Don McKee: Tougher penalties needed for owners of dogs that attack people
by Don McKee
Columnist
March 12, 2010 01:00 AM | 1124 views | 5 5 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It's time to get tough with owners of dogs that attack, maul, maim and kill a growing number of children in this country.

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.

dmckee9613@aol.com
Comments
(5)
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Shankopotamus
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March 13, 2010
NYNJR writes: "you really want a homicide charge for accidentally leaving a door open?? that's all the owner did wrong"...

...great point NYNJR!...and gun murderers should get off free too since all they did was have their finger bend. Oopsie.

Dog owners need to own up to their full responsibilities for their dogs and the only way to coerce them into taking these responsibilities seriously is to impose consequences on anything less than maintaining control of their dogs AT ALL TIMES. Why do others need to suffer from the irresponsible behavior of some dog owners.
PitbullInfestedCity
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March 12, 2010
THE MAJORITY OF INSURANCE COMPANIES DO NOT INSURE HOMES WITH DANGEROUS DOGS - the vast majority of home insurance claims are: DOG BITES!

Make dangerous dogs BREEDERS AND SHELTERS LIABLE and responsible BY LAW to obtain proof of insurance coverage before giving away dangerous breed dogs - the owner never will get one – PROBE THE OWNER ABOUT INSURANCE – Let’s start by biting the pockets of those who behave irresponsibly.

But that is not the end of it. The community and the newspaper can do a lot more.

Don, thanks for keeping this VERY SERIOUS PUBLIC SAFETY issue alive.

MDJ reporters, you are good at unearthing issues, please do more investigative reporting on this. Investigate animal control incident reports…I am sure you will find interesting repetitive and unresolved patterns. Are owners updating their insurance? Who is checking on that? What are dangerous dog owners doing to keep their neighborhood safe? What is causing the recent rash of attacks? Are shelters playing down dangerous breeds (calling them Nice-Name-Terrier!) and advocating the adoption of neglected rescued dangerous dogs? No one can tell when these rescued dogs will erupt in violence because their previous conditions are unknown!

In the meantime, the community is stuck with reckless owners and their time bomb monsters, a MAJOR public safety issue that puts OUR DEFENSELESS CHILDREN and adults at risk! The community can help by MAKING AN ISSUE out of this, and with the help of the newspaper the readers should challenge and mobilize city, county and state representatives and officials and MANDATE LEGAL CHANGES.

Or are we all going to sit and wait for the next fatal statistic front page news?

mk- $$$$ talks!
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March 12, 2010
Ah, who cares, really. Most of these pit bulls that are being taught to fight or protect their owners 'drug' houses,... are in poor areas. Sorta like all the illegal aliens living in the poor neighborhoods. This stuff doesn't really effect the wealthy, the politicians & the lawmakers,.... so outta sight, outta mind. Whats another mauled child? You can bet it won't happen to Perdues or Olens kids.
West Cobb Resident
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March 12, 2010
I completely agree. Humans being killed by dogs simply SHOULD NOT happen.
NYNJR
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March 12, 2010
unless a car is a toyota, drivers are in total control of their cars so when their car kill then its their own fault.

if you got a dog well that dog has its own mind like a toyota. that dog if it ever ever hurts somebody there will be a first time it happens and maybe nobody will ever know why it happened.

you want every dog owner to risk jail because a dog did something unexpected? that would effectively end the ancient human dog partnership in the USA

in this case the dogs were in the garage but the door was open. of course it seems unlikely the owner knew the door was open.

you really want a homicide charge for accidentally leaving a door open?? that's all the owner did wrong

here come all the crazy cat ladies to write about how awful the dogs are... read on, marietta, but hold your nose!

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