Sunday, December 9, 2012

Zen and Pit Bulls

In that situation, nobody's negligent. Who bears the loss?
Sen. Brian Frosh

* * * * *

A kōan is a story, dialogue, question, or statement, which is used in Zen-practice to provoke the "great doubt" . . . .

* * * * *
Revised: Dec 15, 2012; 19:22 GMT

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it fall?

Who is dragging this corpse about?

Who bears the loss?

In the US we often hear these abbreviated versions of kōans, but most kōans are actually short parables or stories. Here's a recent example from real life:
A man is walking with his young daughter down the street.
Three dogs run from an open gate to attack them.
The man shields his young daughter from the attack, and holds her high while the dogs savage his legs, arms and torso.
A young man hears their cries for help and runs from his house; he too is savaged.
The attack continues, and after a period of time two teenagers come from the house where the dogs live and take them inside.*
     Who bears the loss?
* * * * *

Senator Frosh's koan-like riddle has been hovering over every pit bull attack this fall. But what loss is the Senator thinking of?

The Maryland Appeals Court issued their opinion, with the determination that pit bulls are inherently dangerous, on April 26, 2012. The media gave extensive coverage to the resulting explosion of fury from the HSUS and other animal advocacy groups.

The advocates of fighting breeds made all the initial noise but in reality they were simply a diversion. The clamor provided cover for the real opponents of the Court's opinion, the real estate developers and the insurance companies, who then quickly sent in the money, guns, and lawyers. State Farm Insurance, which paid out 21% more in dog bite claims in 2011 than during 2010, filed a motion asking the court to reconsider its ruling which holds them [State Farm Insurance] accountable.

On June 11 Delegate Heather Mizeur held a press conference to announce the stay on the Court's decision. As explained in a June 10 letter from the Office of the Attorney General, the stay would give the legislature time to write new legislation which, presumably, would nullify the finding that pit bulls are inherently dangerous.

When Senator Frosh asks Who bears the loss?, he isn't thinking of the owners of pit bulls or of the victims. We doubt the legislators are meditating for greater enlightenment, or wondering how to provide for all of the victim's losses. The legislators are trying desperately to protect Maryland's big money people from financial losses: real estate developers, insurance companies and the lobbyists who represent them.

The recent weeks have witnessed ongoing pit bull attacks in Maryland, including the following:

Oct 6
Max Cardenas, 10 yo
Puppy "Drake" killed
$5,000 + Veterinarian bills

Nov 22
Vanessa Feeheley, 89 yo
Mangled arm
Pit bull attacked over the fence as Ms Feeheley stood in her own front yard

Dec 1
Boy 7 yo and aunt who curled over him in fetal position while dog attacked
Child airlifted with extensive injuries

Dec 1
Three people attacked by 2 pit bulls
The owner was cited for license and vaccination violations as well as animals running at large, and fined a total of $100.

No other breed of dog has caused grievous injury resulting in disfigurement or hospitalization during this period in Maryland.

The legislature has been struggling without success for nearly a year and will take up the question again in the next session. Their struggle to determine who will bear the financial losses of a pit bull attack reveals their desire to protect Maryland real estate developers and insurance companies from catastrophic losses from pit bull attacks. As their struggle drags on it becomes clear that the legislature has forgotten the true victims.

The legislature's struggle to find an answer to the koan implies the following: 1/ the legislature acknowledges that the problems of potentially catastrophic attacks and financial losses will continue to occur as long as pit bulls are allowed in society, or they wouldn't be trying to protect the insurers, and b/ the legislature isn't trying to do anything to change the fact that these attacks will continue; they aren't trying to get rid of the problem which causes the catastrophic losses.

The legislature is avoiding the root issue: what to do about pit bulls and the advocates who defend them.

Who bears the loss? When pit bull owners, those who harbor pit bulls, and their insurers accept responsibility the pit bull problems will diminish and ultimately disappear. Only then will no one bear the loss.

* * * * *

Three pit bulls attack two people on Long Island (SF Chronicle, Dec 4 2012)
Maryland pit bull task force wrangles over liability

Resource: MD Court of Appeals establishes new liability rule in pit bull attack cases

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks