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DANGEROUS DOGS
BUFFALO NEEDS TO ADDRESS THIS QUALITY-OF-LIFE PROBLEM IN NEIGHBORHOODS

Aggressive dogs have long been a problem in many city neighborhoods. And given the tough fiscal times that cities across the country are facing, there's not a lot of money being dedicated to the problem. But there has to be a way to make neighborhoods safer.

Buffalo has its own problems with dangerous dogs, and little money to spend. This seems like an ideal area for cooperation between the city, county and towns to address the dog control problem. Buffalo officials have said they'd be willing to examine a regional solution. As it stands, there already are several bills to toughen laws on dangerous dogs in the State Legislature. In the meantime, there's no reason why action shouldn't be taken on a regional basis. This is a problem that exists in urban, rural and suburban areas.

Dog fights featuring particularly aggressive breeds are, unfortunately, not uncommon. The animals are being abused in order to advance the gains of unscrupulous owners. In some cases, the problem stems from owners of aggressive dogs who just neglect to take proper precautions in neighborhoods filled with children.

The outcome can be grisly, and tragic. Take, for instance, a recent attack on a 2-year-old girl who could be left blind in her left eye after a Shar-Pei lunged at her face.

The problem should be kept in perspective. In the last four years, the number of dog bites reported to the city has dropped by almost half, to 67 last year. That's encouraging. But it does nothing to reduce the damage to people -- often children -- who are the victims of vicious attacks by dogs.

The city is limited in resources that can be dedicated to this issue. For example, there are 7,000 summonses worth $300,000 against people who have failed to license their dogs. The city has only two people assigned to keep up with these violations, let alone to implement the city's new dog census scheduled to begin this month. In addition, there are only four animal control officers on the street.

Given the myriad of other demands on Buffalo's resources, it's hard to fault city officials. That said, the last thing Buffalo needs is a reputation for neighborhoods where residents are endangered by unsupervised dogs. Moreover, the few high-profile dog attacks in the last couple of years make this an urgent quality-of-life issue that needs to be addressed.

Lawmakers and city officials are obliged to come up with creative solutions that will ensure a safe, habitable city. But this is a problem that is not strictly urban, and one that could be addressed on a regional basis.

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