‘Dangerous dog’ upheld

Sampson County Health Board chairman Paul Bradshaw looks over one of several pictures of a little girl’s dog bite wounds. The board, acting as the Dangerous Dog Appeals Board, upheld Animal Control’s decision that the dog was dangerous. The owners have five days to comply with dangerous dog requirements or the animal will be euthanized.

Sgt. Jessica Kittrell details the facts of a June 16 dog biting incident, in which a 3-year-old girl sustained several wounds.

A dangerous dog hearing Monday night ended with threats of lawsuits against the county, promises to see the county’s Animal Control head fired and comments that the dog would be stolen back following the Board of Health’s unanimous vote to uphold Animal Control’s decision labeling a young pitbull dangerous.

That decision by the Health Board, serving as the Dangerous Dog Committee, will likely result in the euthanization of the dog unless owners comply to several stipulations outlined in a county ordinance. The Health Board acts as the appellate board in dog bite cases, and on Monday night, heard the case of a 1 year old, Booboo, who reportedly attacked a 3-year-old girl on June 16 at a home on Boykin Bridge Road.

Owners Christopher and Maria Hicks spoke to the issue in an effort to overturn Animal Control’s decision.

Christopher Hicks said the dog was on his chain and he had previously advised the girl and her mother to stay away from the dog. The property where the incident occurred was reportedly his mother-in-law’s residence.

“The girl was clearly unsupervised,” Hicks said. “The mother should have been out there with the little girl. She’s 3 years old. He’s never showed any aggression whatsoever.”

He took issue with Animal Control head Sgt. Jessica Kittrell’s report, and said he was unsure whether many of the injuries were scratches or bites.

“I didn’t know what happened, so I grabbed him by the collar and tried to get the young’ns away,” Hicks recalled.

Kittrell said wounds were to the little girl’s side and top of her head, as well as to her shoulder and arm — and they were bites.

“Those are not scratches — there are dog bites,” Kittrell attested. “The girl did have to be mildly sedated to receive stitches. She was in a lot of pain. You can see where it bled through the bandage and gown. The child’s hair and face is matted with dirt consistent with being on the ground and being shook. So it wasn’t merely a dog on a chain jumping on somebody walking by. It was a dog attack.”

Within 5 days being of being deemed dangerous, the dog has to be registered as such. Or, the owner can choose to appeal. If the Health Board upholds Animal Control’s recommendation the dog be deemed dangerous, then an additional five days is given to fulfill requirements.

That includes microchipping the animal, taking out a $100,000 liability insurance policy, as well as installing a pen or moving the dog into a secure residence or facility.

“I just don’t understand why — he was on his chain — and I’m being told he was in the wrong,” Hicks remarked. “I sympathize with the little girl, if he scratched her or bit her or whatever he may have done. She was my first priority to start with, but now it’s coming down to my daughter’s dog.”

Booboo, at 1 year, 3 months old, is currently being held at the Sampson County Animal Shelter. He had not yet a rabies vaccination, so the decision was made to quarantine the dog for 10 days.

At the hearing. Kittrell played a 911 tape, in which you can hear the little girls screaming as the property owner, Maria’s mother Angela Davis, explains to a dispatcher how the dog bit the girl and that there was a lot of blood. At one point, the dispatcher attempts to walk Davis through ways to contain the bleeding.

Hicks said “nobody knew” what really happened.

When she arrived at the scene, Kittrell said teh dog had calmed down somewhat. However, she noticed an “instant change” when she approached the dog with a catch pole. Sheriff’s Cpl. Andrew High and another officer were first on the scene. High agreed with Kittrell, saying Hicks initially tried to calm the dog and when Kittrell approached it took on an “aggressive stance.” Kittrell said that demeanor continued for the next couple days at the shelter and is calming down more with each day.

“I’ve been dealing with dogs all my life,” said Kittrell, “and I wouldn’t trust that dog again unless it was out under the dangerous dog restrictions.”

Hicks pleaded his case.

“I understand I should have had his rabies shot and him being a pitbull, maybe he should have been in a cage,” he said. “I’ve never had a pitbull before and normally I might agree with everybody else, but this pitbull has become like a friend to me. I’ve raised this dog.”

Hicks cited a state statute pertaining to dog bites, saying the dog was in a specific designated area and was provoked. He said the dog has been in public before “running free” and has never had a problem, and there were no prior issues with the 6-year-old daughter, who has known the dog since he was a puppy.

The 6 year old and 3 year old were in the yard alone at the time and Hicks said he felt the younger child, under the letter of state law, provoked the dog.

The board voted unanimously 8-0 to uphold Animal Control’s decision declaring Booboo a dangerous dog.

‘I will have your job’

Hicks took issue with the vote.

“This is getting to where if you don’t wear a badge or you aren’t some administration figure in Sampson County you don’t have a leg to stand on,” said Hicks.

“Well, you can get the dog back but you have to comply with the dangerous dog (rules),” said chairman Paul Bradshaw.

Hicks said that would be futile as he would not be able to get the required insurance to comply. He said the county was superseding state law but board members explained that the county merely had stricter rules.

Health director Wanda Robinson said the animal ordinance, ultimately approved by the Board of Commissioners in 2014, came after months of meetings, during which attorneys provided counsel. That ordinance has a large section addressing dangerous dogs.

“Because we had so many instances in the past such as this, what was approved by the county commissioners was stricter than what is in the General Statute,” Robinson explained. “By virtue of what has happened today, you will have to meet (all requirements). You have to meet those standards or else you will be subject to further penalties. That is based on the ordinance adopted by the county that does overstep the state. We chose to make it a bit tighter than the statutes, and we can do that.”

Hicks still took issue at which point Kittrell said the county’s ordinance simply added two aspects to the existing state statute, notably the microchipping and the requirement for liability insurance.

“Nobody needs to hear from you,” Hicks said to Kittrell. “You’re a deputy. Nothing is true in the report, yet she still gets away with stealing my dog. I don’t understand this. I’ve done everything proper. I sympathize for the young’n, I’ve talked with her attorney — who said she doesn’t have a leg to stand on suing-wise — but yet my dog is deemed dangerous.”

Hicks said paramedics were called, not deputies or Animal Control, so he felt that technically his dog had been stolen.

“So I can go to Animal Control and steal my dog back,” said Hicks.

Kittrell said he would be charged with a felony, but Hicks objected.

“We were there to investigate a dog bite, which the state requires me by law to do,” she said.

Bradshaw quickly adjourned the meeting, at which time Robinson began to tell Hicks again what his recourse was. Hicks interjected as he left the board room.

“My recourse is to sue Sampson County,” he said, “and I will have your job Kittrell.”

Reached Tuesday, Kittrell said that barring the owners showing proof that requirements have been followed, the dog will be put down.

“It’s not like I don’t want him to get his dog back,” she said, “but I also have to think about the safety of the public. It’s actually kind of a smaller dog. If he was a bigger dog. I would venture to guess that little girl might not be around today.”

Should the owners choose not to take the steps to get Booboo back, there is a chance the dog might still live.

“The only way we would adopt (Booboo) out is if someone wanted to get adopt the dog under those dangerous dog regulations,” Kittrell said.

Since the animal ordinance was put into effect last year, there have been four such dog bite cases, including two attacks on children and two attacks on other animals. In both of the latter, owners complied with the stipulations of the ordinance and kept their dogs. The child attacks included the June 16 incident and an incident on Jones Pond Lane in Newton Grove, in which a 3-year-old boy was bit.

In that case, the owner did not dispute Animal Control’s assessment and the dog was euthanized. Kittrell said June 16’s biting incident was much more severe, but both had one thing in common.

“In both instances,”Kittrell noted, “those children were not supervised.”