Why We Must Punish Negligent Pet Owners

Have you seen the video of the cat chasing off the dog who had just bitten a child?

In case you haven’t, here’s what happened.  A California boy was on a bike in his driveway when he was viciously attacked from behind his leg and pulled to the ground by a neighborhood dog.  The video, which was captured by a security camera, shows the child’s cat come charging in and lunging at the dog, sending it scurrying off camera, thus sparing the boy further injury.  America has cheered the video, which is entitled, “My Cat Saved My Son.”  Since being published on YouTube May 14th, it has gone viral, logging over 20 million views.
I was one of the many people who posted it on Facebook.  I love animals, and have an especially soft spot in my heart for cats, having cared for many with my family over the years.  It frequently disturbs me when I see other animal lovers talk about their hatred or disdain for cats, so it always pleases me when I see a cat doing something incredible like this that I can share online.  What disturbed me even more was a comment I received on Facebook, and the conversation that resulted from it.

A woman with whom I am acquainted viewed the video, remarked how amazing it was, then promptly suggested the dog should be shot.

“I think they should shot [sic] that dog.  My goodness if it wasn’t for the cat, the dog could of killed that little boy,” she said.  “Dangerous dog.”

Me, thinking this was an overt reactionary position, calmly disagreed.

“I hope there are better solutions available than to simply murder an animal,” I said.  Meaning, I don’t think that taking the dog out back and blowing its brains out is the best immediate course of action.  I’m weird like that.

But this woman disagreed with me.  In fact, she seemed to indicate it was the only possible recourse to take.

“But that dog is dangerous,” she said.  “There’s no other solutions.”

Because she is a relative of a close personal friend, and someone I have a good deal of respect for, I didn’t want this to escalate into a heated argument.  Still, her response did prompt me to wonder how many solutions one must consider before arriving at the one where you pump a dog full of lead.

It was then that another person came on to suggest that I was alleviating the dog of any wrongdoing.  They said that, had it been a bear, I would have found it justifiable to shoot the animal during the attack.  Well, okay, sure.  If a bear wanders into a small child’s driveway and attacks him, I definitely hope something can be done.  I loathe guns, and will never go hunting, but even I would want to take the bear out if that were the case.

ninjacatBut it confused me that people seemed to think I was defending the dog in this situation.  I wasn’t.  The child will recover, though he was badly injured.  By the time I posted the video, the dog had been willingly surrendered by its owner, where it had been under quarantine to look for signs of rabies.  The plan was to eventually euthanize the animal.

I admit, even in cases like these, I do hope the life of the offending animal can be spared.  I don’t like the idea of an animal, in effect, being put to death for his crimes.  But if it has rabies, or is a danger to children, yes, I’d rather see it put down humanely than live out its life in a shelter or, you know, shot to death.

Still, in all the talk back and forth online, it dawned on me:  why is the responsibility of the dog’s owner/guardian the last thing many people want to debate?  If we are going to talk about what should be done to the animal, shouldn’t we at least give equal consideration to the negligence of its owner?

In this case, they acknowledged that their dog had an aversion to children and bicycles.  So what in hell was it doing wandering a neighborhood with children and bicycles present?  Why was it out on its own at all?  If they have a violent animal, their most pressing concern should be securing it in its own yard where it cannot escape to injure anyone, much less a small child.

In the end, they’ll probably get off light.  But they should consider themselves lucky.  Had it not been for the intervention of one very brave cat, the injuries would have almost certainly been much worse.

So, what to do, then?  Well, while I think it goes without saying they should be responsible for the boy’s medical bills, hopefully there are punitive damages that can be awarded as well.  To be honest, I am not even against a brief stay in jail.  Something must be done to punish them, as well as others, who exercise carelessness when securing their pets.

Thanks for reading.