Thursday, June 24, 2004

Bullet stops dog attack

GEORGIA -- A Thomaston police officer was forced to make a split-second decision Tuesday morning, shooting and killing a pit bull dog when the animal suddenly attacked.

The dog's owner, Julius Witt Strickland, 24, 210 West Walker St., was charged with allowing a dangerous dog to roam at large.

"This dog was a mean one," said Bobby Ellington, the city's animal control officer. "He came charging at me full speed. He wasn't barking or growling or anything. It was just a silent dead run and I had to shoot him in order to protect myself and the other officers.

"If there had been a child out in the dark that morning, that dog would have killed a child," Ellington said. "It would have killed an elderly person. This was a big dog - an 80 pound Mastiff Pit Bull mix - capable of crushing bones."

Lt. T.J. Fields and Ptl. Charles Cannady were called to a Plum Street address just before 3:30 a.m. after a man called and said the dog attempted to attack him whenever he came outside and was keeping him trapped inside.

The lieutenant and the patrol officer arrived moments later, but when they attempted to leave their patrol vehicle to knock on the door, the animal barreled around a corner, attempting to attack them, and forcing them to retreat to the safety of their vehicle.

The officers then called Ellington for help.

"I went in the house to make sure the man was okay and as I was coming back outside, that's when the dog ran at me," Ellington said. "The animal was about two feet away from me when I fired the shot, but I didn't have any other choice."

Ellington said minutes after the shooting, the owner, who lives three blocks away on West Walker Street walked up.

"The owner said he had turned the dog out earlier in the evening and that the animal didn't come back," Ellington said. "I don't understand why a dog like that would have been turned loose anyway. These animals need to be penned. We're just not going to put up with that sort of thing in Thomaston."

Ellington said reports of vicious animals are all too frequent.

"I wish these dogs would just get banned in Georgia," he said. "This was an extremely dangerous animal and dealing with an animal like that once a year is enough for me."

(Thomaston Times - June 23, 2004)

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Illinois: Cat hoarder Lynda Smith, 62, still making excuses as to why she abused and neglect the animals

ILLINOIS -- Aurora resident Lynda Smith said the cats just know to come to her house.

"I must have a paw print on my property because the cats come," she said.

Even as she spoke, a cat hopped from the floor of her east side home onto a stack of boxes before disappearing into a pile of more boxes.

"They come in through a broken window," she said.

Smith seems oblivious to the pungent cat odor in her home, which the city has condemned. But the scent was unmistakable on her clothing as she arrived in court Tuesday to see if a new attorney can help her fight a tangle of charges that all stem from her love of--some call it an obsession with--cats.

Smith is facing animal cruelty charges stemming from the seizure of animals last fall. Her attorney of 10 months, Salvatore Miglore, was in court Tuesday to withdraw from the case.

"We have differences in how the case should be handled," Miglore said.

He noted that the state had offered to reduce the charges and not charge any fines or court costs.

"She would have to agree to periodic inspections of her home," he said. "The state even offered to buy her house for $70,000 and waive the $12,500 in liens on her property."

Smith, 62, doesn't have much contact with her two children. Her husband doesn't live with her anymore. Her father recently died. Her brother, who has cerebral palsy as well as a fondness for cats, lives nearby.

Smith has bronchial asthma and a form of Parkinson's disease that causes her head to nod uncontrollably.

Her oldest, most beloved cats, five or six of them, are at a Naperville no-kill animal shelter, she said.

"I talk to cats. I share my feelings with them. I sleep with them. I'm sorry I'm a mixed-up person. I used to help people, but now I help cats."

Last August and September, Aurora Animal Control removed 26 cats and one dog from Smith's home and her brother's residence, said Linda Nass, animal control manager.

Aurora allows residents to have four domesticated animals per household: two cats and two dogs.

Most of the animals were at the brother's house, where Smith was assumed to be living because her home was "deemed unfit for human habitation," Nass said. No charges have been filed against Smith's brother.

Cynthia Ralls of the Aurora advocacy group Just Housing said inspections, which could be done at any time, are a violation of Smith's 4th Amendment rights to unreasonable search and seizure.

But her former lawyer disagreed.

"All they're asking her to do is comply with the law," Miglore said.

It's a fair offer in the opinion of her new attorney, Michael Noland of Elgin.

Lynne Ellberg, administrative assistant with Kane County Animal Control, said on Sept. 25, 2000, Smith was "found guilty without malicious intent" of animal cruelty charges. She was not fined.

It was determined Smith was storing 48 caged cats in the garage of an elderly woman's house just outside the city limits, Ellberg said.

The cats were found in late June 2000 without food, water, or sufficient ventilation.

Smith has a therapist who is a specialist in obsessive compulsive disorders. She has Charlie Petrof, a staff attorney with the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Inc., helping her fight housing violation charges. She has a veterinarian, she said, who helps her care for her cats. She has an advocate and friend in Cynthia Ralls.

But the cats are all that really matters to Smith, who said they are more important than she is.

"The tools [the city] have used to try to fix this problem probably have made it worse. This all boils down to dealing with her disability," Petrof said.

(Chicago Tribune - June 11, 2004)