Sunday, January 1, 2017

South Dakota: After two pit bulls determined to be vicious, city of Belle Fourche allowing Western Hills Humane Society to take the dogs and adopt them back out(!)

SOUTH DAKOTA -- The Belle Fourche City Council oversaw an appeal hearing during its meeting Monday when members were asked to decide whether or not to support the city animal control officer’s finding that two pit bulls residing within the city are vicious.

Clint Haffner, animal control officer, presented the case to the council, describing a Dec. 3 attack at a Summit Street residence where two pit bulls owned by Randy Williamson — Kyah and Maynard — reportedly attacked a dog residing two houses down from theirs.

According to the notice of violation sent to Williamson, the pair reportedly jumped over a fence into a neighboring yard where they found and mauled a 7-month-old, 10.6 pound Maltese Chihuahua mix named Shilo.

“The poor Chihuahua had to be taken to Rapid City; it was in bad shape,” Haffner said. “Honestly, I feel that it was lucky to survive. A small dog being attacked by two larger dogs, in many cases does not survive.”

Shilo’s veterinary chart explained the dog’s injuries upon arrival.

The veterinarian observed a puncture wound on the left side of the dog’s neck, an inability to put weight on the left hind leg, a bruised abdomen, and the dog screaming in pain when it moved.

The dog had to be sedated to allow an examination, and wounds were fitted with drain tubes in his neck, legs, and abdomen from the bite wounds. Shilo was unable to use his left back leg due to the trauma. So far, Haffner said, the incident has accrued $447.60 in veterinary services.

One person was also bitten while trying to pull the pit bulls off of Shilo.

Haffner said, due to his interpretation of the facts of the attack, he found the two pit bulls to be vicious animals based on the Belle Fourche City Ordinance 6.12.010, which states: “vicious dog means any dog when unprovoked: in a fierce, violent, or terrorizing manner, approaches any person or another animal in apparent attitude of attack or attacks, assaults, bites, or otherwise inflicts injury to a person or another animal.”

Based on his findings, Haffner impounded the animals pursuant to the ordinance. The animals have remained impounded until such a time the matter was heard by and decided upon by the city council.

The officer provide evidentiary photos showing the injuries that Shilo suffered and of Williamson’s fence that, in Haffner’s opinion, was “not in good shape.”

Also depicted in the photos was Williamson’s gate, which had a brick in front of it to hold it shut and keep the animals in. Haffner noted that upon his arrival to impound the animals, the gate was open. He said the dogs seemed to be people-friendly but not so dog-friendly. After their impounding, he said, the animals have acted aggressively toward other animals.

Dwight Gubbrud, the city’s attorney, explained to the council the potential outcomes of their decision.

“The remedies for the city if they (the dogs) are vicious, are that the owner would have 48 hours to remove them from the corporate jurisdiction of the city of Belle Fourche, or the animals may be euthanized,” Gubbrud said. “The other option is that the animal may be adopted out if the code enforcement officer approves that adoption, and there’s other requirements.”

Haffner told the council that he has been in contact with the Western Hills Humane Society who has agreed to adopt the animals and have an animal behaviorists work with the animals and adopt them outside of Butte County.

This is called NIMBY (not in my backyard) - when jurisdictions banish vicious dogs outside their city limits/county lines -- effectively dumping their problem onto another community. No one in this other community is told that this vicious dog is moving in next door to them - or what it did prior to its arrival in their community. 

Williamson, the appellant, was given an opportunity to address the council and plead his case. He began by saying he objected to Haffner’s findings and that neither of his dogs are vicious, especially not 12-year-old Kyah, who he said he’s had since she was a puppy.

“There isn’t an ounce of harm in that dog at all,” Williamson said.

Councilman Jim Smit asked Williamson if he was claiming that his dogs did not attack the Chihuahua.

“I’m not saying that they did or didn’t,” Williamson answered.

He said that Maynard hadn’t been neutered yet, and offered that that may have triggered him to act in a territorial way.

In his statement of appeal, Williamson said that he has never had an issue with either of his dogs acting in a violent or dangerous way. Recently, he said, Maynard was attacked on two separate occasions and since that time, “doesn’t do well with other dogs.”

Williamson offered the only explanation that he could conceive of, saying that he believes Maynard may have gone after Shilo and Kyah may have gone to “put him (Maynard) in his place,” to make him stop.

Councilman James Ager voiced his concerns regarding making a decision that he felt was out of his wheelhouse and questioned whether the council should opt to side with the animal control officer that it employs and trains to make said decisions.

“I hate that that determination comes from us,” Ager said. “I’m not a dog expert; I don‘t like the fact that we get to determine whether or not that dog is vicious or not.”

In the end, the council opted to back up Haffner’s findings and determined the two pit bulls to be vicious.

(Black Hills Pioneer - Dec 22, 2016)