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Paul Coates -- Confidential File, March 26, 1959

March 26, 2009 |  2:00 pm

Confidential File

Dogs Often Nicer Than Their Owners

Paul_coatesOn Jan. 29, 1958, the state of California began enforcing a law which commands that every dog be vaccinated against rabies.

I applauded. Long and loud.

And I sat back to wait. I waited to see if those dire predictions made by a small, but extremely vocal group of fanatic dog lovers would come true.

I am happy to report to you that they didn't.

Our streets were not overrun by a stampede of vicious animals foaming at their mouths. Nor were our hospitals overwhelmed by an epidemic of rabies among humans.

State authorities tell me that nothing but good has come of the vaccination program.

And everybody's benefiting from it.

1959_0326_blue_streak But apparently man-made law isn't the whole answer.

My telephone rang yesterday and the male voice on the wire emphasized for me another terrifying aspect of the rabies problem.

"Mr. Coates," the voice began, "I want to ask you a favor."

I asked what I could do.

"Mr. Coates," he said, "two of my children were bitten by a dog. And the public health people tell me that the kids have to have the Pasteur treatment. That's mighty painful, isn't it, Mr. Coates?"

I acknowledged that it was.

"It's all so unnecessary," the man said bitterly. "This woman won't tell me where the dog is."

"What woman?" I asked.

"The woman who owns the dog that bit my kids," he answered. "I know she knows where the dog is, but she won't tell. She won't even talk to me. And she told the people from the Animal Regulation Department that she doesn't even know anything about a dog.

1959_0326_dandridge"Mr. Coates, that woman is lying.

"My kids told me that the dog was in her yard for at least two weeks before they got bit. Some of the other kids in the neighborhood told me that she's taken the dog away--to the country, or something.

"Mr. Coates," he said pleadingly, "I don't want to cause the woman any harm. I just want to find the dog so my kids won't have to take that painful treatment.

"I've got seven kids and I've never lost one. I don't want to lose one now."

If the dog can't be found, treatment is recommended almost immediately.

So today, two young children begin a painful experience.

Let's Hope We Can Get Help

"I know it's probably too late to spare my kids," the caller told me helplessly. "But, maybe if you'd write something about them and about the woman, maybe somebody will do something so other parents can get official help in finding dogs that bite their kids."

So I am writing something because this is no isolated incident. Too frequently I hear about these strange people who, for whatever psychotic reason, refuse to turn their pets in for quarantine after they have bitten children.

It may come as a surprise to some of you that I like dogs. In fact, I own a couple of arrogant Prussian dachshunds named Friendly and Crown Prince Otto.

But no matter how much I like them, it would strike me as the most incomprehensible cruelty to place their comfort before a child's life.