More Bite Than Bark

On Jan. 26, Diane Whipple was viciously attacked and killed by a pair of dogs in the halls of her San Francisco apartment building as the presa canarios’ owner, Marjorie Knoller, looked on. Knoller later told police that she did her best to stop the attack, yet the dogs spent approximately half an hour tearing the victim apart. By the time they were finished, her entire body was ravaged with holes and her throat had been ripped out.

Kenrick Leung
Guardian

Knoller and her husband, Robert Noel, claim the attack was an accident and that they should not face criminal charges. Wrong. Spilling coffee on your keyboard is an accident. Owning two animals of a notoriously vicious breed and watching them take the life of a human being is murder.

Appropriately, the couple has been indicted on charges of manslaughter and of keeping a mischievous animal that has killed a human being. Knoller is also charged with second-degree murder, and I hope the jury convicts this woman and sentences her to life in prison.

Proving that the owner of a killer dog is guilty of second-degree murder can be difficult; the prosecution must prove that the defendant acted with malice or a blatant disregard for human life. It seems obvious to me that anyone who owns such an animal fits both criteria.

The dogs that killed Knoller were previously owned by a pair of Pelican Bay State Prison convicts who trained the dogs to defend criminal operations, such as methamphetamine labs. These dogs were born, bred and trained to kill. The only reason for owning such an animal is for protection or assault. Clearly, these dogs have acted as the latter of the two. Whether the owners had intended for that attack to occur is insignificant; if you own a dog trained to kill, then you should not be surprised if it does so.

Most people do not know just how vicious these dogs are when they attack. They weigh over 100 pounds and are stronger and more ferocious than we could possibly be. There have been incidents in which they have completely destroyed cars trying to reach the people inside.

What makes them especially deadly is their bite. Most dogs will bite and then release. Some, however, do not let go; they will rip their victims to shreds. There are countless horror stories of vicious dogs attacking little children and tossing them around like rag dolls.

Even scarier is that these dogs are so difficult to kill. When one man’s cocker spaniel was attacked by a pit bull in my home town of San Mateo, Calif., the man pounded on the pit bull’s skull with a hammer for more than 20 minutes before it would let go. When a Baltimore man’s daughter was attacked, he spent several minutes clubbing the animal with a baseball bat — the dog would not release the girl until it was dead.

So what should be done? I don’t think banning people from owning possibly vicious dogs is the answer. By nature, I’m leery of banning things outright. Besides, what would be done with the countless ones already existing? Should we set aside a wildlife preserve for them so they can roam free? Sorry, but our federal government is too large and oppressive as it is, and we already pay too much in taxes to support a further swollen bureaucracy charged with overseeing this ludicrous idea.

There are better solutions. First of all, if a dog violently attacks an innocent human being, then it should be put to sleep. Period. If a dog attacks once, there is nothing to prevent it from doing so again. It is a menace to society and it should receive no second chance.

The second, more important solution is stiff punishment for the owners of killer dogs. If someone wants to buy a pit bull, then more power to him. But it better be nailed straight into that person’s brain that if that dog attacks a human being, then it will be put to death, and he will be indicted with a minimum charge of second-degree murder and then go to jail for a long, long time — if not for the rest of his life.

Not prosecuting such individuals to the full extent of the law is condoning such behavior in the legal sense. The trial of the killer dogs occuring right now in San Francisco is garnering national attention; everyone is waiting to see whether Knoller will be convicted of second-degree murder. If she is, then hopefully dog owners nationwide will be more leery of their dogs. If she’s exonerated, then they can breathe a sigh of relief and not think twice. Think of all the lives that could be saved.

This is not to say that there are not responsible dog-owners who have tamed their dogs. But then again, who is to say that one of these creatures is perfectly tame? There is no indication other than sustained docility. But it only takes one incident to prove that this is a vicious dog, and by that time, deadly harm may have been inflicted upon a victim, and the owner is on his way to prison. The owner may have been responsible enough to attempt training the dog, but if that training fails, then he is accountable for the actions of an animal he knew to be dangerous when he purchased it.

If any of you own such dogs, please take this article to heart. Hopefully, yours is a truly docile creature trained to not harm a flea. If, however, it is clearly a menacing beast that has, at the very least, attempted to lash out at humans in the past, then you had better do something, because you have a major problem on your hands. Either way, seemingly docile or blatantly dangerous, if your dog attacks, injures, or kills a human being, then you should be held responsible.