In 1995, a 2 year old girl was playing in her yard, when she decided that she wanted to pet the neighbor’s dog, Pookie. She began climbing the chain link fence so that she could reach over and pet the dog. As she climbed the fence, the dog grabbed on to the toe of her shoe and began pulling her toes, then foot, then leg through the fence. A witness at a nearby bus stop reported that the dog look like a land shark, trying to pull that child through the fence.
The dangerous dog case against this dog was thrown out because the judge ruled that when the child’s toes crossed the plane of the fence, the child was trespassing and determined that the child’s actions triggered the attack upon her.
This incident became a landmark case in Portland Oregon because it set the stage for a local attorney and his wife to turn the local animal shelter into a prison as they appealed dangerous dog cases that came their way. Anyone who has worked with the courts know the lengthy process and the attorney used this lengthy process to punish the shelter by forcing them to hold dogs pending the appeal process. The appeals serve to keep the animal shelter full of “dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs,” and where the dogs become the victims of being caged for a long time. Many debate as to how humane it is for a dog to be caged for years pending a court resolution.
The war between public safety and the rights of animals has been constantly waged in Portland Oregon for years. This attorney and his wife have repeatedly stated that there really is no reason to declare an animal as dangerous, it is a human problem. As with any cause, there are people at the extreme left and extreme right. The people who live their lives in the fringe of any cause do not accept those of us who try to remain balanced and stay in the middle. Working in the animal welfare field, you are going to be constantly called on to take one side or the other. If you are a government employee, you have to understand that even though we got into this business because of our love for animals, our primary purpose is to protect our community. In spite of what people will tell you, there are animals that are too unsafe to live in our communities. Sure, most of them became unsafe as a result of their owners; so, even though it isn’t their fault, they are still a public safety risk.
The purpose of people like this attorney and his wife is to intimidate us. They believe that if they are persistent long enough, we will cave to their will. Along the way we are going to lose a case or two, but we will carry on because we have a higher calling: to keep our children safe.