Wow. The dog thing is deep. And I knew that. Before I wrote a single word about the May 2 fatal dog mauling of Antoinette Brown, I already knew that our feelings about dogs – about pets in general – run deep in our hearts, because I know my own feelings do. They should.
I have written that police should shoot loose-running vicious dogs, if that’s the only way to effectively stave off another horror like the death of Brown, and then later I upped the ante by saying we should poison them.
In a Facebook comment, the sage and courageous Sharon Grigsby of The Dallas Morning News editorial page said she agreed with me about the need to do something effective, but she assumed the bit about shooting and poisoning dogs was just me being me, which I think means I couldn’t really mean what I said and was just being nuts.
So, in reverse order, maybe yes, but definitely no. Maybe yes to nuts, if that helps. But, no, I wasn’t exaggerating for effect. I meant it.
The question is not whether we love dogs. We do. I do. Most of the time I feel that my dogs are the only ones in my life who are my true intellectual peers, share my sense of humor or understand my grievances. They call me, “Boss,” and they refer to my wife as, “That lady.” I would be bereft without them.
But I love Antoinette Brown way more. I know only bits and fragments of her life. She was 52 years old, a military veteran. She slept in an abandoned house and may have been a crack addict. She had an arrest record.
She died May 9 when life support was removed. She had been in a medically induced coma since being admitted to a hospital. Her daughter Matisha Ward told Dallas City Council member Tiffini Young, “It was a very peaceful passing. She went down fighting … She is in a better place.”
In other words, Brown was this wonder of wonders we call a human being, battling to stay alive and find rare solace in a brutal world. She was as great, as grand, as beautiful and significant and every bit as flawed as any head of state or movie star, because she was a human being.
The city’s final report on her death said she was ripped apart as if by sharks while terrified neighbors cowered in their homes, hearing her screams but afraid to come to her rescue.
In my treatment of this horror, I will admit to this much error: Maybe I did not say enough times that if there is any way other than shooting or poisoning vicious dogs to ensure that another person will never die this way, then, yes, of course, we should use those other methods.
Shooting or poisoning dogs will be a horror, too, if we must do it, and obviously we want to spare the dogs’ lives and spare ourselves the horror if we can. I thought I said that enough times. Here’s one more.
But I absolutely do not move one inch from what I have been saying about moral priorities. Our first commitment must be to human life and human dignity.
A certain tone in some of the comments I have received really and truly gets under my skin. These commenters always start by telling me that the dogs in the Brown attack were not strays but were owned pets allowed to run loose. That’s true. The city report identified the owners as serial violators of the loose dog ordinance.
Next, the same commenters want to rant at me about irresponsible pet owners and the need for harsher punishment, always with a lot of colorful language about how stupid and vile some people are.
OK. So what?
Telling me that dogs get loose because people are stupid doesn’t tell me what to do with the dogs once they are loose and attacking human beings. And if the people who let them loose are stupid or immoral or feckless, then what good will a bunch of tough licensing rules and harsh fines do? These people won’t get the licenses, won’t pay the fines, won’t go to prison because we can’t afford to imprison people for dog violations, and they will continue to train their dogs to be vicious and then let them run loose.
What do you want me to say? We should shoot the dog owners? Well, actually, let me ponder that one.
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Meanwhile, here is what I would like to hear from the most ardent defenders of dog liberty: When push comes to shove, when the dogs are loose and marauding, when all the other strategies have failed to contain them because at some point and limit those strategies must fail, when the dogs are circling the next Antoinette Brown, would you support shooting them to stop them?
I won’t get a straight answer to that one from them. Know why? Because their real answer is no. They would allow the next Brown to go down in blood and torn flesh before they would shoot the dogs.
This is not about love and respect for animals. This is about a corruption of love and respect for animals, a moral deformity that puts pets above people.
Look deep into that phenomenon. Look without blinking. Do not turn away. What you will see at the very core of it is not love for animals but hatred for human beings. This mentality is not benign. It is actively malignant and morally wrong. That is what I meant to say then and what I still mean to say now.