog ownership through training and educational programs, and helps shelters make dogs more adoptable.