The City Council continues to be perplexed over possible answers to several recent dog attacks that have taken place in Watertown, NY. A recent work session organized by the city’s mayor, Jeffrey E. Graham, highlighted some of the debate and the difficulty in coming to any resolution.
One of the ideas discussed was an overall ban on certain breeds, a ‘solution’ that is not only unfair, but already proven ineffective in other communities. City attorney Christine E. Stone told the council judges should utilize state law because dogs labeled dangerous could be put to death. Jefferson County’s supervisor of dog control, Todd L. Cummings, agreed with Ms. Stone, adding that responsible dog ownership is key to controlling the problem. Local courts usually follow city laws rather than state, which are unclear in many cases.
It is typically agreed there are certain breeds more likely to bite than others, but that is not necessarily true. No one can guarantee that any dog will not bite in a given situation, even if it is considered gentle and has never done so before. Dog bites can occur for many reasons.
The best answer really does lie in responsible pet ownership coupled with the education of the public regarding risk factors. At another council meeting the statement was made that “You can’t teach responsible dog ownership.” This statement is inaccurate. Many pet owners are not only capable, but highly motivated to learn about alternatives in order to keep both dogs and people safe. Accidents do happen. Dogs that are confined sometimes get outside their fence. It is an excellent idea to be prepared to deal with such an event.
To help with this process the North Country Animal Health Center has posted a link to the American Veterinary Medical Association website where helpful information on avoiding dog bites and responsible dog ownership can be found. May 20-26, 2012 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week and now is the perfect time for Watertown and the surrounding communities to facilitate education of the public on this important issue.
Banning breeds is not the answer. Implying that only specific breeds of dogs are the problem oversimplifies the issue. Community effort encouraging responsible behavior and raising awareness through education will go farther than singling out dogs by breed. Residents of Watertown should assume responsibility for their actions and assist in rectifying the problem rather than demanding new laws. The concentration should be on enforcing reasonable laws that already exist, such as licensing and the leash law. The local community is the city’s best resource in the effort to address problems associated with irresponsible dog ownership.