AUGUSTA — Deep in the heart of many a Mainer is the memory of a four-footed friend, beloved for his loyalty, his cheerful spirit and his eagerness to guard and protect.

Such is life in Maine, for boy and dog to roam through wood and field together and sit by a brook deep in thought, all for a very short time before one companion leaves forever, to live on only in the heart of the other.

It is said that dogs and their masters resemble one another outwardly. Yet the essence of man is not outward and physical but inward and spiritual, and therein lies the true resemblance between man and dog.

Since a friend is a second self – an alter ego if you will – the two earthly creatures which most resemble one another are the closest friends.

Only man and dog are loyal to the death, indomitable in the face of danger, protectors of home and hearth. Only man and dog will sit in rows face forward for hours, and hence there are schools for both.

But just as there are brave and loyal men, there are also cowards and knaves. Where there are quiet and gentle neighbors, there are the boisterous and the troublemaker. And where there are many good citizens, there are always a few criminals mixed in, and the same is true for the canine world.

Whether this is due to inborn nature is a topic for another time. Dogs, like people, possess both temperament and character, a gentle or vicious temperament being inborn and character being acquired and malleable.

For this reason, there are dogs which are vicious by nature.

This is proven by the statistic that three breeds account for the majority of dangerous or deadly attacks. The pit bull, the rottweiller and the presa canario account for nearly three-quarters of the deaths and maimings. The majority of the victims of the fatal attacks are women or small children.

There are other vicious dogs as well, and these include breeds with the exotic names of the tosa fighting dog, the dogo Argentino and the filia Brasileiro. One trait is sought in these breeds above all, and that is the instinct to attack ruthlessly and without mercy.

A pit bull attacks with the shearing force of a shark and will not release its jaws even when tranquillized or beaten unconscious.

Great Britain, New Zealand, Germany and Singapore, have already enacted laws which ban certain breeds outright or require such dogs to be neutered or muzzled in public. The city of Santa Monica has enacted a law pertaining to pit bulls alone, which requires the dogs to be muzzled in public, and enclosed in a fence when on private property.

Texas has enacted strict criminal penalties for the owners of dangerous dogs. If a dog is involved in a fatal attack, an owner faces up to 20 years in prison. Ohio has declared the pit bull a “vicious breed” and requires owners to carry $100,000 in liability insurance. Maine’s Dangerous Dog Law, which levies a $1,000 fine for keeping a dangerous dog – the determination of which requires a court hearing – is wholly inadequate because the first indication a pit bull or rottweiler is dangerous is often a fatal attack.

There is no need for bad dogs, just as there is no need for bad citizens.

Maine must lead the nation by enacting the first comprehensive law which bans breeds proven to be vicious; and Maine must enact strict criminal penalties for all owners, irrespective of breed, whose dogs are involved in these attacks.

Such laws will ensure the same attributes in our four-footed friends that we seek in our neighbors, and those attributes are loyalty, affability, gentleness and strength.

 

– Special to the Press Herald