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In San Diego Attack, Dogs Were Victims, Too

Emako Mendoza and her husband, James.

By Michael Mountain

It’s shocking to read of the dog attack that took place in San Diego last week.

A 75-year-old woman remains in critical condition after being mauled last Saturday morning in her own backyard by two pit bull type dogs who had dug out from under the fence in their backyard.

Emako Mendoza had to have her left leg amputated below the knee, and she may lose her left arm as well. (Her family has asked that no further information on her condition be released, and our thoughts are with her and the family.)

Everything we know of the story so far makes it a classic case of criminal negligence and irresponsibility on the part of the dogs’ guardian.

First, the two dogs were clearly untrained and unsocialized. They were not spayed, either, and, as a result, there were 11 puppies in their backyard.

The dogs had been in trouble before. One of them had bitten a poodle and her person. A sanitation complaint had also been issued against the occupant of the house, Alba Cornelio, who may now face felony charges of failing to keep control of an animal who has caused serious bodily injury.

It’s common, after attacks like this, for people to become defensive and take sides. City councils and county authorities often feel pushed into being seen to be doing something strong and purposeful, like passing laws to ban particular breeds – usually pit bulls these days. Dog lovers then take up the opposite side, pointing out that banning this or that breed of dog is not going to accomplish anything. They point out that there’s no evidence that banning dogs of a particular breed or appearance has ever reduced the number of dog bites in any city, county or even country where it’s been tried. Often, the opposite is the case: Dog bites actually go up.

Banning dogs of particular breeds or appearances will never stop people from abusing animals. They simply switch to other breeds. Nor is there a one-size-fits-all solution to criminally irresponsible humans. However, comprehensive dangerous dog laws that put the responsibility on the owners, regardless of breed, can make a difference.

The basic fact is that the guilty party in a dog attack is never the dog; it’s always the person or people who caused or allowed it to happen. And to raise a dog in a way that causes injury to other people is not just criminal abuse of those other people; it’s criminal abuse of the dog.

The last serious dog attack in San Diego County happened a year ago, according to Lt. Dan DeSousa of San Diego County Animal Services. In that case, a 2-year-old boy died after being mauled by the family’s German shepherd. The mother has pleaded not guilty to several charges including child endangerment, but she could face several years in prison if convicted.

In every case of a situation like this, there are two sets of victims: the person who was attacked and the dog who bit them. Right now, Mrs. Mendoza lies in hospital – her life will never be the same as she faces the loss of two limbs. And the two dogs and 11 puppies were also victims of that same horrible crime – they have already lost their lives. None of this should have happened.

Now would be a good time for people in San Diego to sit down together in order to take effective action that protects citizens from people who refuse to take proper care of their dogs – and that protects dogs from those same people, too.

What do you say? What’s an appropriate way to deal with attacks like this? Do you feel some kinds of dogs should be banned altogether? That there are better kinds of laws? Let us know in a comment or on Facebook.

What you can do: More information and how you can best approach local legislators is on our sister site, StubbyDog.org.