November 11, 2010 in Washington Voices

Examiner mulls fate of dog that bit children

Owner says dog only acted when provoked
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The owner of a black lab/husky mix named Casey will have to wait another week before she finds out if her pet will be classified as a dangerous dog.

The Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service deemed the dog dangerous after it bit two children on the same day last month, but the dog’s owner filed an appeal. The dog had previously been classified as potentially dangerous in 2009 after a previous incident where it was aggressive to neighbors.

Dog owner Erin Lynch lives at 8001 E. Baldwin Ave. Neighbors testified at a hearing before hearing examiner Mike Dempsey last week that the dog has a history of running loose and acting aggressively.

Neighbor Kaili Pilimai, 15, testified that he was mowing his lawn while two neighbor children played outside. One of the children came up to say that Casey had bitten her friend, a 10-year-old boy. “I went over there to see where the dog was at,” Pilimai said. When he approached the dog it lunged at him and he looked to see if it had a collar so he could grab it.

Lynch called to the dog and Pilimai said he thought the incident was over and he turned to walk back home. “The dog comes up and bites me on the thigh,” he said. He has seen the dog loose in the neighborhood many times before, he said. “It stalks us around when we try to go somewhere,” he said.

“Are you talking about on the street?” Dempsey said. “Yes,” Pilimai said.

His stepfather, John Bockstruck, testified that the teen’s pants were ripped and he was taken to the doctor to treat the bite wound. “It obviously needed medical attention,” he said.

Bockstruck said there were several times when the dog would be in his driveway, barking and “being aggressive.” He also related an incident when the dog charged at him and he tried to shoo the dog away. As he turned to walk inside the house the dog bit him from behind, but didn’t break the skin, he said. “It did bite me.”

SCRAPS animal control officer Ashley Brown confiscated Casey in October after the bites and wrote a report about the incident. In her report she wrote that Lynch told her to be careful while handling Casey because he would get “nippy” when nervous. The dog has since returned home.

Lynch, who was represented by an attorney, laid the blame on the neighborhood children. “There were several times we’ve had to shout at the neighbor kids to stop throwing apples and rocks at him,” she said.

“Have you ever done anything like that to the dog?” asked SCRAPS director Nancy Hill. “No, I have not,” Pilimai said.

Attorney Mark Hodgson argued that a dog cannot be found dangerous if it was “tormented.” “I’m not going to come here and say the dog didn’t bite anyone,” he said. Hodgson also questioned whether Brown had ever asked if the children were teasing the dog. “The first victim was not aware the dog was out,” Brown said. “I did not hear of any tormenting.”

“But you did not ask,” Hodgson said. “No, I did not,” Brown said.

In his closing argument, Hodgson said it’s possible that the 10-year-old victim teased the dog. “I’m not saying it was, but you never know.”

Hill said that Casey should be deemed dangerous because of the “unprovoked” bites and that the dog owner clearly violated the potentially dangerous dog restrictions by letting the animal run loose. “I think it’s a pretty simple case,” she said.

A dog can be found dangerous if it was previously found to be potentially dangerous and again “aggressively bites, attacks or endangers the safety of humans or animals.” Dog owners must then follow strict rules about caging or otherwise restraining the animal. Special insurance is also required.


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