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News We’re Watching

by Gila Hayes

U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez has once again struck down California’s magazine ban as unconstitutional. His decision makes interesting reading and includes, among other noteworthy statements, his observation on magazine capacity limits: “One government solution to a few mad men with guns is a law that makes into criminals responsible, law-abiding people wanting larger magazines simply to protect themselves.”

Benitez’ ruling against the magazine ban was subject to a 10-day stay for CA’s Attorney General Rob Bonta to appeal to the 9th Circuit Court and ask them to again strike down Benitez’ decision. As seems to be true these days, a favorable decision does not mean the fight is won yet. I have to wonder how many more hearings, stays, and appeals are required to get rid of what Benitez skewered as a law that makes law-abiding people who just want to protect themselves into criminals.

Reactions to Use of Force in Defense of Pets

The member responses have been interesting and unusually emotional about our September lead article in which Alex and Mike Ooley discussed legalities of defending – and defending against – pet dogs. First, let me acknowledge the extreme frustration some members expressed over conditions in which dogs owned by others endanger them in their own neighborhoods. The outpouring of emotion underscored the need for lawful, realistic and effective defenses for and against animals, as discussed by the Ooley law partners.

I particularly appreciated the emails “Tom” in Colorado exchanged with me, because he urged us to factor in the circumstances under which he has found attacking dogs unresponsive to pepper spray. Tom wrote–

“I’ve worked in sheltering environments all my life and carry pepper spray or some other spray deterrent when walking my dogs. What the public should be made aware of is that most sprays work for low to medium aggressive dogs. A dog in the red zone (think one that has fixed pupils, charging, teeth, etc.) may not stop the attack – even with pepper spray.”

“So, just like other situations, protect yourself and pet and get the hell out of there but realize that the spray isn’t always the end all. It can, however, give you precious seconds to retreat while the dog is disoriented.”

I cited Mike Ooley’s suggestion that a walking stick could be effectively used to disengage and create distance against a charging dog and asked if Tom thought that solution preferable to the mixed results he’s experienced with pepper spray. One of my concerns is that carrying so many options for defense slows and confuses decision making when frightened by an aggressive dog, and is further complicated by limits on how many things we can realistically carry while still managing the dog’s leash. It is important to have defense methods that are effective, safe, and appropriate. Should I drop the pepper spray canister, jam the walking stick under my arm and grab for the pepper spray, or will I just end up fighting off the dog with what ever is already in my hand? I asked. Tom responded –

“Your question is hard to answer because it may not be whether you have a walking stick or spray, it’s the totality of the situation and the dog that could attack. A chihuahua can cause as much or more damage then a bully breed or it can be the other way around. On a side note, it bothers me so much when a dog is running at me and the owner is yelling: ‘He’s friendly,’ What they don’t realize is my dog may be reactive, scared, etc. and I know how he’s going to react to a ‘friendly dog’ charging him and so it’s up to me to do something to change the situation.

“When someone is walking their dog, it’s their job to protect the dog and themselves (I’m one of the ones who believe my pets are family) and so surfing social media on the phone, not paying attention to what’s going on around you, etc. is just setting yourself up for problems. When I’ve seen a person walking a dog (or in some cases, walking by themselves) and my spidey senses kicked off, I either crossed the street, went a different way, etc. Avoidance is and will always be key in both dog and human situations. When those situations become unavoidable, then using a stick, spray or whatever it is to protect yourself and pet and get out of the situation becomes the necessity.”

I appreciated learning from Tom’s experience and found his approach to assuring his own safety as well as that of his dog a breath of fresh air.

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