Look at the recent rash of dog attacks on children in metro Atlanta.
An 8-year-old girl was attacked by two dogs while she was playing in her own yard in DeKalb County last Tuesday. The child, Erin Ingraham, remained in critical condition late yesterday at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. She suffered injuries that required vascular and plastic surgery. Her family and the rest of us can only pray she recovers and does not have permanent damage.
The only thing that saved the little girl's life was rapid response by a police officer answering a neighbor's 911 call. The officer beat off the dogs with his baton, and when the beasts started circling him, he shot and killed one of them. The other ran and was captured by animal control workers in the garage of the owner's house nearby.
According to the police report, the dogs apparently had been left in the garage but the door was open with "no leashes, ropes, fences or any restraints that would have prevented the animals from walking freely throughout the area."
The investigation was still going on yesterday and no charges had yet been filed against the owner of the dogs, who was "cooperating," according to a DeKalb police spokesman.
For the record, the dog that was shot and killed by the officer was identified as a mixed breed, and the other dog, reportedly euthanized, was described as an American Staffordshire Terrier. Their breed is not the point here.
The point is that owners are legally required to have their dogs under control, whatever the breed. In this case, the lack of control is especially glaring, per the police report. It's just one of many cases of owners not having their dogs properly confined inside a fence or something completely secure.
Last year alone, 29 children were admitted to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta with serious injuries inflicted in dog attacks. Here in Cobb County in mid-February, dogs attacked and severely injured a 7-year-old girl walking home after getting off her school bus. She was saved by a man who clubbed the attacking pit bull. When the child was admitted to Children's Healthcare, four other children were being treated there for injuries from pit bull attacks.
Across America, about 400,000 children each year receive medical attention for dog bites, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That's half the 800,000 total estimated dog bite victims, of which 386,000 get emergency room treatment and about 16 die.
Tougher penalties are needed for the owners of dogs that attack people.
If a charge of vehicular homicide - a felony - can be lodged against a driver for a fatal auto incident, why can't the owner of a killer dog be charged with canine homicide? What's the difference?
In either case the person responsible must be held accountable.