Tuesday, August 23, 1988

Maryland: Gene Barber tried to say he shot and killed disabled woman's dog because it menaced him, but the judge didn't buy it. Barber got 3 months in the county jail and 6 years probation for animal cruelty

MARYLAND -- Gene Henry Barber may not have understood the consequences of firing a .22-caliber bullet into the chest of Lady, a 4-year-old German shepherd who lived near him at the Maryland Manor Mobile Park 15 miles south of here.

But now he has three months in jail to think about it.

In what animal activists said is part of a trend toward stiffer sentences in cruelty cases, Barber was sentenced last week to 90 days in the Anne Arundel County Detention Center on joint charges of animal cruelty and discharging a weapon in a populated area.

He was also put on six years' probation and ordered to pay $1,000 restitution to Lady's owner, Gail Johnson, 45, for the death of her pet.

"Society is just too sophisticated to have people just go around shooting someone else's dog," said District Judge Lawrence Rushworth, who found Barber guilty Wednesday in a nonjury trial and imposed sentence the same day.

In his only other animal cruelty case, which involved the bow-and-arrow shooting two years ago of a dog found rummaging in a trash can, Rushworth imposed a similar sentence. He said he takes animal cruelty charges seriously because of the emotional attachment between owners and their pets.

"I don't know what value you can put on a dog. I am sure that if you own a dog, you put the value substantially high," Rushworth said, adding that in Johnson's case, "one could not help but feel sorry for this . . . woman who had lost her pet."

Johnson, who has used a wheelchair since the removal of a brain tumor in September, lives with family friend Thomas Strempek in a trailer near Barber's at the mobile home park in Harwood, south of Annapolis.

According to Strempek, the Jan. 31 shooting deprived Johnson of her closest companion. The dog would stroll alongside her electric wheelchair when they went for walks, and always obey her commands.

"She cried for days," said Strempek, 62. "She missed that dog because that dog was her best friend, really."

Strempek said Barber had threatened to kill Lady several times because he said the dog barked at him in a menacing way, a claim Rushworth dismissed as "not believable" in the absence of any evidence that Lady ever tried to attack or bite him.

On the day of the shooting, while Lady cavorted with Johnson's grandson and some neighborhood children, Strempek said Barber provoked the dog twice by squirting it with a hose.

Although he said he was surprised by the sentence and claims he would never have suggested a jail term for the shooting (why not???), Strempek said, "I am not upset that {Barber} got time to think" about killing the dog.

Barber could not be reached for comment. Assistant State's Attorney John LeCornu, who prosecuted the case, said he will probably be released from jail pending an appeal.

(Washington Post - August 23, 1988)

Thursday, August 4, 1988

Florida: Numerous Attack By Pit Bulls Triggers Call For More Regulations

FLORIDA -- An attack on a teen-age boy by two pit bulls in an neighborhood where unleashed dogs have been a problem for years has some residents demanding more county regulations of dogs and the banning of pit bull ownership.

"I'm tired of people not being able to walk the streets. People who live around here have been terrorized by those dogs," the boy's father, Dennis Kauffman Sr., said.

Dennis Kauffman Jr., 14, of the 4300 block of Northeast 13th Avenue, south of Deerfield Beach, was walking home on Tuesday after mowing the lawn at an aunt's house when two pit bulls ran from a nearby yard and attacked him. He was mauled in five parts of his body.

Even before the attack, the neighborhood homeowners association had scheduled a meeting for tonight with an official of the Broward Sheriff's Office on the problem of unleashed, vicious dogs.

Kauffman was bitten by a different pit bull last year. That dog, which belonged to a neighbor just two houses away, had also attacked another resident.

"I think they should be outlawed," said Erika Termyna, 67, who was bitten on her arms and legs. "They're dangerous, very dangerous. Shoot them all down, period."

Termyna owns a Doberman Pinscher.

Neighborhood residents said there are two other homes in the area with pit bulls. At both locations, several pit bulls are raised and bred, they said.

In the last month, in other parts of Broward County, there have been two other serious dog attacks.

Anna Young, 76, of the 5900 block of Northwest 41st Terrace, near North Lauderdale, was mauled by two mixed breed dogs owned by her son. She remains in a coma at Northwest Regional Hospital in Margate. The dogs had attacked a mail carrier six months before.

Also in July, a pit bull jumped from a pickup truck in Plantation and bit a woman on the leg in a parking lot.

The man identified as the owner of the dogs that bit Kauffman could not be reached for comment. Joey LaCross, who also owns two pit bull puppies, was out of town, according to relatives at his house in the 5000 block of Northeast 14th Street.

Kauffman's father said he will ask the homeowners association to get involved in the fight to better regulate dogs.

Thelma Ramsey, program director for the Pompano Beach Highlands Civic Improvement Association, said the organization has been trying for years to get county officials to address the problem of unleashed dogs.

The association petitioned the County Commission to give the county's Animal Control Division more money and more power to cite violators.

"I think it's getting out of hand with pit bulls and other animals. It's not fair to the animal and not fair to others," Ramsey said.

The County Commission had adopted a regulation that required pit bull owners to carry $100,000 in liability insurance, but it was struck down by a court ruling in 1986.

Larry Atwell, assistant director of the Animal Control Division, said the dogs that bit Kauffman are being held for a required 10 days rabies watch. One of the dogs was shot in the lip by Sheriff's Deputy Michael Bounassi as they ran toward him after the attack on Kauffman.

Atwell said the physical structure of a pit bull makes its bite more severe because of its ability to lock its jaws once it has bitten a victim. He said pit bulls are both naturally vicious and bred or trained to be vicious.

He said LaCross was in violation of the county's leash law and also had not had the dogs vaccinated or tagged. He said LaCross would have to pay a $56 fine for each dog.

The Sheriff's Office considered but then rejected filing charges of aggravated battery against LaCross. It can't be proven that he intended for the dogs to attack, Sheriff's Office spokesman George Crolius said. However, he said, the dogs may be taken from the owner and destroyed under the county's vicious dog law.

(Sun Sentinel - August 4, 1988)