Make dog owners liable, not dogs

By Ned Cantwell

It would be a cheap shot to say Santa Fe has gone to the dogs, but why not? Cheap shots r us.

Truth is, though, our esteemed legislators have devoted an inordinate amount of time talking about their canine constituents who, since dogs have no lobbyists, will probably come out on the short end. One need look only at how chickens have fared in the Roundhouse.

One piece of legislation predictably has more bark than bite. It would set up procedures to decide what is and what isn’t a dangerous dog. Let me help with that. If it has four legs, fur, and a dopey look on its face, it is potentially lethal.

Oh, well, say you, shut up. You just don’t like dogs. That is not the case. It is true I have not had a personal relationship with a dog since neighbor Thunder moved to El Paso. Thunder, for some reason, liked me.

Generally, dogs are capable of terrorizing any human being who fears them, and they know who we are, where we live, and what we drive.

We’re not just talking here about your pit bulls, either. No, sir. Sit me down with a miniature poodle who has had a bad morning, and the moment Fluffy’s owner leaves the room, that dog has me backed into a corner, yapping and growling and nipping as if I were about to take off with the family silver.

Why the fear? As a kid my sister’s dog bit me, leading to rabies treatment involving 14 straight days of two nurses holding me down while a third plunged into my little belly a shaft approximately the length of grandma’s knitting needle. Then my brother somehow got a hold of a boxer that had won a ribbon at the New York Kennel Show, and that dog went for my jugular on day one. The doctors used somewhat more delicate needles to stitch up my neck. We hadn’t yet even named the dog. “Killer” might have been appropriate.

That there is something about me dogs don’t like is perfectly understandable. There is something about me many humans don’t like. What is not OK is how that plays out in life. When I was a kid delivering the U.S. mail, three tiny dogs would lay in wait each afternoon, chasing me around my little post office bike.

They meant no harm, I am sure. It was just good sport, a fun way to pass a lazy dog day’s summer afternoon. The neighbors got a real yuck out of it, too.

Just like humans, even the most gentle, stable pup walks occasionally on the dark side and that’s the personality dogs prefer to show those of us they deem as questionable in our loyalty.

When not terrorizing you, a dog might just love you to death. There it is, the rather formal setting, the cocktail before dinner, and you are sitting on the couch with Tommy the Terrier lurking under the coffee table. Suddenly, he becomes sexually attracted to your right leg. Down, boy. You had put on cologne hoping for good things, but this is not quite what you had in mind.

Can Santa Fe outlaw dangerous breeds? Forget it. Just make owners totally liable for their dog’s actions. That would cover all physical violence, including sexual assault.

Ned Cantwell doesn’t own a cat, either. But he welcomes feedback at: ncantwell@charter.net