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Dog owners found liable for death

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The owners of two dogs in California were found guilty of various charges, including one count of 2nd degree murder, because their Presa Cararios mauled and killed a neighbor.

http://www.cnn.com/2002/LAW/03/21/dog.mauling.trial/index.html

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I've read something about the case locally. Now, I can easily understand charges of manslaughter, but 2nd Degree Murder? Doesn't there have to be intent for that? None of the accounts I've read (admittedly, not very many) suggest the dog owner wanted the other woman dead.

BTW, and something that may be of more interest to the dog owners on this list, it seems now that some folks are kicking around an idea for a bill or the like (at least, according to the New York Times) that would prevent people from owning 'dangerous dog breeds' and might require any animal that 'is believed to present a clear and present danger to the public' be destroyed, regardless of the owner's opinion. Hey, don't laugh -- England already has a 'dangerous breeds' law that runs along much the same lines. And I've heard much the same argument getting aired elsewhere before this.

I think some folks' fanaticism about 'keeping everybody safe' is running out of control.

Ardashir

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The second degree murder charge comes about, as I understand it, on the basis of what is known as "implied malice". That is, Knoller consistently acted with wanton or concious disregard towards the lives of the other people about her and Diane Whipple in particular. This covers the facts of her actively owning dogs with a known history of being dangerously aggressive, deliberately taking them into public places without appropriate protective measures such as muzzles or choke collars, and not taking any safety responses given the repeated occasions in which the dogs lunged at or bit people. If you look up the term I mention, the definition should mention the accused as being of a "abandoned and malignant heart". Given that Knoller never even called 911 after the attack occured, I feel that describes her fairly well.

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From the news article:

--Begin Quote--

"Hopefully, Diane Whipple's death will prevent other people from dying," he said. "That will be one small part of her legacy."

--End Quote--

IMNSHO, Breeding dogs for attack purposes poses the same risk as creating a lethal weapon. Failing to keep that weapon in a safe condition is negligent, and in this case, proven criminally stupid.

Most attack-dog breeders use love and companionship to condition their dogs to act within the pack mentality, and make sure that the dog knows who is part of the pack so that problems do not occur. When people start training attack dogs and haven't got a clue how to control them... or think that they'd make a good housepet (and in an apartment for chrise-sake!) then they are criminally stupid.

Interesting side-story I heard this morning is that several insurance companies are now re-evaluating homeowner's premiums to consider dog ownership as an additional liability. This case has created a whole lot of precedent for future litigation.

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The idea of insurance companies charging higher premiums or having exclusions for certain dogs is nothing new. There have been several other high-profile cases over the years of people killed or injured by dogs, and the insurance question seems to resurface each time.

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Good. I approve of the sentence, and here is why.

Let us suppose for the moment that I had some loaded weapons. What type doesn't matter. If I walked around outside an apartment complex with them and pointed them at people, I'd be in a lot of trouble. If I fired near people then I'd be in even bigger trouble. If I wounded someone, I'd be spending a long time in an iron cage. And if I killed someone, I'd be up on murder charges. So why should it matter that the weapon involved had teeth rather than bullets? Because I can't control the dog? Well, if I just leave the guns laying out on the sidewalk, does that mean I'm immune from the law because the local punks killed a neighbor instead of me?

These dogs were huge and were bred to be attack dogs. These were not poodles or shelties. This was not an isolated case or an accident where a puppy nips a little boy either - these dogs attacked several people in and around the complex. They were not controlled by their owners. Their owners had a severe lack of responsibility for their animals and for the hazard they represented to their neighbors and should be held accountable for it.

Like I said, this is not a case about a little puppy nipping baby Whosit and mama flipping out. These dogs tore a woman apart after biting a number of people beforehand! There was ample warning that the dogs were hazardous and a disaster was brewing. Anyone who couldn't see that a hostile animal like that shouldn't be in an apartment building really shouldn't own any pets at all.

But I'm certain she'll get her sentence knocked down to 5 years on appeal.

Reality is not only stranger than we think, it's stranger than we CAN think!

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As a fan of pit bulls and other 'dangerous' dogs, I'd like to say:

Dogs don't kill people, unscrupulous breeders and bad owners do

Melissa "MelSkunk" Drake

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I have been feeling like I'm the only one sorry for Bane and Hera... They didn't breed themselves and had no control over their own aggression. That responsibility belongs to the owner/trainer/breeder, who dropped the ball, and the dogs are dead now because humans couldn't take the responsibility for bringing them into this world.

There is no such thing as a 'bad' dog - only a mistreated one. Any aggressive behavior can be overcome if caught early or if the proper control methods (muzzles etc) are used. That is our responsibility.

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Yeah, it always rather amuses me (in a sick way) how many people are ready to assert how we are so much more evolved than animals, until it becomes convenient to blame an animal for their own fantastic incompetence.

It is absolutely true that certain breeds of dog require a much higher level experience and training to raise correctly. The predisposition for certain behaviors like aggression are as much a part of the breed as the physical characteristics. However, I have dealt with both friendly, loving Dobermans and Rotties AND violent, nasty Golden Labs and Poodles. The basic tenet is that it takes a talented individual to train a "problematic" breed to be a canine good citizen, but ANYONE can make an individual dog (of any breed) a hazard. Sadly, the most violent dogs are particularly attractive to the least qualified to raise them.

This is really the heart of the problem. Too many breeders fail their breed by not being picky enough when choosing owners for their puppies; and that is without even including the puppy-mills and backyard breeders who aren't picky at all. But how to control it? Some have suggested a required licensing/training program for owners of "problem" breeds, but the definition of that tends to be left up to city politicians and other dimwits. A large number of cities have the Siberian Husky (a naturally very friendly an non-aggressive dog breed) on their lists of breeds of special concern just because they look wolfish.

The real solution is to breed smarter humans, but we know that's not likely to happen anytime soon.

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I hate to say this, but...

...I've never met a non-nasty Poodle. Luckily, the ones I've known have all been miniature Poodles, not the full-sized ones.

Of course, I've also known full-sized Dobermans who are utterly convinced that they're still lap-dogs... *grin*

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Thanks everybody for the remarks. I knew very little about this case aside from the basics, so thanks for clearing it up.

That said, I feel an impulse to play 'Devil's Advocate' here -- do you feel these laws about certain dogs being regarded as dangerous weapons also means that, if I (or anyone) sneak onto a piece of property and get mangled by the owner's Pit or Rottie (I'll assume here he has no signs up saying BEWARE OF DOGS), that I have no right to sue because he 'owned a dangerous animal'? Myself, I'd say such a person got what they had coming, but I have heard arguments going the other way as well.

And I agree with the fellow who remarked on the massive stupidity of people who abuse their animals to make them mean. One can only wish that they wind up the ones getting their arm sewed up, but in real life it seems it's always some poor neighbor or child who gets maimed or killed. As witness this case.

Ardashir

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The testimony proved that they bred and trainedthe dogs to kill, and not by using love and the pack mentality but through aversion training, and that the animals were intentionally (not accidentally) used to kill the neighbor they hated. They were proud of what they had done and boasted about it afterward. They make a brilliant example of how not to live with other species.

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