Three cases in point:
- A 7-year-old girl suffers severe injuries after being mauled by a pit bull in a mobile home park while walking home from school near Dobbins Air Reserve Base on Feb. 16.
- A 5-day-old girl is killed by her family's pit bull in Rockdale County on Feb. 18.
- A 67-year-old woman is mauled by a pair of pit bulls and her Jack Russell terrier (another high-strung, aggressive breed), in an apartment complex near Austell Road Feb. 23.
What do these cases have in common? Vulnerable people (due to old or young age); pugnacious breeds; and owners who utterly failed to control the animals, and in some cases, may barely have even tried to do so.
And you can throw in the case from January 2009 as well when a pair of pit bulls injured an Austell woman and her three children.
Incidentally, when the 7-year-old was rushed to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta in the case mentioned above, there were already four other children being treated there for attacks by pit bulls.
It's no secret that pit bulls have become the dog of choice for drug dealers, dog fighters and thugs of all description when it comes to acting as guard dogs or intimidators. Throw in thousands of more low-life thug wannabes who have pit bulls as "pets," and there are way too many opportunities for aggressive, poorly socialized dogs to cross paths with unsuspecting people who have little ability to protect themselves.
So what is the answer?
Unfortunately, banning pit bulls and other overly aggressive breeds does not seem the solution. They have been tried and found unsuccessful, according to Adam Goldfarb, director of the Humane Society of the United States' Pets at Risk program.
"Even the United Kingdom has had a pit-bull ban in place for the last 20 years, and they have not seen a reduction in (cases involving dogs biting humans) at all," he says.
As was reported in a story in Sunday's MDJ, such bans target both the good and the bad dogs within a given breed and are hard to enforce. And as with gun laws, they are obeyed by the law-abiding and ignored by the rest.
Marietta in 2007 passed an ordinance that prohibits pit bulls and Rottweilers from being in dog parks and off-leash parks. It seems to have reduced associated problems in such places.
Cobb County, meanwhile, has looked at the possibility of strengthening its guidelines, but come up empty.
"We have unfortunately not found any ordinances that assist the situation," said Commission Chairman Sam Olens. "As dogs sometimes fight with each other for other reasons, we are still struggling with the issue."
One thing that should get further consideration, however, is tougher penalties for the owners of dogs that kill or severely injure people.
As MDJ columnist Don McKee wrote March 12, "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?"
What's the difference, indeed?