PETA urges ‘Jonathan’s Law’

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Five years ago, a youngster in Hampton died after being attacked by his family’s chained dog.

In April, an Orange County toddler was mauled to death by a tethered dog.

On Monday morning, two-year-old Jonathan Martin of Whaleyville Boulevard was killed by his family’s pit bull mix. Police were called to the home just before 9 a.m., and the child was airlifted to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where he died at about 11 a.m.


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This was the first such attack in recent Suffolk history.

And according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and others from around the area, that’s three too many tragedies.

&uot;I think the fact that the dog attacked is largely connected to his normally being chained up,&uot; said Dan Paden, a PETA Cruelty Caseworker and leader of the organization’s &uot;Chained to Dog&uot; campaign, which spreads awareness about dangerous consequences related to keeping dogs tied up. According to news reports, Jonathan’s family had kept the dog tied up outside before bringing it inside the day before the attack.

&uot;The fact that the wounds were fatal is likely tied to the breed of the dog, the powerful jaws that pit bulls and pit bull mixes have,&uot; Paden said. &uot;Keeping dogs inside the home and not leaving them in the yard, chained up and possibly un-socialized or under-socialized, would have made this dog more comfortable and less likely to snap, essentially.&uot;

On Tuesday, PETA sent a letter to Suffolk City Manager Steve Herbert and members of the city council calling for legislation to ban or limit the tethering of dogs.

&uot;We are writing to ask that you consider an ordinance – possibly named ‘Jonathan’s Law,’ after the victim,&uot; reads the letter, written by Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA’s director of the Domestic Animal and Wildlife Rescue and Information Department.

&uot;Dogs are highly social animals who crave companionship. Forcing them to live in semi-isolation robs them of essential interaction with other dogs and praise from their human families.

&uot;Chained dogs are thus frustrated animals who grow more territorial by the day, deprived of their ability and instinctual need to flee perceived threats. Dog attacks are a serious public safety issue, and the worst victimized are often young children.&uot;

Roughly 80 cities and counties nationwide, including Norfolk and Virginia Beach, currently carry such legislation, Paden said.

Through city spokesman Dennis Craff, Herbert reported that he had received the letter, but had not had sufficient time to examine it. He also expressed his condolences for Jonathan and his family.

There are others who agree with PETA’s suggestion.

&uot;A dog needs to run,&uot; said Kathy Russell, who has participated in dog shows across the country. &uot;Not running loose, but in a fenced-in area. Can you imagine being tied up 24-7, never being able to run?&uot;

PETA’s attempt at legislature might just be the first step, Russell said.

&uot;The question is whether we should limit the amount of litters a dog can have. Look how many dogs there are in pounds. If we start spaying and neutering, there will be less dogs in pounds. There will be less dogs euthanized.

&uot;We should breed the good ones and weed out the bad ones through neutering. Dogs should be bred for health and disposition first.&uot;

Though she conceded that she believed the dog that killed Jonathan should be euthanized – it had not been by Tuesday afternoon – Russell felt that dogs aren’t always at fault.

&uot;I keep listening to the radio and they’re slamming the pit bulls,&uot; she said after Monday’s attack, &uot;but I think there’s another problem that’s even bigger. There’s too many backyard breeders breeding dogs right now and selling them for quick money and not thinking about the temperament of the dogs. What’s happening is that people don’t know what they’re doing and they breed bad temperament with bad temperament.

&uot;Temperament tests should be done on the dogs. I have shown dogs with one of the top breeders in the country, and the pit bulls there are gorgeous. They lick you and beat you with their tails.&uot;

The Suffolk Health Department reported that 87 dog bites have been reported in 2005. There were 114 in 2004, 109 in 2003.

The incident continues under investigation.