Laws and Insurance May Mean Bad News for 'Bad Dogs'
Local laws and insurance companies bite back.
Patricia Moore |
Posted: Thu Dec 7 00:00:00 PST 2000
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Breed-specific laws discriminate against responsible owners who properly train and socialize their dogs, said Wayne Hunthausen, DVM, director of animal behavior consultation at the Westwood (Kan.) Animal Hospital.
"Any dog at any time, anywhere can bite if provoked," said Dr. Hunthausen, who created Learning to Be Safe with Animals: Dogs, Cats and Kids, a children's video about interacting with family pets and handling strange dogs. Many animal behaviorists and dog organization leaders argue "vicious breed" laws do not stop attacks. They say such laws only incite fear, kill thousands of healthy, innocent dogs and prevent proper veterinary care because the breed has been outlawed in those particular municipalities. To counter, they seek laws that deal with proven dangerous dogs of any breed and punishment for owners who allow their dogs to roam unleashed. They also conduct educational crusades for dog owners and children, whose size and curious instigation make them the most frequent victims of dog bites.
"There is absolutely no breed in which all the dogs in that breed are vicious," said Gordon Carvill, president of the American Dog Owners Association, a New York-based group that has fought against breed-specific laws for more than 20 years.
The nation's 58 million dog owners must take responsibility in training and socializing their pets or recognize the consequences if their dog should bite someoneeven on their own property.
Attorney Michael Rotsten, who specializes in animal law in Encino, Calif., twice saved Boo, a Bull Mastiff, from court-ordered death sentences. A neighbor boy, despite repeated warnings not to enter the garage of Boo's owner, did so one time at dusk and startled the dog, Rosten said. The 140-pound Mastiff leaped on his hind legs and pinned the 100-pound boy against the garage wall. Two doctors testified the scratches on the boy's head were claw marks, not bites, but city officials still wanted Boo declared vicious and euthanized.
"If Boo wanted to kill him, in just one bite, he could have broken the kid's neck to pieces, but Bull Mastiffs are bred to pin intruders and not let go until their owners arrive," Rotsten said. "We saved Boo, but my client was so afraid of reprisal that he sold his home and moved."
Owner neglect can even lead to jail time. A Kansas woman was sentenced to 12 years in prison for unintentional second-degree murder after her three roaming Rottweilers mauled and killed an 11-year-old boy waiting for the school bus in 1997.Page 1 | 2 | 3
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