KENTUCKY -- Seven dogs released back to a Danville man last week and moved to Lincoln County escaped their kennels Monday, ran amok in a neighborhood and attacked a woman near Tom Hackley Road.
Numerous witnesses said the woman, identified as Loretta Stevens, 46, went out to her garden and was attacked by the dogs. Her own dogs reportedly fought back until law enforcement could arrive.
Stevens was airlifted to the University of Kentucky's Chandler Medical Center, where she is listed in fair condition.
Lincoln County Sheriff Curt Folger said Stevens sustained "very, very, very severe" injuries to her arm. He also said she sustained puncture wounds to her legs.
According to Folger, the dogs were able to escape their kennel by chewing through the bottom of the fence.
According to Dan Turcea, director of Boyle County animal control, five of the seven dogs were recovered and transported to the Lincoln County Animal Shelter Monday morning. Two dogs remained loose for some time. Folger said they were "actively searching for the dogs."
The dogs' owner, Christopher Pope, was not located.
"Chris Pope is nowhere to be found," said Turcea.
Folger said he hadn’t made contact with Pope as of 10:45 a.m. but he plans to charge him with harboring viscious animals.
Turcea said David Snyder, Lincoln Co. animal control, arrived on the scene, called Turcea and said he was unable to step out of his vehicle because of the large Presa Canario dogs.
At 3 p.m., Turcea confirmed that six dogs had been captured and were being housed at Lincoln animal shelter. One dog was shot and killed, according to Turcea.
Stevens daughter, Trivia Hebrocks, called from the hospital Monday morning, distraught, and said her mother "has lost half her arm."
Hebrocks said her mother "played dead" to get the dogs to stop attacking her and then called her own parents, who called 911.
"If she hadn't played dead, she would not have survived, I know it," said Hebrocks, who added that she was grateful because her 6-year-old son was supposed to be with Stevens Monday morning, but plans were changed.
Hebrocks said the family will seek justice.
"I want something done about this," said Hebrocks, who added that turkeys she raises on the property at 53 Julian Lane are still missing. Her two Great Pyrenees dogs that helped fight off the Presa Canarios were uninjured.
At 3 p.m., Hebrocks said her mother would keep her arm, although it is severely damaged.
"She's in quite a bit of pain," said Hebrocks. "And they are giving her rabies shots because there are no records of the dogs having had any vaccinations."
Hebrocks also said there are "paw prints" all over her body, where the dogs pinned her down.
Another area resident, Jennifer Foister Johnson, said the dogs tried to get inside her home as well.
In a court appearance last week, Pope, who was initially charged with 12 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty related to the treatment of his 12 large Presa Canarios, was told by Boyle District Judge Jeffrey Dotson that he had until noon Wednesday to pick up the dogs.
The dogs had been housed at the Danville-Boyle County Humane Society since being removed from his custody.
According to Kathy Nelsen, director of the Danville-Boyle County Humane Society, Pope picked up the dogs in multiple vehicles and moved them to a residence on Tom Hackley Road in Lincoln County before the deadline.
In a plea agreement, Pope pleaded guilty July 2 to 12 reduced counts of mistreatment of a dog or cat under a county ordinance and agreed to pay $100 per count in fines, but that $1,200 will be probated for one year, meaning he won’t have to pay it if he stays out of trouble.
Pope also pleaded guilty to 24 violations for not having the dogs licensed or vaccinated, for which he was fined $360 plus court costs for a total of $543.
Pope also agreed to pay $5,810 in restitution to animal control and the humane society for picking up the dogs, housing them, vaccinating them and other related expenses. He paid half the amount July 9 per Dotson’s ruling and has six months to pay the remainder.
Boyle County Attorney Richard Campbell decided to release the dogs into Pope’s care despite some public outcry and requests from “rescue” organizations to take the dogs. Campbell said in a recent interview that he made the decision because if Pope went to trial on the charges and was found not guilty, he could rightfully reclaim his dogs.
Ultimately, as Danville Police Chief Tony Gray noted during a July 6 “town hall” meeting, the dogs are private property and must be treated as such unless they are determined to be vicious.
Pope raised them at a home on John W.D. Bowling Court, where they became such a threat to neighbors that 12 of them were picked up by animal control April 21. Five were released into Pope’s care, while the other seven were retained and housed in the kennels at the humane society facility on the Danville bypass until they were released into Pope’s care Wednesday.
Three other Presa Canarios, which are said to be good guard dogs with proper socialization and training, were found dead when the Bowling Court house caught fire June 20. The decomposed remains of one of the dogs was found in a plastic tub while the remains of the other two were found in a bathtub.
No necropsy was conducted; therefore, the cause of death of the dogs was never determined.
A status hearing on the case is scheduled for Aug. 5.
(Central KY News - July 27, 2015