Editorial: Dangerous dogs require city to act
It’s a shame that it took the death of Templeton, the 8-year-old terrier attacked while being walked on a leash down a quite residential street in Schenectady last month, for authorities to realize that dogs attacking other dogs can be just as serious an issue as dogs attacking people.
They need to be handled accordingly.
As last Wednesday’s Gazette story indicated, Templeton died a week after being mauled by two vicious dogs — a pit bull and bull mastiff — that allegedly jumped out the window of its owner’s house to get at the animal.
It’s probably little more than dumb luck that Templeton’s owner, Rebecca Cigal, and two Samaritans who tried to free him from the clutches of the attackers, weren’t themselves injured.
That’s often what happens in such cases. In fact, an investigation after the June 30 attack determined that these very dogs had been involved in a similar incident last August, in which they’d knocked down a man to get at another dog.
In hindsight, it’s rather obvious that the two dogs, declared vicious at the time, should have been impounded. But as so often seems the case in Schenectady, Sean McKearn and his dogs were given a pass.
And not just once, apparently: Shortly before this year’s June 30 attack, McKearn’s dogs attacked another dog in nearby Niskayuna (Dean Street is right near the municipalities’ border).
But authorities in that jurisdiction didn’t know anything about last year’s incident in Schenectady, and Schenectady’s didn’t know anything about the one in Niskayuna this spring, so the dogs were once again allowed to stay with their owner - and again go after an innocent bystander.
All municipalities need to act swiftly when an attack like this occurs. Letting a vicious dog return to its neighborhood without any precautions is unacceptable even after one strike — whether the strike is against a human or another animal.
At the very least, such a dog needs to be kept muzzled until its case can be adjudicated, but impounding it makes more sense.
Another idea worth pursuing is requiring owners of dogs deemed dangerous to carry liability insurance.
The Schenectady City Council considered doing this a couple years ago for all dog owners, but balked at the cost. But targeting vicious dog owners would hardly be unreasonable.
Finally, the idea of a dangerous dog registry, as Cigal suggested to a reporter last week, makes a lot of sense, so people who live near offenders will know to steer clear of them when walking their pets.
Such a registry would have to be at least countywide to be of much good, because of the very situation that occurred with Templeton’s attackers. Statewide would be more effective, though, to account for the fact that dangerous dog owners can move about freely.
Information on offenders should be made available to the public, and automatically furnished to pet owners who license their dogs. (This would be a further incentive for people to get licenses.) And no dog with one strike against it — regardless of who its victim is — should be entitled to a third.