Behind most bad dogs you'll find a bad owner

By the Herald editorial staff

A recent dog fight in Richland has created another kind of skirmish at city hall.

A miniature dachshund was killed last week during a confrontation with a boxer-lab mix in a greenway near an apartment complex.

The larger dog was not on a leash. From there, the details get murky. Finger-pointing has ensued between the dog owners, who have different versions of the New Year's Eve incident.

What everyone can agree on is that one dog ended up dead, and its owner ended up with a dog bite trying to save her pet.

The owner of the boxer-Lab mix, Jim House, was cited for violating the city's leash law.

The incident has sparked debate about whether Richland should adopt breed-specific regulations for animals that are labeled "potentially dangerous."

Residents who recently packed a Richland City Council meeting no doubt included dog owners whose pets would fall under that category.

The dachshund's owners, Andrew and Elinor Woehler, were at the meeting to press for new laws. House's dog was originally thought to be a pit bull mix, but documentation later showed it was a boxer-Lab.

Richland discussed breed-specific regulations in 2006, but rejected the idea. While it turns out House's dog was not a pit bull, the incident resulted in raising the issue to top of mind once again.

Pasco and Kennewick already have breed-specific regulations that call for tougher enclosures and other restrictions for certain animals.

Whenever dogs are involved in a news story, emotions run high. Whether it's an injured dog or a puppy mill or the victim of a dog bite, people are quick to react and react strongly.

We are a community of dog lovers, and the Herald editorial board has seen enough website page views and online comments to prove it.

We agree with many of the comments. Most of the time, the dog is not the problem. The fault usually lies with dog owners.

We weren't on the greenway near Aaron Drive on New Year's Eve and can't offer any insights into that lethal incident.

But we know some owners in the Mid-Columbia intentionally make dogs mean or aggressive. Some owners abandon their dogs. Others love dogs so much they lose sight of the fact that you can have too many.

There are owners who fail to train their dogs and owners who let their dogs menace neighborhoods. Some take their dogs to public places but don't keep them on leashes.

Dogs will be dogs. They make messes, they guard their turf and their people, they like to run and chase things, they bark and growl.

But good dog owners mitigate these issues, cleaning up after their dogs, training them to obey commands, keeping them on a leash and out of circumstances that might result in inappropriate behavior.

Even dog lovers don't like to be walking one of our trails and have a strange dog charge up, friendly or not. Making a determination whether that dog is coming at you for a pat on the head or for a chunk of your flesh can get your adrenaline pumping.

The best way to keep dogs from getting a bad rap -- or from getting into bona fide trouble -- is for owners to be responsible for their dog's behavior.

Unfortunately, the only way to ensure responsible behavior is to enforce it. When dogs misbehave, their owners must be held accountable.