My views are well known, but I'll post this commentary, which Harvey L. sent to me:
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>In vicious dog attacks, cast blame on owners
By Matthew Margolis
ASan Francisco woman died recently after a 123-pound mastiff crossbreed went for her throat in a gruesome attack. Now there are calls to ban such breeds.
Then let's ban all 400-plus breeds of dog, because aggression is not breed-specific. Outlaw the English mastiff, the pit bull, the American Staffordshire terrier and the Rottweiler, and soon it will be the springer spaniel, the Boston terrier and the Old English sheep dog. Eventually, we will legislate some of our best friends into extinction.
Aggressive behavior in dogs is not a dog problem. It is a people problem. Shift your attention and your outrage to irresponsible breeders who create fighters, like the dog that killed Diane Whipple on Jan. 26 in San Francisco. Or to puppy mills that produce genetically inferior dogs. Take a hard look at dog owners you know - perhaps even yourself - who are uneducated about canines and unwilling to learn.
I hear it every day: dog owners who say, "My dog has bitten several members of the family, but it doesn't happen all the time." Once is enough, and it should tell you that something is wrong. Or how about the owner who is embroiled in a lawsuit because of his aggressive dog and now says, "I thought the growling problem would go away." Take it from an expert: Aggressive behavior is not going to go away. You have to nip it in the bud.
What are the signs of aggression? Growling when you take the food dish away. Growling at the letter carrier, or at strangers. (There are 285 million strangers in the United States.) In fact, growling any time is a problem. Any snapping or biting, even if it doesn't break the skin. Barking aggressively is a warning, too.
Dog owners have to assume responsibility and stop avoiding or denying the problem. Temperament testing and obedience training are essential for every dog - the younger the better. They are the only way an owner can understand a dog's personality, learn how to communicate with a dog and gain the necessary control. Aggression problems in puppies - dogs younger than a year old - are easier to modify, and the chances of success are good. Older aggressive dogs require special effort.
Deal with all aggression problems immediately, one-on-one, in a positive manner. No grabbing the dog's collar. No yelling. No hitting. No electric shocks. Classes probably will not solve severe behavioral problems and may put other dogs and people at risk. Sometimes professional help may be needed. And, sadly, some dogs are so vicious that euthanasia may be the only humane and safe alternative. But simply banning breeds is never going to stop the problem of killer dogs.
Why don't the owners of potentially dangerous dogs do something? Usually they think they should be able to handle their own dogs. Or they don't want to admit they are stumped about the problem or that they have raised an aggressive personality. They may not want to spend any money to correct the problem. Most of all, they don't want to hear anything that suggests they might need to get rid of their baby. So the kettle boils.
Maybe it's time to test dog owners to see whether they understand the rules of responsibility. Maybe we should license the owners, not the dogs.
Like everyone, I am outraged about Diane Whipple's death. Hindsight indicates that all the signs were there. Neighbors had earlier called this dog "beast" and "dog of death." Local dog owners timed their walks to avoid this dog. Even its name - Bane - means "deadly harm, ruin, death."
It appears this dog was bred for fighting, but a lot of dogs that have not been bred for such aggression exhibit the same frightening behavior. Too often, it goes unchecked until it is too late.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Matthew Margolis is co-author of "GRRR! The Complete Guide to Understanding and Preventing Aggressive Behavior in Dogs." <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>