THE sickening death of a four-year-old girl savaged by a pit bull-cross ends the debate about whether or not these animals have a right to exist in the community.
Ayen Chol clung desperately to her mother’s legs as a neighbour’s dog mauled her to death after entering the family home in the Melbourne suburb of St Albans.
Other children watched in horror as their little friend died the most terrible death.
It is no good for the owners of these beasts to plead for leniency. The animals are unpredictable, dangerous attack-dogs and they have proven it time and again.
Lovers of bull terriers argue that irresponsible owners give the animal a bad name.
They say they are loving pets when well looked after, fed properly, trained and exercised.
It is a hollow argument and a look at the evidence tells us that even the most placid-seeming dog can suddenly turn into a killing machine.
Who could forget the ordeal of Portland’s Kathy Bonic in 2010. Her “beloved’’ three-year-old Staffordshire pit bull cross unexpectedly turned on her in an attack that severed most of her arm, leaving her with terrible injuries.
Kathy’s life was saved when neighbours Mick and Martin Jacobsen managed to beat the animal away from her, later saying the crazed pet was trying to eat her.
In December, 2009, a 61-year-old man was set upon by two pit bulls in Albanvale; three months later a 67-year-old grandmother had her arm savaged by her pet pit bull-cross. The arm was amputated.
In April, 2010, a three-year-old girl suffered serious injuries to her hip, abdomen and leg after being attacked by a pit bull in Taree, NSW; in February this year, a pit bull attacked a young family in Hoppers Crossing and in the same month a pit bull was destroyed after savaging a police officer’s face in Bonaderry, NSW.
On Wednesday, a little girl lost her life. The community is in shock and the child’s family will never recover from the horror.
The law with regard to dangerous dogs is a joke, only not a particularly funny one — a fine of $4500 is the maximum punishment the owner of Ayen Chol’s killer can expect. The
government has indicated that it may toughen the rules so that owners can be charged with an offence under a law that would reflect the fact that the dog could be considered a dangerous weapon.
Presently under federal law, the dogs cannot be imported and under state law owners can apply to have the animals registered. They then become subject to restrictions such as having to wear muzzles in public.
However, there are thousands of unregistered dogs in the state and this is where a large part of the problem lies.
At the very least, urgent changes to the Domestic Animals Act are needed so that unregistered animals can be seized.
The obvious next step after that should be a complete ban. However, Premier Ted Baillieu’s initial response to Thursday’s outrage was to announce a hotline.
With all due respect, Mr Baillieu, a Dob In A Dog hotline is without merit.
With an estimated 10,000 unregistered dangerous dogs across the state, what use will a hotline be in preventing random, unexpected attacks?
A ban on all pit bulls and their cross-breeds would immediately prevent new ones being bred and ensure existing ones are put down.
The culling of people’s pets might seem draconian in the extreme, but what is the alternative?
Why anyone would want to own a dog that was originally bred in England for bull-baiting and bear-baiting and is the breed of choice for modern-day illegal dog fighting is beyond most people.
The animal’s status symbol as a threatening ‘‘tough-guy’’ accessory dates back to Charles Dickens’ time with one of the author’s most vicious bullies — Bill Sikes in Oliver Twist — owning one. The owners of these dogs have to accept that their animals have to go.
What happened to Ayen Chol must never happen again and it is up to the government to make sure this is the case.
Nothing short of the most severe measures will placate a community that has lived in fear of these brutes for too long.