Today's Paper Newsletters LEARNS Guide Obits Distribution Locations Public Notices Digital FAQ Razorback Sports Crime Puzzles Today's Photos

OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: Unrestrained dogs

by Mike Masterson | February 28, 2023 at 4:29 a.m.

Unrestrained pit bulls belonging to San Antonio owners who were not held accountable for their dogs' previous biting attack did it again last week.

Only this time, the animals used their sharp teeth and powerful jaws to kill an elderly man and injure three others, including those attempting to save the man.

This sad story regularly repeats in every state, providing endless fodder for my ongoing efforts to have our state's dangerous dog law strengthened so those who own large dogs find it in their best interests legally to keep them safely restrained.

If you choose to own a pit bull or any large dog as capable of killing or maiming a human being as a cougar or wolf, you also should be prepared for an enormous fine and/or criminal charges if you allow them to go unrestrained.

Why would we not have such a law as a matter of common sense? It's a simple matter of one being personally responsible for their actions.

In this latest horror story, a man in his 80s was dragged and killed, and a woman wound up hospitalized in critical condition. Two others were injured.

Here's how news reports described the scene:

"An elderly man was killed and three others injured in a violent dog attack in a residential neighborhood of San Antonio Friday afternoon, authorities said, with responding firefighters themselves having to fight off the dogs to reach the victims.

"At about 1:45 p.m. local time, firefighters dispatched to a report of a dog bite arrived to find an elderly man 'being dragged by a dog,' San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood told reporters.

"'They could see him completely bloodied before they got off the fire truck,' Hood said. Hood, who called the scene 'horrific,' said the firefighters had to fend off multiple pit bulls with 'pick-axes and pipe poles' just to reach the two victims, a man in his 80s and a woman. The attack occurred on a sidewalk, Hood said.

"The man was given blood at the scene and then rushed to a hospital, where he died, Hood said. The woman was hospitalized in critical condition. Their names were not released.

"A fire captain was also bitten on the leg ... and a fourth victim was taken to a hospital with a bite to the hand, Hood said. Hood described the actions of the firefighters as 'very heroic.'

"'This is not something normal for us. We usually don't show up and have to defend patients from animals or ourselves,' Hood said.

"Shannon Sims, director of San Antonio Animal Care Services, said that three dogs were seized by animal control, all of whom were Staffordshire Terriers [aka pit bulls]. At least two of those dogs were involved in the attack, Sims said. All three belong to the same property owners, who were questioned by officers at the scene."

The animal's owners reportedly could face "potential charges."

Seriously? "Potential charges" after this murderous attack by their unrestrained "pets"?

The same dogs were reportedly involved in a "previous bite" incident in 2021; they were briefly impounded, but were returned to their owners. Apparently with no meaningful consequence. And now they have bitten others and killed someone.

Does any other adult see a deadly serious problem here? It's a good thing for the owners I'm not a prosecutor in San Antonio. If the law allowed, I'd be filing negligent homicide charges and seeking a $50,000 fine against these irresponsible people. And there would be no plea bargaining.

Meanwhile, across the country in Boston, 6-year-old Lily Norton of Chesterville, Maine, remained on a breathing tube in intensive care after an 11-hour surgery and 1,000 facial stitches. More surgery was expected over the weekend.

The extensive damage to Lily's facial muscles from an unprovoked attack by a pit bull mix also means she will spend her life unable to smile, and her salivary glands no longer function.

Is this a good place to remind valued readers what happened to the Harrison woman who was savaged last year by her neighbor's unrestrained pit bulls on her own front porch after finding they had slaughtered her beloved pet cats?

Or maybe I should rehash my wife Jeanetta and our little terrier Benji being mauled in the street by an unrestrained pit bull mix last October during their morning stroll. She was bloodied, and Benji, who somehow survived the vicious attack, spent three days at the vet with multiple bite wounds and a dislocated leg.

Or how about the poor fellow and his dog in Maumelle who was savaged and injured last year in his front yard?

The way things stand with Arkansas' antiquated and impractical dangerous dog law, the offending animal is given one free bite before consequences kick in. With so many statistics on maulings and deaths from proven dangerous dogs, depending on breed, that approach is naïve, unrealistic and dangerous to public safety.

You can euthanize a dog and pretend you have accomplished something, but it's the irresponsible owner who should be held accountable.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected]

Print Headline: Unrestrained dogs


Sponsor Content