OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: Doctor weighs in on pit bulls

The following email arrived the other day from Wisconsin physician Dr. Laura E. Marusinec that I find definitely worth sharing with valued readers. (Bet you never knew the paper has that kind of reach, eh?)

"As a pediatrician and an advocate for victims of dangerous dogs, overwhelmingly pit bulls, I want to thank you for continuing to write articles exposing the danger of pit bulls and similar dogs, and asking for improved legislation to try to prevent these horrific attacks.

"As you know, the No. 1 common denominator of the most horrific and fatal attacks to people and pets are pit bulls. No matter how they are raised. Obviously, irresponsible owners make it worse, but even the most well-raised and well-loved pit bulls frequently attack and kill.

"Like the horrific, now famous, attack that killed both children in a [Tennessee] home and put the mother in the ICU. Two well-loved family pit bulls did this. Dogs that weren't abused or trained to attack.

"I for one am so tired of seeing these heartbreaking attacks on innocent children, the elderly, adults, pets and livestock, etc., from pit bulls. As we know, pit bulls were created for bloodsport, to take down bear and bulls for sport. Then to attack and kill rats in a pit, and then to fight each other to the death. As I like to say, they were created to be the most efficient fighters and killers, and they are.

"I am equally as tired of seeing the ridiculous excuses pit bull defenders claim every time these dogs do what they were created to do. They blame everyone and everything but the attacking dogs. They will blame an innocent baby, or tiny dog, for their own deaths for surely they must have provoked and scared the pit bull into killing them.

"And of course owners will jump on every pit bull mauling posted publicly by reporting how their pit bull hasn't killed anything yet and would only lick you to death. Or that they were bitten by every other breed on the planet (yet they are still alive). Or that 'it's all how they are raised' (even if the attacking pit bull was raised with love). Or that 'pit bulls were nanny dogs! do your research!', or that 'it isn't a pit bull' ... . Or don't forget the pictures of their pit bull dressed in a flower crown or tutu, as if that changes the fact that another pit bull [somewhere] just killed yet another innocent person or pet.

"They try to scream discrimination or even racism, comparing the plight of minorities and even descendants of former slaves to a dog 'being understood for what it was bred for!'

"They call us 'haters' and throw insults. They say in the same breath that all dogs are the same and it's never the dog's fault but then add 'but Chihuahuas are the worst!' in the next.

"The dog-bite-fatality national data is clear. The peer-reviewed medical studies are clear. Pit bulls cause more serious and fatal dog attacks than all other dog breeds combined.

"Those numbers only continue to increase as the pit bull propaganda spreads, and shelters, full of pit bulls, continue to lie about the nature of these dogs to pawn them off to unsuspecting and naïve families.

"You are correct, we need much better dangerous-dog legislation including 'truly effective large-dog-restraint laws,' but also legislation that puts liability and penalties on shelters, rescues and humane societies that adopt out these dangerous dogs.

"They should be sued when one of these dogs attacks. I would also favor mandatory DNA testing of any dog that seriously injures or kills a person or pet. Then there can no longer be all the excuses of 'it's not a pit bull!' when it obviously is.

"In addition, I favor mandatory spay-and-neutering of pit bull dogs and euthanization of any dog that attacks when unprovoked and seriously injures a person or pet. There should be serious penalties for owners of these dogs. No 'first bite free' type of law (for the owners or the dogs).

"Dog owners need to be financially responsible for all costs incurred by the victims of their dogs (medical, loss of work or income, pain and suffering, etc.).

"No more allowing dogs that are aggressive or bite to keep being returned to the owners with barely a slap on the wrist. No more of people being afraid to walk or play in their own neighborhoods because of dangerous dogs.

"Levy increased penalties for owners for their unrestrained dogs that are roaming free. In other words, we need to finally put the rights of innocent citizens and their pets above the 'rights' of dangerous dogs and their irresponsible owners.

"As I said, thank you for continuing to write about this subject! And I hope you keep it up."

Well, Dr. Marusinec, if you insist.

There's this news account by Kalyn Womack earlier this month out of Indianapolis: "A seasoned sheriff's deputy in Indiana was killed in a dog mauling attack while trying to protect her 6-year-old son, according to The Associated Press. The dog wasn't identified as a K-9 but officials said it looked like a pit bull.

"Tamieka White, 46, died [May 9] after Indianapolis officers responded to a dog attack at her home on the east side. Responding officers fatally shot the dog but the animal had already brutally attacked White as she protected her young son, who suffered non-life-threatening injuries. She was pronounced dead after succumbing to her injuries shortly after the officers arrived."

This in April from the Star-Tribune in Minnesota: "A man was mauled by four pit bull dogs outside his Brooklyn Center home and died from what officials called 'extensive bites on a majority of his body.' The incident occurred [April 13] behind a house in the 5700 block of North Halifax Avenue, Brooklyn Center Police Cmdr. Tony Gruenig said.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office on [April 14] identified the victim as Dezmond R. Thomas Trawick, 22. The examiner's office said Thomas Trawick died from 'complications of dog attack' barely an hour later at North Memorial Health in Robbinsdale.

"Officers who responded to the scene deployed a nonlethal round and struck at least one of the dogs, which sent all four of the animals from the backyard into the residence, according to police. 'The victim had most of his clothing ripped off and had extensive bites on a majority of his body,' a statement from police read."

There were two recent incidents out of Portland, Ore., apparently committed by the same unrestrained pit bull, according to The Oregonian:

"Cheryl Wakerhauser was out on her regular morning run [April 17] when a dog suddenly sprung from a fenced-off vacant lot along Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard and pushed her to the ground. The brown pit bull viciously bit into her legs, right arm and back, leaving her with more than 35 puncture wounds.

"'All I saw was his face and his teeth,' said Wakerhauser, 47."

Kara Bloom, also of Portland, "said she was on a routine morning walk just before 6 a.m. Feb. 3 when another dog pounced on her poodle mix Rocky on Southeast Clinton Street between 26th and 27th avenues and punctured his lung." The resulting vet bill ran more than $3,300.

The news account continued: "Over the weekend, [Bloom] sent a photo of the attack dog, its apparent owner, and a van they had been staying in, to Multnomah County Animal Services after seeing news reports about [Wakerhauser's] mauling." The man and the dog reportedly have since vanished.

The same thing happened to Jeanetta last October when an unrestrained pit bull mix mauled her and savaged 12-pound Benji's body, ripping his leg out of joint and covering his body in puncture wounds, as they walked in our Harrison neighborhood not long after two unrestrained pit bulls slaughtered a Harrison friend's pet cats and attacked her on her front porch.

And you're going to try and tell me these grossly negligent owners don't deserve stiff civil and criminal penalties? Just set their vicious animals free on society without serious civil and criminal penalties?

They are far more at fault when such maulings and deaths occur that their dangerous animal, since they left it free to commit such carnage.

Got a peeve?

I wrote about two of my pet peeves the other day, which prompted a valued reader to send me his top three. Now I'd like to hear yours to share. Email address is below.

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 mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

Upcoming Events