Like thousands of Sun readers, I have been fascinated by the story of Kane, the missing Millersville pit bull that injured four people and is now scheduled to be dispatched, via lethal injection, to that big Dog Pound in the Sky.
As of this writing, Kane is still on the lam after someone broke into the Anne Arundel Animal Control Shelter and sprung him.
The dog's owner, David Neal, says he has no idea where Kane is. This, though, is being met with some degree of skepticism, seeing as how people without an emotional stake in the issue are generally not in the habit of breaking into animal shelters commando-style in the dead of night and freeing large, aggressive dogs from their cages.
Still, to many, the saga of Kane raises a larger issue. That being: Why would anyone in his right mind have a pit bull as a pet? Especially in a residential neighborhood?
Unless, I suppose, you have a particularly relaxed nature and don't mind worrying, every time the telephone or doorbell rings, "Gosh, I wonder who ol' Rover mauled this time?"
Of course, whenever this subject is raised, certain dog people - among them veterinarians, breeders and plain old pit bull owners - immediately wail: "Oh, it's not the poor dog! It's not the breed! These biting incidents happen because the pit bulls are mistreated by irresponsible owners who train them to be vicious toward humans, fail to teach children how to behave around them and blah, blah, blah."
All of which may be true.
But let's face the cold, hard reality of the situation, shall we?
When was the last time you heard about a beagle going berserk and attacking the toddlers next door? Or about a Shih-Tzu flipping out and tearing savagely into someone's sweet old grandma as she made her way to the mailbox?
No, it's usually pit bulls and Rottweilers doing the random maulings these days as granny waits for the mailman.
That's the reason drug dealers use pit bulls to guard their stashes and why street gangs use them for personal protection: They're big, powerful animals that were bred to be fighting dogs. And they can be fiercely aggressive toward strangers if trained to do so.
Actually, according to a recent Associated Press story, Rottweilers have now passed pit bulls as the country's deadliest dog breed. Between 1991 and 1998, according to the American Veterinary Medicine Association, Rottweilers were involved in 33 fatal attacks on humans. Pit bulls were involved in 21 fatal attacks over the same period.
Clearly, though, a pit bull isn't the kind of dog you'd like to have around when company drops in, or the neighborhood is having a yard sale.
"We do not adopt pit bulls. I don't think they're the kind of dog the average individual should own," said Nicky Ratliff, executive director of the Humane Society of Carroll County.
Ratliff explained that the dogs were originally bred for bull- and bear-baiting, charming sports in which the pit bull would agitate the larger, slower animals and then, to the delight of a howling mob of spectators, attack them when those animals were in an weakened, exhausted state. Pit bulls also were bred to fight other dogs and prized for their tenacity .
While Ratliff said she's seen some "wonderful" pit bulls, "the pit bull has been bred to fight to the death. ... If they come after you, you might not be able to stop them."
Kane himself has a rather extensive rap sheet, coming across as sort of the Mike Tyson of pit bulls.
According to an earlier story in The Sun, when he was a year old, Kane scratched an elderly woman who was trying to protect her cat. He bit a 7-year-old boy last year, and a few months ago, Kane and another dog owned by the same person attacked a 14-year-old girl, biting her leg, nose and arm. More recently, a man reported that Kane had attacked him, too.
A few days ago, Kane was behind a double chain-link fence and everyone who knew the dog was breathing easier.
Now the residents of one nice, middle-class neighborhood in Millersville awake to cheery headlines such as this one from Monday's Sun: "DOOMED PIT BULL IS STILL MISSING."
Oh, yes. Just makes you want to walk down to the park with the kids, doesn't it?