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When your dog is attacked: What I have learned Part III


hheldorfer

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In our community (and I believe in most communities) a pattern of aggression has to be established before the authorities can take action against dangerous/vicious dogs. In our city, two tickets must be issued/incidents recorded before a dangerous dog hearing can be scheduled. This is why ticketing the offenders is so important. If the incident isn't on record, it may as well not have happened.

I understand the thought process behind this rule although I don't think it applies to all situations. The city doesn't want to have people dragged in for hearings over one minor incident - a dog bolting out the door and getting into a minor scuffle with another dog, for example. I think the severity of the attack should be taken into account but that isn't the way the ordinances are written. So, if your incident (like mine) is the first on record, you have to wait until it happens again before anything will happen to the offenders. In the meantime, it helps to stay in contact with your neighbors (assuming the attack happened nearby and they are aware of it) for news of additional incidents. You are at the mercy of the police department; you are praying nobody else is attacked and yet hoping there is some kind of incident that can result in a second ticketed offense. It sucks.

I set about warning all the "dog people" in our neighborhood about the attack dogs. The weather was still decent and I made it a point to walk the dogs on weekends when I knew people would be outside. I told everyone I knew about the attack and warned them to avoid the area.

When the dogs attacked again (about 2 months later) it was the same situation: A man was walking his two dogs down the street at 10:00 p.m. and three dogs from the same residence charged and attacked. He reported the incident as soon as he returned home and discovered puncture wounds on one of his dogs. Luckily the man was aware of our incident and insisted a ticket be issued. Although we were told of this second attack by our neighbors we were not contacted by the police, who allegedly had already begun the process of scheduling a dangerous dog hearing. The story we were given was that the police had missed the deadline for scheduling a December hearing so they had to wait until January. The third (and final) attack happened on Christmas Eve and was the most vicious. Harley - a border collie mix weighing about 30 pounds - was on a tie-out in her back yard a few doors down from the attack dogs' residence. The dogs came into Harley's yard and went after her mercilessly. Harley's chest was torn open, she had puncture wounds over most of her body. She is still suffering both emotionally and physically and her vet bills are up to around $1,000.

It took this final brutal attack to get some action and some publicity. Sara, Harley's owner, contacted a local online news site. There were now three incidents on record and the news media descended upon us. They interviewed both Sara and the victim of the second attack and used the police report I had provided. An article was published the next day. Fox News Chicago picked up the story and sent a reporter and camera crew the following day; the story was broadcast that night. Finally, our chronically-behind-the-times local print newspaper caught wind of the situation and published their story a few days later. Suddenly the hearing which had apparently been scheduled for January 27th was pushed up to January 15th. Suddenly we were receiving calls from reporters and the police department. Something was finally being done.

We received a letter within a few days from the City of Joliet, informing us of the date and time of the hearing. The letter encouraged us to bring all evidence we had at our disposal including documentation, photos, videos, witnesses, etc.. By this time the entire neighborhood was in an uproar and news spread quickly about the hearing. The letter did not specifically state the hearing was open to the public but said we should bring all persons "having knowledge of the incident". That was pretty much everyone, thanks to the ruckus we had raised.

The hearing itself was an "informal" hearing but presided over by a judge. The ordinance states that the "hearing officer" may be a judge but also may be someone else in authority. Undoubtedly the city wanted to dot all the i's and cross all the t's by this point, after all the media coverage. We were joined by an attorney for the city, the police detective who had been instrumental in getting things moving and two Animal Control officers - in addition to the defendant, of course. The judge began by saying he wanted to hear our stories in chronological order, so I was the first to testify. I was a bit nervous and unsure as to how specific I should be, but I told the story as clearly and calmly as possible. The attorney then asked me some questions to clarify: How much does Buffy weigh? (20 pounds) How old is Buffy? (6 years) Were your dogs leashed? (Yes) Exactly where did the attack take place? (On the sidewalk and driveway apron at the home of the defendant.) I thought "OK, now I get it. They want to establish that my dog and I were in no way at fault and it was an unprovoked attack that did not occur on private property." The people who testified after me had the advantage of knowing these questions would be asked and included the details in their testimony.

The attorney asked the defendant if she had any comments or questions. I think it's fair to say most of the jaws in the room dropped open when the defendant began accusing me of being a liar, claiming the Pit Bull had nothing whatsoever to do with the attack and tearfully accusing everyone in the neighborhood of hating her because of the times she didn't mow her lawn last summer. Her responses throughout the proceedings were emotional and irrational. It took a great deal of self-restraint to not respond. If you are even in this situation, prepare yourself for a counterattack. Like any cornered animal, humans will lash out when they find they are trapped.

This process was repeated for the remaining two attacks: Testimony of the victim, clarification by the attorney, comments and questions from the defendant. It was exhausting. Even though we were not in a courtroom my neighbors and I realized the situation deserved a similar amount of respect and decorum; apparently the defendant didn't understand this.

Lastly, the attorney gave her closing arguments. She summarized the attacks, showed there was a clear pattern of aggression and asked the judge to declare all dogs in the household "dangerous". What followed was tedious. The judge read through the ordinance for each dog in the household, reading the definition of a "dangerous" dog and declaring that each dog met each of the criteria set forth in the ordinance. He then read the requirements for impounding dangerous dogs, and informed the defendant of the actions that must be taken. This last part was interrupted several times by the tearful denials and emotional outbursts of the defendant. When the judge was finished, the detective and Animal Control officers were dispatched to the defendant's home to pick up the Pit Bull (the Rottweiler was already gone, which is an issue unto itself) and deliver the Pit to the Animal Control shelter. The Pit is to be held for 7 days, during which time the defendant either has to prove compliance with city ordinances (proper equipment/fencing for restraint of the dog, liability insurance, etc.) or the dog will be destroyed.

I won't go into the convoluted tale of the Rottweiler and how it was apparently moved to another location except to say this is a serious offense in our city. You cannot sell, move, breed or give away a dog that has been declared to be dangerous. In this case the dog was allegedly moved over state lines which only adds to the seriousness of the offense. I don't know what has been done (or can be done) about this issue. Suffice it to say the defendant made a huge mistake when she moved the Rott.

That's it for now. I have no additional info regarding the case but will post more if I hear anything. I hope this will open some eyes to the reality of vicious dogs in our society, how we deal with them and the legal process involved in stopping them from causing further damage.

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An excellent series of posts and I can't thank you enough for sharing your experiences in this way.


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Malcolm's Dad

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I haven't been online for a while. Went to see the news report and it isn't available, darn it. Good for you and your neighbors. It was a hassle for you all to go through this but necessary to do something to help protect yourselves and pets. Getting the news people involved sure did help out. That dangerous dog owner is a real sorry adult. Makes me wonder what she did as a kid, then cried and got away with it. She is still trying that maneuver today. Hope her lease gets terminated then she will have to move and go cause trouble somewhere else.

Too bad all of you can't be reimbursed for your expenses. You are right it will cost too much to get payment. Not worth it.

Glad the pets are still with us and you can relax a little.

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I hope she has been forbidden to own another dog?

No, as a matter of fact she can keep the dogs she has now - the Pit Bull and a smaller dog, both of which have been declared dangerous - as long as she can meet the conditions set forth in the ordinances.  It is highly doubtful she will be able to meet the requirements.  

 

If she had been convicted of animal abuse or neglect, I believe she could have been forbidden to own any kind of pet but I don't know the details of that law.

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I haven't been online for a while. Went to see the news report and it isn't available, darn it. Good for you and your neighbors. It was a hassle for you all to go through this but necessary to do something to help protect yourselves and pets. Getting the news people involved sure did help out. That dangerous dog owner is a real sorry adult. Makes me wonder what she did as a kid, then cried and got away with it. She is still trying that maneuver today. Hope her lease gets terminated then she will have to move and go cause trouble somewhere else.

Too bad all of you can't be reimbursed for your expenses. You are right it will cost too much to get payment. Not worth it.

Glad the pets are still with us and you can relax a little.

Sorry you couldn't see the news report, Malcolm's Dad.  You would have enjoyed the brief shot of Buffy walking down the street.  She looked like she was saying "I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille."

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Thanks for sharing this - I know it's not easy.


 


I'm looking forward to seeing if she complies.


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Helene you wrote this account so clearly. Excellent.


A terrible experience for you and Buffy.


A lesson for all of us to stick with it and see justice done.


Your tips on what to do will be a great help should any one need them - which we hope never but who can say.


Thank you for taking the time to do this for all of us.


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Autumn & Lola

Posted

Thank you for the time, energy and emotion it must have taken you to write and type these posts for the benefit of others. :)


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Wonderful complete reporting of this awful incident. Hopefully the animals that were injured have responded to love and care. Thanks .


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What a tough road you and Buffy have travelled to get to this point. At least you can finally see the end of the road.


 


Thanks for memorializing this.


 


Your writing skills are exemplary.


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