Complaints were aired at a meeting of Lansford Borough Council this week about dogs running about the streets of the town. Some of these are reportedly vicious dogs.

Chief of Police John Turcmanovich mentioned that he was chased by a dog – a pit bull – and had to fend it off with pepper spray.

The zoning officer mentioned incidents with dogs.

It was agreed that the borough will crack down on dog owners who let the dogs run loose.

The dialogue at the meeting indicates there's more of a problem than merely confronting the owners. There's a problem about how the dog incidents are handled.

While the chief of police fended off the dog with pepper spray, it doesn't mean the streets of the town are any safer. Will that dog run to the next block and attack someone else; maybe a youngster waiting for a school bus or an elderly person walking to the local eatery for lunch? Was the dog rabid?

We understand that police officers don't normally pull out a pistol and shoot a dog running loose on the street, but if the animal is vicious or aggressive, it certainly should be an alternative.

Of course had the police chief killed the pit bull that was aggressive to him, there probably would have been an owner writing letters to the editor or complaining vehemently at council meetings. And, the police chief would have to defend himself and possibly be subject to disciplinary action.

The problem is we have become too soft on such situations. It's okay to love animals. Many of us have dogs as pets. They become virtual family members.

On the other hand, some dogs are not man's best friend. There are dogs, whether not raised properly or possibly ill or injured, who might attack. We're not talking just pit bulls. It could be a shepherd, rottweiler, chow chow, or even a retriever or spaniel.

If our pet dog got loose, we would want everything possible done to have him or her returned safely.

But in the case of vicious dogs that will – unprovoked – attack a police officer, then the dogs must either be captured or stopped with force. Whether it is in Lansford or any other community, officials must do what they can to protect their citizens, especially innocent children who might get attacked.

The one instance related in Lansford is a dog running loose attempting to get into a yard where other dogs existed. Again, law-abiding citizens who keep their dogs in fenced-in areas need protection.

If the problem is so serious in communities with mean dogs running loose, then appropriate action must be taken. Councils must tell their police officers they have the right to defend themselves, and their citizens, with deadly force if needed. Then the councils must stand by the officers if such drastic action comes to fruition.

It's better to have a mean or rabid dog put down than to have a child or senior citizen mauled because some pet owner was too stupid to properly train and restrain their animal.

Frankly, my pet dog – weighing 75 pounds – once broke out the yard. We found it two blocks away, sitting by two little girls who were petting it. We've seen numerous situations where dogs broke free and were apprehended without incident.

In the cases where viciousness occurs, appropriate response must occur, too.

Shooting pepper spray at it and letting the dog continue terrorizing people isn't a solution.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com