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All dogs go to heaven, but do all dogs deserve legal representation?

In Georgia, the answer is yes. A Superior Court judge has appointed an attorney to Kno, a pit bull who attacked a five-year-old boy, leaving the boy's face paralyzed on one side. Immediately after the attack, Kno's owners, according to the Savannah Morning News, surrendered the dog to a local shelter, where he was deemed a dangerous animal and is being kept in solitary confinement.

Why the dog attacked the little boy, who was playing with another child, is unknown, as is the history of the owners - but the case has sparked a fierce debate online about a dog's rights, especially after an attack.

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Many insisted the dog should immediately be euthanized ("A bullet cost.. what.. 25 cents?" wrote one commenter.)

"People are ignorant in thinking a [pit bull] is to be trusted around a child," wrote another on the Associated Press story, which described Kno's situation as a "death penalty case." Some came to the defence of the pooch, and one impassioned reader argued, "Until and when they let us euthanize humans, then it will be okay to just stop the life of what once was a friendly loving animal."

I understand the risks in sticking up for a dangerous dog - and maybe I've been watching too much Dog Whisperer - but I'm relieved Kno hasn't immediately been deemed a lost cause. Dogs who attack, in my opinion, can be rehabilitated just like people. (Need convincing? Take a gander through these photos.)

As a dog lover, I'm always quick to side with man (and woman's) best friend. But I wonder how my opinion would change if that were my little boy Kno attacked. Yes, dogs are animals and unpredictable but I truly believe owners - not breed characteristics - are at fault.

(As I'll brag to anyone within earshot, my boxer Ruby had a horrible start. Five years of abuse and neglect led to creating some serious baggage, but now she's a bouncy grinning pooch just waiting to lick your face. To me, as with humans, your environment is everything. )

That said, if Kno is truly a danger, euthanization might be the only option. But what irks me is this situation adds to the breed's already poor reputation. While physical breed characteristics are certainly important - and pit bulls are muscular, strong dogs with incredible jaw strength - a dog's personality is largely based on the love, or lack thereof, in his home. (I asked Cesar himself.)

Just last week, three rotweillers attacked a girl in Ontario, and today, this three-pound chihuahua has been deemed a danger to society.

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What do you think: What role does a breed play in a dog's behaviour? And what rights - if any - does a dangerous dog have?

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About the Author
Editor in the Opinion section

Amberly McAteer is an editor in the Opinion section at The Globe and Mail. She has been a homepage editor, online editor and community editor in Features - including Life, Travel, Style, Arts and Books. She's written columns about her quest to run a 10K and find the perfect dog. More


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