It’s too late after your Cavalier King Spaniel’s chewed through the power cord behind the fridge in your garage. She’s gone. And all those miscellaneous pills, baby toys and cat stool consumed?—not to mention the woodworking gnawed off your favorite chair. You could have avoided that, too.

Sure, a cage muzzle doesn’t scream, “I’m so cute you gotta pet me!” But it can save your butt when the neighborhood kids haven’t the smarts not to pet Oscar (the-child-fearful) Grouch as you walk him down the street.

For the first couple years of my son’s life, my mother’s pit bull wore one anytime he was around. Though Targa had never bitten anyone—ever—and was well regarded by everyone who knew her for her excellent temperament, she was known to have predatory aggressive tendencies (babies are occasionally confused for prey by dogs with a strong predatory drive). Her proclivities earned her a nose warmer—but it never kept her from interacting well with my son.

Contrary to popular opinion and in defiance of their appearance, cage muzzles are not cruel. The versions I like are soft and spongy in the straps with metal or plastic just where it counts. The best have a safety strap that comes up the forehead for comfort and stability.

Cruel is knowing your dog will eat a sock every month and appreciating from experience that it’ll have to get cut out 50% of the time—and still not doing anything about it.

Cruel is subjecting your dog to mandatory euthanasia because you can’t solve the fear-biting problem she displays in your densely populated neighborhood.

No, the Hannibal Lecter look will never be in fashion (unless you’re into punk rock, goth or death metal) but it’s safety that counts, right?

Though if you must, you can always match her muzzle to a spunky T-shirt that reads “BITCH” across the back. While it might not adequately reflect her true reproductive status, the combination will nonetheless prove a great conversation starter and I promise it’ll earn you smiles all around—well, mostly.