The other day, one of our Voices columnists--we won't reveal his name, but his initials are Mike Masterson--wrote a column about a pitbull/menace/time bomb that attacked his wife and small dog, who were out for a walk. All survived the attack.
A few days after that column ran, a lady we know was "treed" in her front yard by a couple of rascals that the neighbor let out. She has decided to carry a non-lethal spray when getting the mail. Think about that: Having to arm yourself, so to speak, to get around in your own driveway and front yard.
These are the stories with somewhat happy endings. There are all kinds of similar stories that have tragic endings.
You know how they go: Our precious pitbull never hurt a fly--not a fly--and was always sweet-tempered and happy. Until she killed our 6-month-old daughter. How many times will we have to read such a story, and such a statement from the dog's owners/victims?
The Arkansas Legislature will go back in session next month, and we wonder if any one of our betters will be brave enough to sponsor a bill, or six, that will address this problem. The best idea might be to ban the breed altogether and allow current (neutered) pits to stick around under some sort of grandfather agreement. But that might be a reach for a Southern state.
Another idea would be to make the owner of a pitbull liable civilly for any damages the dog causes on first offense. Or make the owner of a pitbull liable criminally if the dog bites twice.
This problem has been debated among city councils and county courts for decades. But the stories about these dog attacks keep appearing in the public prints. Two toddlers were killed by the "family pet" near Memphis a couple of months back. A month before that, a grandmother was killed in Colorado. Over the years, Arkansas has had its own stories (and editorial columns).
Each time this space addresses the problem, we get the expected blowback:
• Pitbulls aren't even a "real breed"!
Yeah, and who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? Everybody knows from a pitbull. If we show you one, you'll know. Large jaws. Stocky shoulders. As Mr. Justice Potter Stewart once said of pornography, you know it when you see it.
• Pitbulls don't bite as often as Chihuahuas.
We'd like to see those stats audited. But we would stipulate that most Chihuahua bites aren't reported to the cops because most Chihuahua bites don't draw blood. But when the papers get filled with stories about Chihuahuas killing small children, we might be convinced to support a ban on them, too.
• Pitbulls that aren't abused are just fine.
Tell it to the families that have lost children to their family pet. This animal was bred to be aggressive and stubborn in its death grip. Over the centuries, it has mastered the art. They are genetically dangerous. And the problem is breed-specific.
But if it helps smooth the way toward legal reform, we'd allow that the owner of any dog that attacks, wounds and kills should be held liable. German shepherds. Dobermans. Chihuahuas.
We're not sure if this problem can be solved, and if it can, whether it should be solved at the state or local level. (The locals seem to have trouble taking on the issue.) But one thing we are sure of, with every story about these animals:
Pitbulls are killers.
That may be even part of their attraction.