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When dog leaves state, few options for bite victim

Sun., Sept. 7, 2008

Boise man attacked by visiting animal

BOISE – Lonnie Holloway was checking out a possible construction job a few weeks ago when a large dog at the Boise home lunged and planted its teeth in his stomach.

The dog released its grip when he fought back, poking it in the eyes, according to Holloway

“As he was going for the second bite, Lonnie got away,” said Chris Eisenberg, who works with Holloway and saw the incident.

The dog’s owner, Caitlynn Leach, didn’t see her 70-pound dog try for a second bite. “That was probably me pulling him off,” said Leach, who had the dog on a leash.

While Holloway was at a hospital emergency room, the dog was taken to Washington by its owner’s family – far from the jurisdiction of local animal control.

Holloway is on the mend, but he’s upset the dog was taken out of state before it could be impounded by Boise animal control officials, who tried to pick up the animal soon after the attack.

Leach, a 19-year-old sophomore at Boise State University, received a vicious dog citation, a misdemeanor.

But vicious dog laws only go so far.

Jeff Rosenthal, executive director of the Idaho Humane Society, said there’s not a lot he can do about dogs taken across county or state lines. “I don’t have the ability to put out an all-points bulletin across the nation,” he said.

Late Friday, Leach said her dog lives with her parents in the Seattle area.

They were helping her move to the property she was renting when the attack occurred.

“I have never seen him doing anything like that before,” said Leach, who raised the 6-year-old dog since it was a puppy. “My personal opinion is that he was probably stressed.”

She said her parents had plans to leave for home the same day the attack occurred and they weren’t absconding with the dog.

“We actually called the guy’s boss and asked him if it was all right if it went with my parents,” Leach said.

She said she didn’t know Holloway wanted the dog brought back to Idaho. She’s not sure she will do that.

Boise animal control officials asked their counterparts in Seattle’s King County to impound the dog that bit Holloway to test it for disease. They did, and it showed no sign of rabies.

But there’s no way Holloway or animal control here can compel Leach to return the dog to Boise.

When cases go to court, a judge decides the fate of the dog - but not for a first offense.

“We’re a ‘one free bite’ state,” Rosenthal said. “A judge cannot order death on a first offense.”

Short of going to court, Holloway can request a vicious dog bite hearing, in which Rosenthal would determine whether the dog is safe to be in public.

Dogs deemed vicious and a danger to the public aren’t necessarily destroyed. Owners can opt to keep their pets in a locked enclosure, post vicious dog signs, obtain a hefty liability policy, and put the dog under chain and muzzle when it is taken to veterinary visits.

Holloway fears the dog – a neutered white pitbull mix with black ears named Domino – will attack someone else.

“I would like to see the dog put down,” he said. “What if it wasn’t me? What if it was my wife or my kids or grandkids – someone half my size – and they couldn’t get it off them?”

Eisenberg and Holloway were at the Denver Street residence Aug. 13 to bid on a job. They were talking with the homeowner when they encountered Leach with the dog.

“I said, ‘Is that dog OK?’ ” Holloway said. “They said, ‘He’s never bit anybody.’ ”

But he says the dog sprang on him.

“There was no warning, no growl,” Holloway said.

Holloway, who is 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs about 270, credits his size for allowing him to fend off the attack.

Holloway met animal control officials at the house after he left the hospital, but the dog was gone.

Animal control’s report said Leach’s father, Steve Leach, took the dog to Washington “before we could get it for impound.”

Holloway has retained attorney Bradley Poole. “The fact that the people left the state with the dog after it happened – that’s what’s particularly irritating,” Poole said.


 

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