Monday, March 1, 2010

When Laws Are Not Enforced

Humans are notorious for something called a hindsight bias. You've heard the saying "hindsight is 20-20". It's the belief that what we know now about something in the past should have been known at the time. This is mostly illogical thinking.

But sometimes it is not. I won't claim that is true with this story, but I think a case could be made.

A blame game is under way in Wichita over who is responsible for an attack by two dogs that left a third dead. Four of the neighbor's dogs (3 Pit Bulls, 1 Poodle) were able to access their neighbor's yard. Two of the dogs (Pit Bulls) engaged in an uneven fight with the neighbor's Corgi, resulting in the dog's death. The three Pit Bulls were relinquished, including the innocent dog not involved in the attack, and killed. The Poodle was returned.

In July of 2009, Wichita implemented a mandatory castration law covering Pit Bulls. Adult dogs have to be sterilized. All Pit Bulls were to be inserted with a microchip. No one can own more than two adult Pit Bulls, unless they acquire an animal maintenance license (and it is to apply to adult dogs born before the ordinance went into effect). Intact Pit Bulls can exist with a breeder's license. Breeder licenses are not supposed to be issued to residential premises.

In 2007, this law was not in effect. But Wichita, like most cities, still had a licensing law, a rabies vaccination law and ordinances covering whether dogs could run loose or not. Between 2007 and 2009, the owner of the Pit Bulls was slapped with 15 misdemeanor violations including allowing dogs to run loose and not licensing them. One dog menaced a postal worker and another kept scaling the 6' fence and escaping. In 2009, prior to the Pit Bull law going into effect, the woman had two of her dogs euthanized - one for the menacing of the postal worker and the other because, and I quote, "I couldn't contain him". So far as I can tell, this left her with the three Pit Bulls.

In April of 2009, the address was flagged and given a high priority if any calls came in. Gee, thanks. Even though this address had multiple citations since 2007. The most recent complaint, ignoring the Feb 2010 mauling of the neighbor's dog, was in June of 2009. June! And the best the city could come up with was a flagging system?

In July of 2009, the Pit Bull law went into effect. Even though this is the type of person for which the Pit Bull law was created, the city saw fit to allow her more than two Pit Bulls and gave her a license to breed them. This is not hindsight. This is egregiously irresponsible behavior on behalf of the city. I don't know if this is hindsight for the Pit Bull owner - she clearly thought she was capable of caring for multiple, large (her female was 90lbs, which is not an American Pit Bull Terrier, btw) dogs. Heck, she could use the city to dispose of any dog she didn't want (you know, when she couldn't contain them) and then just keep a couple from her overbred bitch (bred four times since she got her in '06/07).

Now, do I think that, within the parameters of Wichita's animal control ordinances, the Feb mauling of the neighbor's Corgi could have been prevented?

This depends on whether Wichita has a legal system in place in which animal control (or the appropriate government org) could approach a judge and present evidence to a) re-home or euthanize the current animals; b) require their sterilization and c) enact restrictions on the size and number of animals this person could harbor. It also would depend on whether the person would comply with any restrictions.

So, maybe.

If they had allowed her two neutered Pit Bulls, there is a chance that those could have been the two responsible for the killing of the Corgi. They could have been the two who scaled fences and got out on a regular basis, causing concern for the neighbors.Still, that would have been the logical route to take - it seemed to be a case specifically for which that Pit Bull castration law was created. Yet, it wasn't applied. Heck, the city council basically said: Here, have your three intact Pit Bulls. Breed them too! But just so the neighbors know we care, we'll flag your address and get to the scene real quick like. That is irrational!

Ultimately, I think the city really failed this neighborhood - the Pit Bulls' owner was already a failure, but the city did not have to be. This is a repeat offender who was not penalized to the fullest extent of current law. Now, my guess, and I could be wrong, is that the woman might not be that interested in the dogs if they didn't have breeding potential and thus a mandatory castration might have reduced or eliminated the Pit Bulls from her house. Anyone who breeds a bitch every year for the past 3-4 years clearly does not have the welfare of the dog in mind. People who let animal control kill their dog because he climbs a fence does not have the welfare of the dog in mind. And, people who permit their dogs to roam, after citation and repeated complaints, clearly cares very little about their animals' welfare and the comfort of their neighborhood.

This type of situation is repeated in neighborhoods across the country. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I think a case can be made that current laws are not being as stringently enforced as they could be. Situations like this should not occur. It's one thing when someone makes a royal screw up and a dog gets loose for the first time. It's a whole different ball game when a person screws up 15+ times in a two-year window. That's unacceptable.

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