The infamous fatal mauling by two Presa Canarios in Pacific Heights, San Francisco is back in the news as the California Supreme Court decides whether it should set a new legal standard regarding culpability for "unintended" deaths. That's an interesting topic in itself, but today I'd like to point something out about dogs, their owners, and the general public.
Dogs are pack animals, and they behave as such. Dog owners need to understand this in order to control their animals. However, even conscientious dog owners have a tendency to disrespect people who don't "behave correctly" around their dogs, thus "triggering" undesirable behaviors - from uninhibited romping and sniffing to fatal maulings.
What dog owners need to understand is that humans have to obey laws that prevent them from acting aggressively toward dogs. Back in days of yore, if a large, aggressive dog got close enough that you felt threatened, you would kill that dog with your spear or whatever before it had a chance to do anything to you. There would never be any question of your right to do this. Nowadays, if you physically attacked a dog before it attacked and injured you, you would definitely be subject to criminal prosecution. In fact, if you killed or injured a small dog for biting you, in a situation where the dog would have no chance of seriously injuring you, you could also be jailed.
This is the fundamental problem: our entire culture is built around a covenant of responsibility and non-violence on the part of its members. We don't carry weapons any more, not just because we don't need to, but because we're not allowed to. When people bring large predators they can't physically control into this environment, you are guaranteed to have trouble - it's just a matter of time.
There are only two solutions to the problem of dangerous dogs, whether they are simply biting people - as the dogs who perpetrated the Pacific Heights mauling repeatedly did, without being taken from their owners or put down - or actually killing people:
1. Responsible Alpha: Make dog owners completely responsible for every behavior of their dog, as if they themselves were that dog.
2. Superpredator: Allow people to kill dogs they feel threatened by, and to carry weapons sufficient to do that job, regardless of the size of the human or the dog. Humans are supposed to be the apex superpredator - let us act like it.
It looks like the courts in CA may go a ways toward option #1. I can't imagine #2 ever happening, but if dog owners want to be absolved of the consequences of their dogs' behavior, they must support it.