I think of myself as a steward of my pets. They rely on me to meet their basic needs and I enter into a moral contract with myself to do so when I bring them into my home. Because I want to be a good owner to them, I look to provide my charges with more than the basic necessities, so I try to create as enriching an environment for them as I can. I take care to not injure them, frighten them or put them in harm's way. As living creatures, I believe they are entitled to my respect as well as my care for the unique place they occupy in the world.
However, if for any reason they become a danger to my family, I reserve the right to remove them from my home. If the safety or health of a family member is compromised by the presence of our animals, I reserve the right as their owner, as well as an obligation, to find a suitable alternate living situation for them. If I, as their owner, deem them unsafe to all around them, I, as their owner, reserve the right to have them humanely euthanized to address a greater need, that is, the safety of those who would come into contact with them. If I deem my pet is suffering and beyond the medical care that would sustain a quality life for them, I reserve the right as their owner to have them humanely euthanized.
Whether we like it or not, pets are property. We can legally buy them. We can legally sell them. In many circumstances, we can legally give them away if we choose. We are permitted to cage them, tether them, ban them from certain areas. We are not bound by law to provide them with education or enrichment. And unfortunately, because they are our property, there exist far too many opportunities for people to abuse their rights and responsibilities as owners.
For too many in the rescue world, though, a belief exists that a dog's rights should somehow eclipse that of the humans who own them. When one starts thinking in this way, it's a logical trajectory from stewardship to antipathy-induced blindness toward the actual rights of humans.
Someone once shared with me his experiences as a child around dogs from another era:
About 65 years ago, this person relates that he played regularly with a crowd of neighborhood kids. He says that an ever-changing collection of dogs followed him and his friends daily in their travels, just at the perimeter of their play area. The kids always had some sort of food with them, and he said they'd sometimes share with the dogs. These dogs were not feral, they were owned by neighbors and known to the kids. He relates that very few people where he grew up during that time paid their dogs much mind. The dogs were typically let out in the morning, had run of the neighborhood, were fed by trashcans, kids and kind souls and then made their way to their homes in the evenings. During the day, they met up with and hung out with other dogs, often on the periphery of where the kids where playing.
The kids would acknowledge them and sometimes interact with them. Once in a while, he tells me, a dog would seriously bite a kid without provocation. He said there were no questions asked and the result was always the same. The police were called and the dog was dispatched on site. He said that often, it was the dog's owner who, once notified, would call the police. It was done publicly and quickly. He said it was always sad, and everyone felt badly whenever it happened. But he said there was an unspoken and informal understanding among the members of the community - the dogs were supposed to be safe. If they weren't, their life was forfeit. No rehabilitation. No rescue. No demands. No excuses.
He's incredulous at the amount of attacks reported in present day society, when, in his eyes, we as dog owners are so much more involved in their care and welfare.
This is a slice-of-life scenario where the aggressive ones really were culled. I believe this protocol existed because there was no blurred line between whose protection was paramount.