For the second time in two weeks, an emotional story of relationships between animals and people has made local news. First there was the report of a local man who lost four pets – two dogs and two cats – in a fire that destroyed the west-side apartment building where he lived. Then another man pleaded tearfully for Franklin District Judge Kathy Mangeot to spare the life of his pit bull, which attacked and seriously injured a mailman in June.
In both cases, the owners described their pets as part of the family. The judge said she, too, is an animal lover and pet owner. But in a ruling she called one of the toughest she’s ever had to make, she decreed Bullasan, a dog David Noel has had since it was a puppy, must die. Because of Bullasan’s savage assault, a veterinarian at the Franklin County Humane Society Humane Society animal shelter would euthanize him at an unannounced date.
Chris Lombardi, the letter carrier who suffered severe bites on his arm and leg in the June 28 attack, still hasn’t returned to work. Frankfort Postmaster John Dampier said the bites were among the worst he’s seen in 22 years with the postal service. Noel is charged with harboring a vicious dog. Whatever penalty he has to pay if convicted obviously will be far more lenient than the ultimate punishment to be imposed on the animal he was responsible for feeding and sheltering – and keeping out of trouble.
Pit bulls – actually not just one breed of dog but multiple varieties originally bred and trained for fighting in pits around which gamblers assembled to place bets on the outcome – sometimes get a bad rap. We’ve known of individual pit bulls that seemed as placid as lapdogs. Others have performed heroic deeds, even saved human lives. But the behavior of any dog – like any human – is unpredictable. Police who visit schools with canine “units” allow children to pet their attack animals, which seem to enjoy the attention. Then the officer has an associate pose as someone threatening the dog’s master and the animal instantly turns into a snarling hound from hell. It’s a response handlers say they can turn on and off like a light bulb.
All pet owners take on more responsibility than they may have anticipated when they invited animals into their living rooms. Most find it a small price to pay for the companionship pets provide. But owners of pit bulls – or any other breed known for violent tendencies – bear a more weighty responsibility. They must take special care to ensure their dogs never threaten people. The stakes are high both for the dogs and for those who unexpectedly encounter them.
It’s a crying shame Bullasan has to die for doing what pit bulls instinctively do, but we still routinely euthanize shelter pets when owners let them down. This won’t be the last time an animal receives the death penalty for human irresponsibility.