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Going soft on vicious dogs in the state of Arizona
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There were perhaps two dozen Dalmatians barking in the various pens when I made the second of three trips to the Save a Spot rescue in rural Turlock.

One caught my eye right away: A large beautiful male weighing about 90 pounds named Rocky. I asked about him and was told he might not be a good fit. Still, I took two more steps toward his pen when suddenly he lunged at the fence literally grabbing onto it like a cat while snarling and showing enough teeth to scare the wits out of Siegfried and Roy.

Startled, I stepped back as Rocky continually lunged, dropped off the fence, and lunged again. I was told he had been badly beaten by a man that he once belonged to.

A year later when one of my Dalmatians died from a stroke, I returned thinking that I could find a way to work with Rocky. He had just been adopted a few weeks prior.

It wasn't out-of-my-mind thinking I could work with Rocky although Cynthia thought I was. It's just that I got it that it wasn't Rocky's fault.

Two of my best pals were abused and/or abandoned, Cruella and Dante. They are the third and fourth Dalmatians I've adopted over the years through Save a Spot that had been mistreated. In each case I had to work to overcome various fears they had.

I have empathy for dogs caught in such situations. That said, I can not comprehend what a judge in Phoenix did.

A pit bull dubbed Mickey attacked a 4-year-old boy leaving him with a broken eye socket and jaw. Mickey was chained in a neighbor's yard posted with a "Beware of Dog" sign. He has a history of acting without provocation and had killed a neighbor's dog.

Mickey spent most of his time tethered to a chain. At the same time, the gate to the yard was left open. Children in the past had been allowed to play near the dog.

The young boy, who was supposed to have been being watched by a baby-sitter, wandered into the yard and was mauled.

Municipal Court Judge Deborah Griffin tried to find justice regarding a petition to have Mickey destroyed. After all, the dog was in another yard nor was it Mickey's fault his owner was less than stellar keeping him chained up and leaving the gate open.

The judge had already declared the dog vicious. But instead of ordering him to be euthanized she ordered that he must be neutered, have his teeth removed, microchipped, placed in a rehabilitation center or shelter, and must never be adopted.

One must wonder the quality of life Mickey will have. At the same time how does Arizona have the resources to make sure Mickey is never adopted since he could live for another 12 years especially when law enforcement has a hard time keeping track of convicted two-legged felons with or without ankle bracelets?

Mickey should be destroyed not because he is a pit bull but because he is a vicious dog that has killed another dog and severely mauled a child.

Let's clear up some myths before going on.

Pit bulls do not have the strongest bite in terms of pounds of pressure per square inch. That honor belongs to Mastiffs followed by Rottweilers, German Shepherds and then pit bulls. They do not lock their jaws when they bite. They also do not shake their "victim" in such a violent manner as other dogs once they have their teeth sunk in. They are also not the leader for dog bites yet they are involved in more fatal attacks than any other category of dog breeds according to the Center for Disease Control.

What gives is simple. The pit bull's problem are a class of people who are attracted to them. Call them what you like - wannabe tough guys, gang members, drug dealers, jerks. The bottom line is they abuse pit bulls or have them as a wrapped status symbol.

The gentlest dog I ever have known should have been one of the most vicious based on its looks and its powerful jaw. It was an 80-pound Rottweiler that belonged to my sister and her husband when they had two young children. The Rottweiler was aptly named "Kitty" as she acted like a small kitten that wanted to be cuddled all of the time.

I forgot to mention Cruella is the only non-pure breed Dalmatian I've ever had in my care. She is just as sweet as any other of my Dalmatians and much calmer. Cruella happens to have a touch of pit bull in her that clearly shows in her shoulders.

Perhaps it has to do with the fact if one of my dogs gets a major medical problem and the veterinarian says it will cost several thousand dollars to try and make things better I won't let my emotions rule.

Mickey has been declared a vicious dog and for good cause even though you could argue it wasn't of his own doing. He should be destroyed for that reason and not because he is a pit bull.

As for Rocky, I was told at the time he hadn't bitten anyone. I found out later that his new pal - a guy - had worked to calm him down.

There are plenty of Rockys out there that need help who have never bitten anyone. They clearly deserve a second chance. But a dog, no matter how "lovable" or "innocent" that has killed another dog and mauled a child needs to be put down.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.