Ban owner's bad behavior, not dog breed


POSTED: Sunday, February 01, 2009

After the state Legislature is done banning pit bull dogs from Hawaii, I think it ought to ban lovebirds. Pound for pound, or more accurately, ounce for ounce, lovebirds are more ferocious than any other creature on the planet.

My lovebird, the ironically named Sweetie, will take your arm off if you are dumb enough to reach into her cage. They say birds evolved from dinosaurs. Hah. They ARE dinosaurs. I'm convinced Sweetie is a pint-size Tyrannosaurus rex covered with feathers. And unlike pit bull terriers, which really have to be trained by their owners to rip out someone's throat, for Sweetie it comes naturally.

Because I'm familiar with Sweetie's homicidal tendencies, I know it is my duty to keep her securely locked in her cage. Not only is she dangerous, she's smart. She can open the little slidey doors with a lethal curved beak that makes an Arab “;jambiya”; look like a butter knife. I started by sealing the doors shut with “;alligator clips”; but moved up to a combination of padlocks, chains and thumb cuffs that would defy Houdini to escape. I do this because I know if Sweetie got free and savaged the neighborhood children, I would be responsible. And that's the way it should be.

Which is why I am not in favor of banning pit bulls (or lovebirds) from Hawaii. Making one specific breed of dog or bird an outlaw is an example of how lawmakers confuse trying to control “;dangerous behavior”; by banning “;dangerous behavior with specific things.”; Just like the City Council's recent action banning motorists from text-messaging or playing video games while driving.

  AS I'VE SAID before, you can't pass laws stopping people from doing each stupid thing possible while driving (i.e., no plate lunch eating, no cat juggling, no putting on clown makeup). Just pass a “;Driving While Stupid”; law that covers any dangerous behavior. And it's a lot easier for a police officer to recognize dangerous driving behavior (say, exiting the H-1 freeway at 96 miles per hour) than someone exiting the H-1 freeway at 96 mph while reaching the 43rd level of Tetris.

With dogs, birds or other potentially dangerous beasts, it is the behaviors of the critters' owners that should be regulated. You don't have to ban specific species, breeds or varieties of animals to keep the public safe. Just make the consequences for the owners of the critters allowed to run wild and injure people so severe that they would do everything humanly possible to keep the brutes shackled or caged.

Do you think the owners of the pit bulls in two recent neighborhood attacks would have so cavalierly let their dogs get loose if they knew they were facing a long prison sentence or would lose their house in a court civil action to the injured party?

If a pet owner knew he faced prison time should his pet hurt someone, he'd likely opt for a toothless Chihuahua instead of a pit bull. And I'd think of trading in Sweetie for a declawed hamster.