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Any Solution for Dog Attacks?

By Matt Wood in Miscellaneous on Nov 11, 2005 5:17PM

2005_11_dogattack.jpgYou can't turn a TV to any local station this week without seeing a story about pit bull attacks. On Sunday, three pit bulls escaped from their home in McHenry County and attacked six people, including two children who are still in the hospital in critical condition. Then on Wednesday, police had to shoot three dogs, one pit bull and two mixes, after someone released them while the officers were breaking up a gang fight.

It didn't take long for the sensationalism to get rolling. Yesterday, John Kass called for exorbitant licensing fees and exhaustive obedience training requirements for anyone who wants to have a dog weighing over 15 pounds. Eric Zorn tempered Kass's argument by saying that it's not necessarily an issue with big dogs, just vicious or dangerous breeds like pit bulls. And every local news station trotted out the ugliest footage of feral dog fighting they could find. Call it Chicago's version of the shark attack mania that hits Florida every few years.

More after the jump...

But sensational as the news coverage may be, there are still two kids fighting for their lives, and countless other people are injured by vicious dogs each year. This is a big problem, but would an across the board ban on pit bulls or restrictions on big dogs actually work? Could it even be enforced? Chicagoist has a 70-pound dog who is scared of his own shadow, should we have to pay $1,000 a year to license him? Are we irresponsible because we let our son play with him? What about the black lab that saved a little girl's life in Albany Park back in June, is she dangerous too? We know Kass is being a provocative to prove a point, but he's not the only one calling for breed-specific bans and strict dog ownership laws.

We all know that while some breeds are predisposed to aggressive behavior, the biggest problem is irresponsible ownership. We've met some nice pit bulls and Rottweilers, and some vicious golden retrievers and labs too. Any dog can become aggressive when abused, and unfortunately some are just wired that way, all breeds and all sizes, not just pit bulls. The owner of the McHenry dogs reportedly took good care of them, and they attacked him too.

Do you really think though, that the people most likely to mistreat their dogs or refuse to control them are going to go through the proper channels under Kass's system? The city only issues 17,000 dog licenses a year, but estimates there are over 100,000 dogs in town based on rabies vaccination records. Who is going to track down the other 83,000? And who wants to try to fine or take dogs away from people who don't comply?

So here we are, an intolerable situation with an unenforceable solution. What do the readers think? Would restricting vicious breeds and regulating ownership work, or do we just cross our fingers and hope no one else gets hurt?