• Special license, insurance should be required of pit bull owners

    I got a press release from Yolo County Animal Control recently that nearly made my eyes spin in their sockets. The subject line was “Two Pit Bulls Kill a Horse.”

    On June 1, Yolo County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at property on County Road 98B in rural Woodland, finding two blood-soaked pit bulls “guarding the carcass of a deceased horse.” In other words, the beasts were protecting their fresh kill. Why the deputy didn’t put a bullet through their skulls is beyond me.

    The dogs had broken the horse’s front leg, dragged it down, and covered 60 percent of its body in “multiple bite wounds.” In other words, the dogs ripped the flesh from the horse’s body, probably while it was still alive. It takes awhile for a 2,000 pound animal to bleed to death.

    The press release notes that the horse’s owner, an elderly woman, “lost her equine companion to the neighbor’s two dogs.”

    These pit bulls killed a horse. Let me restate that. These pit bulls killed A HORSE.

    And then ate it alive.

    The dogs were taken into custody by Animal Control, and thankfully euthanized. They deserved to be euthanized on the spot by the sheriff’s deputy.

    This story arrived within days of another pit bull attack in Winters, where a 6-year-old girl riding her bike one lovely summer evening was chased down by a pit bull that barreled through a poorly secured gate, caught her and tore part of her cheek off.

    A few months back, a pedestrian walking down the sidewalk near our city park was attacked by a loose pit bull. He was taken away by ambulance with severe leg wounds. At least in that case, the police officer fired at the dog and hit it. Kudos.

    Then there was the pitiful story about a fluffy little lapdog belonging to a friend of mine. She lived next to an orchard and enjoyed walking her dog there. One day, two pit bulls living across the field from the orchard got loose (and had a history of doing so, as well as a history of the owner doing nothing about it), charged across the field and tore the little dog limb from limb.

    Another friend was out riding her horse one day just south of Winters, and it was attacked by two loose pit bulls. The horse was so severely injured that it had to be put down. She was devastated.

    What do these tragedies have in common? (I mean besides the obvious, that the animals are monsters.) They all resulted from irresponsible owners who didn’t keep their dogs on their own property.

    Statistics show that pit bulls and pit bull mixes are responsible for more than half of all dog-related human deaths in the U.S. (http://www.dogbitelaw.com/breeds-causing-DBRFs.pdf), yet we’re just entirely too PC to resort to the equivalent of canine racial profiling. Politicians balk at creating breed-specific laws because there’s always some naïve pit bull owner declaring how sweet and lovely their dog is, and has never harmed a flea.

    Here’s the deal: There’s no safe pit bull. A pit bull that hasn’t bitten anyone yet is a pit bull that hasn’t bitten anyone yet. The potential is always there.

    Enough’s enough. We need a special law for animals with a high likelihood and ability for maiming or killing should they escape their owner’s control. We have special laws for exotic animals, and we should have special laws for deadly animals as well. You don’t just get to go out and get a pet mountain lion, and you shouldn’t be able to just go out and get a pit bull either. Not without a special license.

    And sorry, pit bull fans, it’s totally fair. If you put in a swimming pool, your yard has to pass a safety inspection first. You have to have secondary fencing, alarms and secured gates. The same should be required of a yard that contains a pit bull.

    If you want to drive a tractor-trailer, you need a special license certifying that you have driving skills surpassing those of a regular drivers license. Even to get a regular drivers license, you must first pass a written test and physically demonstrate your ability to drive a car safely. The same for pit bulls. A pit bull owner should be required to pass a test on the hazards of pit bull ownership, provide proof of the dog’s completion of an obedience course, and then walk the dog in front of an inspector to demonstrate that s/he has control of the animal.

    Furthermore, just like when you put in a pool or purchase a car, pit bull owners should be required to carry liability insurance that shows they can pay for medical expenses, property damage or loss of life caused by their dog. Heck, I have to carry $100,000 in liability insurance just to practice massage, and last time I checked, massage therapists were responsible for far less death and injury than pit bulls.

    Also, in the event that the pit bull owner can’t provide proof of insurance or special licensing, the dog should be impounded immediately, and the owner charged a daily fine for the animal’s care until proof of insurance and licensing is produced. It’s not the dog’s fault that it has the potential to kill. But it’s the owner’s fault if s/he allows such an animal to run loose, and particularly if that animal hurts or kills someone else’s pet, or child.

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