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2003-10-09 - 3:55 p.m.

I’ve become obsessed with pit bulls. Ever since the attack, I keep replaying it in my mind, wondering if I would have been able to stop the attack if the guy hadn’t shown up. Wondering if the dog would have gone after us if our pup hadn’t been a more convenient prey… or after he was dead. Piper and I have talked about it so much, comparing notes on our individual impressions. One things that is really strange about a sudden trauma is that certain images get seared into your brain while others escape notice altogether. She is convinced that the dog came over the fence to get us, and was only diverted by the sight of our little dog. She was up on a ladder and saw it coming. It barely missed lunging into her when it came over the fence, and whirled to look at her before the little dog attracted its attention. I was standing with my back to that area, concentrating on steadying the ladder, and didn’t know something was happening until I heard the screams.

I got on the internet and did some research on pit bulls yesterday. And now I am even more scared than ever. I knew they tended to be mean and unpredictable. My dad once had a pit bull puppy and got rid of it before it was even fully grown because he was afraid it would hurt somebody. But I didn’t know what kind of a creature we were up against until I read some of the research, expert testimony, and a ton of grisly news stories. These dogs are incredibly strong, masters at escaping from enclosures. They routinely escape their fenced yards and go actively seeking something to attack, virtually always unprovoked. They are responsible for almost all of the deaths from dog bites, and they horribly maim and disfigure many, many people, especially children. One expert likened a pit bull attack to a shark attack, because they bite and then hang on with their jaws and shake, so the flesh is ripped and slashed.

In news reports from the last few years, I read about pit bulls that:

….attacked a woman in a wheelchair.

…killed a young child and mutilated his little body so badly that it was “unrecognizable as a human being.”

….ripped a little boy’s ears off, as well as mutilated his face and arms.

….dragged a baby out of its mother’s arms, held it by the neck and shook it to death “like a stuffed animal.”

….jerked a child off a bicycle and mauled him to death.

…. Killed the woman who had raised them from puppyhood.

…. Mauled a senior citizen who was waiting at a bus stop.

Many other people were mauled or killed, completely unprovoked, or while trying to prevent or rescue their pets from an attack…as I was about to do. The news is full of stories of pit bull breaking into people’s yards and killing their pets, or attacking pets on leashes being walked on public sidewalks. Either the owners get mauled, or they have to stand helplessly by and watch their pets get ripped to shreds… and sometimes both. In one horrible incident, the pit bulls broke into a family’s yard and killed their puppy, and then broke into their house through a screen porch and killed their cat and a parrot.

There is a whole chorus of people out there who say that Pit bulls are nice, loveable dogs, and it’s the owners that are bad, not the dogs. And maybe there are some pit bulls that have been successfully turned into pets. But I happen to think (and a lot of experts agree) that an animal’s instincts and inbred tendencies are far stronger that training. Pit bulls were originally bred to kill—to bring down bulls, actually. And then people started fighting them against each other and they bred them for the characteristic of tenacity, the will to fight to the death. This is not an animal that makes a good pet. What I don’t understand, is: if these people want a nice pet, why don’t they just get a breed that has a mild temperament, instead of trying to make a pet of this animal with a potential to be deadly. The sad thing is that many of the children who are mauled and killed are attacked by the pit bulls belonging to family members. And yet there are supporters of pit bulls who publicly declare, “My pit bulls are so gentle, I trust them around my children.” And then when a tragedy happens, the dog owner is always shocked and says, “I had no idea my dogs could do such a thing.”

What’s wrong with this picture? People are willing to gamble with the lives of others--even their own children—in order to trust a pit bull? Why?

And I can’t even begin to address the issues around drug dealers and thugs using pit bulls as weapons and using them to intimidate others, letting them loose in public places, etc. They have terrorized many communities, and are just one symptom of an enormous problem. What I think we will come up against, though, in our efforts to ban pit bulls from rental housing in our neighborhood, is the person who claims his pit bulls are docile pets, and doesn’t know, want to believe or particularly care that they are capable of great violence.

One reason the pit bull issue is so terrifying is that it totally threatens our sense of safety in the world. A lot of bad things happen, and a lot of innocent people get killed or hurt, but I think most of us find the courage to walk the streets every day by telling ourselves that we are careful with our lives, law abiding, and not involving ourselves in any of the activities that get people in trouble. But there is no reason or logic behind a dog attack. When you can be violently attacked just minding your own business in your own back yard, then it is hard to feel safe anywhere.

Last night I went out in the back yard and walked around for the first time since the attack. It doesn’t feel the same. I keep watching the back fence, a place I rarely paid any attention to before. We will have to do something to reclaim it as our own space and learn to feel safe again. I refuse to let that evil dog ruin everything for us and make us hide in the house all the time. But first I’m buying some canisters of mace.


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