Dog attack likely to sway pit bull debate

August 12, 2003|by TIM ROWLAND

Great balls of fur, Tony the Pit Bull, did you ever pick a bad time to act out.

Here's the City of Hagerstown, in the midst of the Great Pit Bull Debate of 2003 to decide whether the reputedly aggressive breed should be banned from the city limits.

And truth be told, public sentiment was running pretty strongly in the dogs' favor, with more anger being vented toward the two public officials who suggested the ban than toward the animals themselves.

There haven't been a lot of documented pit bull attacks in recent memory, so this wasn't like SARS or anything. The police were contending that pit bulls were being employed as security guards for the drug dealers, but police have guns, so it wasn't as if the public saw them as defenseless.


To be honest, the image of a government bursting into private homes and taking people's pets had nudged pit bulls under the umbrella of public sympathy.

In fact, Tony, you had actually become the city's poster boy of pit bulls, appearing as you did on the front page of The Herald-Mail in a "pit bulls are people, too" styled story which correctly pointed out that not all bull terriers are Satan.

Of course, there was the "unpleasantness," when you happened to lunge at newspaper photographer Ric Dugan, but since your aggression was directed toward a member of the media, people were pretty quick to forgive and forget.

But just as everything was settling down, you had to give Pit Bull Nation a huge black, Spuds McKenzie-like eye by scaling a 6-foot fence and viciously attacking a neighbor's dog named Snoopy, refusing to let go of the poor critter, even when the dog's owner clubbed you over the noodle with a baseball bat which, she said "just bounced off his head."

Way to go, Tony, you just spoiled the party for everyone. What was going through your head? Were you auditioning for Fox? It's taken you, a dog, to do something no human could do - make Councilwoman Penny Nigh's proposals look smart.

And you had to attack a dog named "Snoopy," didn't you? Snoopy, the name of the most loved and sympathetic dog in America. You couldn't have attacked the neighbor's other dog, which is named "Bear." You couldn't attack an unsympathetically named dog like "Butch" or "Jaws" or "Gigli." No, it had to be "Snoopy," didn't it?

The co-owner of Snoopy is a 14-year-old girl.

Congratulations, Tony, you hit all the sympathetic hot buttons in one chomp: What, did you go down the list? Little girl, check. Mother with broken leg desperately trying to defend her beloved pet, check. Dog has cute, all-American name, check.

Yup, that pretty much covers the whole waterfront, doesn't it? Great target for a full-blown, foam-at-the-mouth fang-a-thon, pup-o. It might have been better if it had happened on Christmas Eve and the girl's dad was named Bob Cratchet, but outside of that I'd say the performance was pretty much first rate.

Tony, Tony, Tony, how could you? Oops, forgot. You can't hear me right now seeing as how you are - what's the medical term? - dead. You even let down your owners who loved you very much, but couldn't countenance your last bite. The tooth? You couldn't handle the tooth.

For all your athleticism - a dog climbing a 6-foot fence? They shouldn't have named you Tony, they should have named you Mallory - for all your creativity, for all your doggish charms, you were treated to a visit from the night-night needle.

And finally, no, in anticipation of everyone's question, I have not thought through the implication that it was OK to go after Ric Dugan, but when Tony attacked another dog he had to be put down. Maybe Ric should consider changing his name to Snoopy.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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