Would you save dog that killed woman?

In “Cujo,” a novel about a mother and son trapped by the titular rabid dog, author Stephen King wrote, “It would perhaps not be amiss to point out that he had always tried to be a good dog. He had tried to do all the things his MAN and his WOMAN, and most of all his BOY, had asked or expected of him. He would have died for them, if that had been required. He had never wanted to kill anybody.” 

I'm a dog guy. In fact, I’ve never met a dog I didn't like. Even as a young child my very first canine memory is a connection with a giant, jet-black St. Bernard that lived one house over. This intimidating beast was tied to a bulky chain all too often, but occasionally he’d break free from his bondage, causing all of the neighborhood kids to scatter – all the kids but me. 

This 150-pound behemoth was a slobbering, goofy hound, innocently searching for much needed attention. And, of course, he was always happy to get a treat. I was happy to supply both. Call me the Dog Whisperer — but I believe God put two creatures on this earth with the capacity for unconditional love: mothers and dogs. 

However, not all Man’s Best Friend stories have happy endings. There’s the ghastly news story that broke recently in Suffield — a scene so brutal that even King might be hesitant to write it. Ninety-five-year-old Janet D’Aleo of Enfield was visiting a friend’s house and was mauled to death by a rescued three-year-old pit bull/pointer mix named Dexter. 

According to Police Chief Richard Brown, D'Aleo suffered massive injuries, including flesh, muscle, and tendon loss to her extremities. Brown said that, according to the Ian Dunbar Bite Assessment Scale, which ranks dog bites according to severity, Dexter’s attack on D’Aleo rated a 6 out of 6, meaning it was the most severe possible. The scale says a level 6 assessment indicates the animal “is extremely dangerous and “simply not safe around people.” 

In an additional twist, the dog’s owner, Annie Hornish, state director of the Humane Society of the United States, is fighting an order from the town’s animal control officer to euthanize Dexter. It’s ironic to say the least that a woman who has dedicated much of her life to helping animals winds up in the middle of this tragedy. 

“This is causing us a lot of additional pain," Hornish said in a conversation with the Hartford Courant. “Janet was a longtime family friend. We understand Dexter being held, but they’re in effect torturing our dog right now. With dangerous dogs, in some cases, euthanizing is required. Sometimes there’s nothing else that can be done, but that’s absolutely not the case here.” 

Investigation of public reports indicates that Dexter presented this type of violent behavior before with two biting incidents prior to the Nov. 6th fatal attack, so I assume his days are numbered.  

I am not looking to minimize the severity of Janet D'Aleo's terrible death but, rather, use it to also bring awareness to an animal abuse problem that far too often flies under the radar. Ugly people continue to do ugly things — and, heartbreakingly, too often they do them to animals. 

Even in no-kill shelters, which are in most cases operated by caring folks doing their best, life for a shelter dog is still a bleak existence that runs absolutely counter to the nature of the animal’s innate longing for affection and to give affection — and yet we see these scenarios play out every day across the country. In other, less caring shelters, conditions are relentlessly awful. If, there, you run into a dog who presents as vicious or uncontrollable, blame the owner or the person who abandoned the animal — not the dog itself. There is no excuse for abusing pets or livestock. 

Connecticut's animal statute is a move in the right direction. It reads: 

"Any person who overdrives, drives when overloaded, overworks, tortures, deprives of necessary sustenance, mutilates or cruelly beats or kills or unjustifiably injures any animal, or fails to give an animal in his or her custody proper care, among other things shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than one year or both; a subsequent offense is a Class D felony. Any person who maliciously and intentionally maims, mutilates, tortures, wounds or kills an animal is also guilty of a Class D felony. Animal fighting is also prohibited under this section as a Class D felony." 

In my opinion, the law should have sharper teeth and hit the offenders harder: Ten-year minimums with $10,000 fines. 

The story of Dexter's fatal attack on Janet D'Aleo sparked vigorous debate at the radio station, where the question was posed: "How would I react if my golden retriever, Ozzy, killed someone?” 

I absolutely feel horrible for Janet D’Aleo and have all sympathies for her family and friends. But in all honesty, similarly to Mrs. Hornish, I would fight for my dog’s survival. He's part of my family. He's my child. 

What would you do? 

Lee Elci is the morning host for 94.9 News Now radio, a station that provides "Stimulating Talk" with a conservative bent.

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