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Dogs don't kill people, people kill people

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
March 27, 2002


"Cry, "Havoc!" and let slip the dogs of war." — William Shakespeare

As of late the ghost of Dianne Whipple has been haunting the city of Encinitas. Conjured up by concerned parents trying to keep dogs leashed in city parks, her gruesome demise will never allow her to rest in peace. A convenient martyr, it is uncertain if Ms. Whipple ever visited the five communities that make up Encinitas, when living and working in San Diego, but that is hardly important now that her death has made her a poster victim for "When Dogs Attack."

Last week, the Encinitas Parks and Recreation Commission listened to five hours of testimony from diligent residents, concerned about the interaction between dogs and humans, canine quality of life, health concerns, traffic, and the slippery slope of nimbyism. I truly believe the result of this discussion will be the betterment of life in Encinitas for canines and their humans, I also understand that people feel so strongly about this issue sometimes their judgment is clouded. It's a shame the dogs can't speak for themselves.

As a rule dogs are born loving and considerate members of whatever social group they find themselves in. As pack animals, dogs evolved depending on complex hierarchies, to survive in a world without Kibbles and Bits. When dogs decided to domesticate themselves, attaching to the gravy train of human convenience, they did so at a terrible price.

Although ensuring their survival, when other animals were driven to extinction, the dogs who first crept close to primitive cooking fires damned distant generations to a life of dependence, confinement, and human role models. Proving civilization to be a dead end street for those wanting to remain free wild canines will soon disappear altogether, further deepening the link between our two species. Because of this symbiotic evolutionary path, dogs should be considered equal participants in the domestication game, not wards of the state.

Dogs are said to be man's best friend, with many people experiencing these loyal mammals as wise companions, dedicated caregivers, and members of the family. Without proper nurturing dogs and people can turn brutal and deadly, either though neglect or abuse. And like human children, in the absence of attentive and patience social interactions, bad behavior becomes ingrained to the point of dysfunctional aggression and sociopathic violence.

Lost in mass mediated trauma drama swirling around the dog attack in San Francisco, was an even more horrific death on Valentines day. In Mauston, Wisconsin six Rottweilers mauled to death 10-year-old Alicia Lynn Clark while she played with daughter of the dog's owners. The parents, who were away at the time of the attack, have been charged with homicide relating to the keeping of a vicious animal. Can you say Marjorie Knoller?

Besides the viciousness of the attacks and the fact that all the dogs involved were bred for violence, the most telling similarity of these two cases, the men most responsible for the social conditioning of these animals were felons. In the case of Diane Whipple, the Presa Canarios, Bane and Hera, were trained by a white supremacist, who is now serving a life sentence at California's Pelican Bay State Penitentiary on an unrelated matter.

I would be remiss in failing to acknowledge most dogs have kind and considerate people looking after them. Because of such kind stewardship, the majority of dogs are far less threatening than their human counterparts. That is except for a certain dog named Red who dislikes me for a reason only he knows. His human and I suspect Red was abused by someone with a beard, whatever his motive I keep my distance, just in case he feels the need to lash out at someone.

Ironically, humans seem to tolerate human generated carnage much easier than death by dog and other assorted maulings. Perhaps this is due to human on human violence being the norm and killer dogs being a rare and unusual occurrence. Sociopathic dogs, although guilty and in need of euthanazing, are hardly responsible for their behavior. It was the violent tendency of humans that turned an innocent puppy into the monster that ripped out Dianne Whipple's throat.

For those of you who have yet to notice, dogs are not the ones waging war across the planet. Dogs do not practice genocide, ethnic cleansing, or incarcerate other species for fun and profit. Nor are dogs responsible for the nuclear arsenals capable of bringing about planetary extinction, the industrial society responsible for global warming, or the millions of other crimes against the biotic community.

If only Man was Dog's best friend.

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