Broward County dangerous dog ordinance: harsh consequences for instinctive behaviors
A few days ago, The Miami Herald carried a story on our neighboring county’s new ordinance: Declare a dog “dangerous” after his first offence. Reserve the right to euthanize after the second go-round. This is Broward County’s solution to dogs who kill cats or dogs—or who bite humans.
If such legislation were aimed at owners, I’d be far more sanguine about its enactment. As such, I have a hard time grappling with the knowledge that my parents’ dogs might have been euthanized long ago if we lived in Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami. That’s because these dogs have killed cats—lots, unfortunately.
Granted, none of these cats was owned by anyone (that we know of). Sure, they were all killed in the dogs’ own back yard. But none of this makes a difference if your neighbor gets a whiff of a dead cat in your dog’s maws—regardless of which side of the fence the cat is on.
The Broward legislation came to pass because one concerned citizen made the claim that three of his neighbor’s pit bulls had killed his cat as she sat placidly on her own front porch. The massacre (horrific, I’m sure) was caught on the cat owner’s security video. The dogs were since relocated by their owner (who judiciously elected to move after his dogs got loose and killed a lawyer’s cat). Let it suffice to say that the cat owner’s understanding of County government and the dog owner’s choice of breeds conspired to give this law its legs.
I don’t know how common this scenario is, but my own experience adds credence to the cat owner’s complaint. As a kid, one of the neighbors’ dogs—one of a perennially loose sort—killed our “wanted stray” right by our front door.
Still, I don’t consider pet-killing dogs necessarily dangerous. I tend to consider their owners more so for letting them roam or escape. My own childhood situation notwithstanding, I also find some measure of fault with owners of cats who allow them to reside out-of-doors (even if only occasionally and on their own property).
After all, if you tally up the quarry a cat tends to kill in a week—and the neighborhood cats some felines abuse through territorial disputes, you’d have far more “dangerous” cats to dispose of (assuming we considered wildlife worth protecting and expensive injury to other felines redressable). Again, our outdoor cats get a pass (for reasons I’m loath to fathom).
These pet-killing, “dangerous” pets are usually exercising their instinctive behavior. They are animals, after all. And they are attacking animals—appropriate behavior for the predatory species we know them to be. They can’t properly conceive the damage they do with their limited cognition. So when they inflict harm it’s [almost always] because their owners have been irresponsible—to a degree.
In my experience, 90% of pet-killing dogs do so because they’re enticed by the prey-aggression appropriate to their species. Only 10% are truly aggressive human-attackers. Among these, even, how many are fear aggressive and allowed to exercise their faults due to the irresponsibility of their owners.
Sure, human-attackers may deserve a two strikes rule, but pet-killers? They deserve a two-strike rule aimed squarely at the owner—in the guise of a hefty fine or jail time (after multiple offenses). If you can’t prove your pet-worthiness, your continually irresponsible pet-keeping deserves redress—and not by punishing your dog for his instinctive behavior.
Maybe I’m totally off-base here, but people are the problem in 99% of cases. Our dogs? They’re just being dogs.