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Canine terrorizes neighbors

Fri., July 2, 2004

It’s hard to catch a shadow, even one with four legs and a tail.

A black lab named Shadow in the Kokomo neighborhood of Spokane Valley has been terrorizing residents, chasing motorcycles and trapping parked motorists in their cars. Living up to its name, the black Rottweiler-Labrador cross has been impossible to catch. The dog’s owners have managed to elude animal control officers by giving the pooch a string of aliases.

Shadow is also “Shady,” and occasionally, “Dusty.” At one point, animal control officers said, a person answering the door at Shadow’s 10808 E. 26th Ave. home informed them that the dog had died, although complaints about the pooch poured in postmortem.

Neighbors, frustrated that the dog by any name continued to harass their community, informed Spokane County Regional Animal Care and Protection Services last week that officers were being out-foxed. A little wiser, the officers returned to the neighborhood this week ready to declare Shadow a potentially dangerous dog, a distinction that could lead to the animal being put to death if it kept harassing neighbors.

“Sometimes people change the names of their pets to protect them,” said Nancy Hill, director of SCRAPS.

There are so many black dogs in the area that it’s easy for someone to pass off a problem black dog as a different pooch of the same color, Hill said. She thinks the neighborhood’s problems are over.

But there’s a new twist.

Rebecca LaVelle, whom animal control officers believe is Shadow’s owner, was evicted by sheriff’s deputies for an unrelated matter Tuesday afternoon. LaVelle could not be reached for comment because her whereabouts are unknown.

On Wednesday, an anonymous neighbor posted on LaVelle’s sun-scorched yard a sign proclaiming, “Rebecca doesn’t live here anymore. Hooray!” All that remained were a few broken windows and an automobile transmission on the front lawn. A broken-down El Camino on jack stands was parked in the driveway.

East 26th Avenue, just east of South University Road, is a middle-class neighborhood of nicely manicured lawns, urban forests and 1970s split-level homes. There’s a portable basketball stand on every block, and kids play uninterrupted on broad streets.

“We have lived in fear of this dog attacking a child,” said Lisa Pursch, a neighborhood mom. “Last year, that dog chased my son, who was 10 or 11 at the time. He was on his bike, and the dog came at him.”

Glad the dog is gone, neighbors are none-theless incensed with SCRAPS, having called animal control several times in the last year only for Shadow to continue roaming. Pursch said neighbors were frustrated that SCRAPS wouldn’t respond when attacks actually occurred. Because the dog never actually bit anyone, neighborhood run-ins with Shadow never warranted immediate response.

Neighbor Alex Heffelfinger said he frequently found himself trapped inside his car after coming home from work late at night. The free-roaming dog would circle Heffelfinger’s vehicle. After the fact, when animal control would investigate, there were too many stories about the dog’s true identity and whether it was alive or dead for anything to be done.

Hill said witnesses reporting that LaVelle dropped the aliases when animal control officers weren’t around made the dangerous dog distinction possible. The dog will be dealt with, once it is found.

“It’s hard to catch a Shadow,” said Hill, “especially when it’s Shady.”


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