Sunday, August 5, 2018

Not All Dogs Go To Heaven

    The Truth About Guns has posted an article entitled "Neighbors Divided Over Defensive Dog Shooting: 'Why Do You Need Your Gun in the Morning?'" Unfortunately, we only have one side of the story, that being from the owner of the dog that was shot. Based on that, however, it appears that the facts are as follows:

    An off-duty police officer was walking his dog one fine morning, when a neighbor's dog approached and the two dogs started growling and barking at one another. Although it is against the law, the neighbor had let her dog off  leash, and apparently she did not have verbal control of her dog. The officer tried to get her dog away by grabbing its collar, but it slipped out of the collar. By that time, the woman had approached and was told by the officer that if she didn't get her dog, he was going to shoot it. She claims that as she was starting to step closer to get control of her dog, the officer draw a pistol and shot her dog. The article then continues with comments from neighbors generally decrying the shooting, with one lone voice agreeing that the dog should not have been allowed off-leash.

    In going to the original news story, we aren't told the respective breeds of dog, but it indicates that the officer's dog was a small breed and that the dog that was shot, named "Bandit," was a large breed.

    Considering the paucity of facts, I hate to second guess the officer's actions. Some dogs are very territorial and aggressive, so I could see this as being more than simply two dogs growling and barking at one another. My experience is that if a dog is simply being loud it will generally keep some distance, so the fact that the deceased dog was close enough for the officer to grab suggests that this was an attack rather than a show of dominance.

    Some of the comments by neighbors were laughable. For instance, one neighbor told the reporter: "Why do you need a gun in the morning? Who's going to assault you?" As if violence and danger only work the graveyard shift.

    Another clueless neighbor said, "I have resolved [situations involving aggressive dogs] with a spray bottle and an aggressive stance, yelling, ‘no.’ There has to be another way to de-escalate a situation without someone or someone’s animal being shot and killed first.” Well, the officer had grabbed the collar and tried to pull the dog away, so he had at least tried to resolve the situation short of shooting the dog. Now the article doesn't state whether the officer took an aggressive stance and yelled "No," but my experience is that dogs often ignore shouts.

     For instance, I was walking my dog one evening years ago, when we were approached by a Rottweiler that was off-leash. The Rottweiler was not wagging its tale, nor was it growling, but it was making an obvious bee-line toward my dog. I stepped forward (the aggressive stance) and yelled "no" and "go away" a few times and it completely ignored me until it got close enough that I slapped it alongside the head. It then stopped, although it did not leave.

    Another time, I was walking my dog late in the evening, when a pit bull approached behind us. I first heard the clicking of its nails on the sidewalk, and turned. I think I shouted at it quickly to no avail, but I also flicked out my collapsible baton which is what made it stop; then it stood there and started barking. I would occasionally encounter this dog (always off leash with no owner around) at other times, but it would keep its distance and just bark.

    To be honest, the aggressive stance seems to work better on the dog owner, if they happen to be around, than on an aggressive dog. For example, a couple years ago, I was walking my dog along a pedestrian trail and approached a woman (it's almost always a woman) who had let her dog off leash, and which was jumping up and down trying to bite a dog that another person was holding in her arms. The owner of the aggressive dog was saying the normal B.S. about her dog being friendly and wouldn't bite even as it was jumping and snapping its jaws. As we approached, the dog turned and started toward me and my dog. I stepped in front and dropped into a deep fighting crouch (it was only a medium sized dog, but I didn't want it knocking me over) and got my hands in a guard position ready to punch it if it should come too close. I also told the woman to get her dog or I was going to kill it. At that point, the owner finally decided to call her dog back and put a leash on it, the whole time claiming that the dog wasn't a danger.

    Despite the fact that it is not uncommon to read about people and/or their pets being attacked and mauled by dogs, there seems to be group of people that just can't seem to acknowledge that truth. The most common refrain I hear (and, it even shows up in the comments to the TTAG article cited above) is that "there are no bad dogs, only bad owners." Frankly, I don't even know what this means since there are, as I noted, plenty of examples of dogs attacking and killing people. I suspect that what people mean by this is that the dogs aren't morally culpable for bad behavior and, therefore shouldn't be punished for it; similar to bleeding heart liberals that defend murderers by saying it was because of abuse the murderer received as a child, or something else wrong with the murderer's upbringing. Well, that is all fine and good if you are trying to understand how a cute, innocent baby grows up to be a 180 pound thug with no conscience, or how that adorable puppy is now a vicious animal, but it has no bearing on stopping an attack. Certainly, in the above story, if the officer had instead shot the neighbor there is no guarantee it would have stopped the dog attack.

    Besides which, I have had a lot of animals over the course of my life and I can tell you that, animals have individual personalities. Even raised under nearly identical conditions, dogs can have widely divergent behavioral patterns and preferences or dislikes. In addition, at heart, they are still predators. So that loving animal that lays at your feet as you watch TV that "wouldn't hurt a fly," can on its own or with other dogs, decide to take down a sheep or calf, or kill a smaller animal, or even attack a human.

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