Dear Ann:

I usually agree with your advice, but you were out to lunch with your response to "Preston," the brother-in-law who shot the family dog. Apparently, Preston's young son tried to take a ball away from the cocker spaniel, and the dog nipped him. Preston then shot the family pet. You assumed that Preston thought the children were in danger of being seriously mauled; otherwise, he would never have done such a thing. Ann, cocker spaniels don't maul. Pit bulls, yes, but not cocker spaniels.

Children sometimes can be cruel to pets. They poke their eyes, pull their ears and tails, drop them and step on them. If that dog nipped the boy, it was probably because the child did something to scare it. Preston's response was irrational, and such a person should not have access to a deadly weapon. He sounds dangerous to me. You should have picked up on that.

Harold in Santa Maria, Calif.

Many readers agreed with you, and I've been catching unvarnished hell all week for my brainless response. Actually, it was unclear to me as to whether those children were in danger, or if Preston was simply trigger-happy. Too bad he couldn't have found a more humane solution. Read on for more:

From Rohnert Park, Calif.: I have three cocker spaniels and work around a variety of breeds. A dog nips at a child because it feels threatened, frightened or is simply warning the child to back off. There is a huge difference between being nipped and being attacked. Shooting that dog was an act of brutality.

New Brunswick, N.J.: This doesn't sound like a dog attack to me. It sounds like Preston has issues about living in his father-in-law's house and was taking his frustration and feelings of inadequacy out on the family pet. There should not be a gun in the house where children visit and a lunatic brother-in-law lives.

Tallahassee, Fla.: If Preston was truly concerned about his son's safety, he could have talked to his father-in-law about caging the dog or giving it away. He could have ordered his children not to play with the dog. He could have moved into his own place. I say give that freeloading, trigger-happy bum the boot.

Louisville, Ky.: Preston should do some volunteer work at a local pet shelter, where he can learn humane ways of dealing with problems involving pets. You should have told him so, Ann.

Longboat Key, Fla.: So tell me, Miss Landers, if "Little Bobby" takes a toy away from "Little Joey," and Joey bites Bobby, should we shoot Joey? Preston and his wife are responsible for watching their child around the family pet. He should be punished and forced to get counseling.

Los Angeles: It is up to the owner to train a pet so it understands that biting is unacceptable. Children are often rough with animals, and nipping is a dog's natural response. Cocker spaniels are not aggressive animals. This situation did not warrant killing the dog. I was horrified when I read that he shot the family pet.

Lake Hopatcong, N.J.: Gun violence is never justifiable. Preston should have been able to get a small dog under control without resorting to bullets. He is teaching his child that it is okay to use a gun to solve a problem.

Cincinnati: If the dog had wanted to hurt the child, it would have attacked, not nipped. Any person who would shoot a family pet because it was trying to protect itself is potentially dangerous. I wonder what this moron would do if another child picked a fight and socked his kid. Would he shoot him, too? This man needs professional help to rid himself of the anger he seems to be harboring, before he goes postal and shoots everyone within range.

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