Saturday, November 20, 2004

Dog bites and what to do

I've always been a bit ambivalent about dangerous dog laws. On the one hand, I do agree they're necessary. There are dogs out there that shouldn't be allowed. But how do you decide? One breed might be bad, but individually, some dogs might be worse than others. On the other hand, any time the state wants to arbitrarily make a decision that infringes on people's rights -- censorship, obscenity, morality, etc. -- my instinctive reaction is caution. I don't trust those kinds of judgements.

Last week, we had another attack by a pit bull here in Hamilton. Fortunately, no one died, but a little boy and his mother were seriously hurt. It's lending fuel to the Ontario government's efforts to ban pit bulls. So this article by Jon Katz in Slate is timely. He looks at the issues of dangerous dogs in his usual, considered fashion and ends up in a place that might surprise people who know him.

As an owner of two large dogs, I know how tough it can be these days to find places to walk them without worrying about how others will react. Not only do I have to keep an eye on them to make sure I don't miss any of their daily droppings (lovingly collected in my little plastic bags) I also have to avoid having them run over to "greet" other dogs and people in the park. I never know how people will react.

Things would be a lot easier if the dog park was closer. There's one in Burlington, but it takes 20 minutes to drive there. Here in Hamilton, we've got baseball diamonds and soccer pitches coming out of the ying yang, but let your dog run free on one of thse and the bylaw guys show up in a heartbeat to slap you with a $100 ticket. It doesn't seem fair somehow...and it's making criminals out of a lot of dog owners.

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