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My dogs went wild in fight, but don’t ban them

Updated: February 10, 2012 8:29AM

Two summers ago I was involved in a violent, terrifying dog fight.

During a quiet evening stroll around my neighborhood, my husband, our two dogs and I spotted a family of four up the street. A mom pushing a baby in a stroller, a young girl trailing behind a big, white Samoyed and dad with a large, leashed Boxer were headed our way and we decided to cross the street to let the merry band pass.

But one of our dogs barked, setting off a cacophony of growls and woofs, and the next thing I know, the girl with the large white dog had been yanked face-first onto the concrete sidewalk from the force of her dog charging at ours.

As her mom started screaming, the dad started running toward us to gain control of the loose dog with his increasingly agitated, though leashed, boxer in the lead. Before we were able to get our own two dogs reined in, I was in the middle of a full-on dog melee.

The boxer bit the hindquarters of one of my dogs while my other dog struggled to tear open the snout of the Samoyed, despite being violently flailed in the air. There was some blood and neither of the large attacking dogs walked away unscathed from their encounter with my two pets, who had turned instantly into seemingly demon-possessed killing machines at a moment’s notice.

Are my two canine children — who would have gladly torn the throats out of the unsuspecting boxer-and-Samoyed combo had my husband and I not been able to grapple them away from the fracas — of a vicious breed? Hulking, blood-thirsty, bred-to-kill pit bulls, perhaps?

No, not at all. I own two Chihuahuas. They weigh 15 lbs. combined and soaking wet. They require darling little sweaters to get through the cold Chicago winters.

My point here is not to boast about my dogs’ ability to throw down in the name of protecting their loving owners. It is to illustrate that under the right circumstances, any dog — even when placid temperament, good training and responsible ownership are factored in — can be a lethal weapon.

Sure, pit bulls can be the equivalents of a loaded gun, a ferocious package of animal instinct and near super-human strength. But you could realistically categorize most dog breeds that way in many situations. Then you’re looking at banning the ownership of all dogs, and that’s no solution at all.

What happened to the Chicago lakefront jogger who was mauled by two loose pit bulls so badly last Monday that he spent most of last week fighting for his life is nothing less than a tragedy. But a citywide ban on pit bulls — or other large breeds with bad reputations — would punish scores of dogs and their responsible owners instead of putting the penalty where it belongs: on the testosterone-fueled and negligent people who keep these dogs only to make statements about their own personal power.

When the City Council meets on Jan. 18, they must be ready to put laws with real teeth onto the books so that careless, irresponsible pet owners can be held accountable — without unnecessarily persecuting reliable owners who, despite best efforts, can sometimes have their dogs somehow escape the family backyard.

In any case, it’s owners, not whole breeds of dogs, who should be punished for reckless behavior.

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