Saturday October 13, 2012

For the second time in four months, a dog attack in Berkshire County has resulted in serious injuries. The first incident should have but did not result in proposals to prevent this from happening again, but maybe this attack will.

A 45-year-old man sustained facial, arm and leg injuries when two dogs ran out of the door of an apartment and attacked him. One of the dogs was a mutt and the other was described as a pit bull-type, and it is unclear which of the two was killed by police when its aggressive behavior made it impossible to capture. The less aggressive dog was captured and is under quarantine at the Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter. In mid-June, a 9-year-old Pitts field boy lost part of his scalp in an attack outside a multi-family home by three pit bull terrier mixes. One of the dogs was killed and the other two sent out of state.

Eight years ago, a pit bull attack in Dalton brought proposals for the institution of surcharges on dog licenses to pit bulls to discourage their purchase. Five years ago, a pit bull mauling in Taunton triggered calls for the ban of the dogs in the state. There was no follow-up, and no criminal prosecution of dog owners whose animals, regardless of breed, have left people with physical or psychological scars.

Defenders of pit bulls, which have a disproportionate role in violent attacks of the kind seen this year, argue that the problem is with the owners rather than the dogs, and it is true that many owners of the dogs in question are irresponsible. The dog, however, is the agent of destruction, and it is folly to continue to wait for dogs to maim people before taking action. Tough regulations against all potentially violent dogs are necessary, and if owners face the possibility of heavy fines or jail terms if their dogs injure or even kill someone they may suddenly learn something about responsible behavior.