COLUMN: Swatting away weak arguments on pit bulls

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By Ben Carlson

I hope each week that editorials and columns I write will draw opposing opinions, especially those that are reasonable and well thought out.

So when gardening columnist and apparent pit bull apologist Cheryl Steenerson called and said she was going to set me straight after last week’s editorial about pits, I welcomed her letter with glee. (See her letter on this page).

I admit being a little surprised that Cheryl used what was a personal conversation with me as her lead defense. In general I expect people to challenge what I’ve written, not casual remarks over the phone.

But as I read the entire letter, it was readily apparent why she chose to attack what I said vs. what I wrote because the rest of her letter is full of tired, easily defeated rhetoric and frankly only serves to better prove my point.

Cheryl points out that I had a personal incident with a pit bull. That’s true. One that was tied up next to my home broke its collar and charged my 6-year-old son and I while we played catch in my back yard.

I grabbed my son, hoisted him on my back and tried to stare down the pit as he went into a crouch about 10 yards from us. The other pit tied up next to him was freaking out at this action, and when the pit turned to see what his fellow felon-in-waiting was howling about, I made a break for the door and got inside.

While dashing into my garage, I noticed a group of children playing in front of my house and was terrified that the dog was going to attack them. Accordingly, I grabbed a rifle from my garage, loaded it and went back out to see where the dog was.

It didn’t take long to find out. It saw me come outside and immediately charged me. I leveled my sights on it and yelled for it to stop. It didn’t, and received a rifle slug in its chest for its troubles. When I shot, all four of the dog’s feet were off the ground so, yes, it was fully intending to maul me.

The police arrived and, to make a long story short, I was not ticketed for shooting a gun within city limits. The evidence, including a chunk of yard sod torn out after the bullet went through the dog, clearly showed the 45 degree angle at which I shot.

So, Cheryl, yes I have a personal bias against pit bulls, and for those who argue how wonderful they are, I invite you to be on the business end of one fully intending to maul you (or your 6-year-old) before shooting your mouth off about callous dog-banning creeps like me.

Now for the easy part: dismantling yet another argument in favor about pit bulls by equating them to inanimate objects.

Here’s the thing, Cheryl. A gun has never grown legs, crawled from its case and decided to shoot someone. That is the province of a human being who must first pick up the gun, load it and successfully aim it.

Like all dogs, though, pit bulls are capable of independent thought and certainly don’t need human interaction when one goes off its rocker and decides now is the perfect time to maul someone or their pets.

Need another example? Place 100 loaded guns in your home or office for a year and it’s a safe bet that not one will go off unless a human pulls a trigger. Now try placing 100 pit bulls in your home or office and get back to me if a year goes by without someone being bitten or mauled.

As for alcohol issues, I’ve never seen a bottle of beer, liquor or wine escape from the refrigerator or cabinet, sneak up on someone and pour itself down their throat. Just as people shoot people, people drink booze and are to blame for their actions while doing so.

While there certainly is a point to your concern that identifying pits could be somewhat problematic, I have full confidence that the county attorney is capable of crafting an ordinance that will make that clear.

Besides, just as Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart said he “knows pornography when he sees it,” so do most people know a pit bull when they see one.

E-mail Ben Carlson at bcarlson@theandersonnews.com.