Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 19, 2018

Roaming dogs discussed with council

Oct 04, 2017
Speakers Karen Gorham, left, Xiomara Levsen and Dustin Levsen discuss an incident involving a pit bull with the Washington City Council during Tuesday’s meeting. Levsen told a story of how the dog had attacked her son and tackled him three times. Previously, the dog had been chasing Gorham.

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


While dogs can be considered man’s best friend in many cases, there are other times when dogs can be a danger to people. That is what a group of people wanted to discuss with the Washington City Council Tuesday evening

Several residents used the public comment portion of the Washington City Council meeting Tuesday evening to discuss incidents involving loose dogs in Washington and to ask that something be done. Xiomara Levsen, her son Dustin, who is an eighth-grader in Washington Middle School, and Karen Gorham told of an incident with a pit bull in which Dustin was attacked on Thursday, Sept. 28. Former Washington City Council member Fred Stark also told of a dog attacking a person who was walking a dog. The council made no comment on the reports, nor did Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman, who had attended the meeting.

Levsen said her son was attacked while delivering newspapers on West Main Street. She said he had seen Gorham running. Upon speaking to her, she warned him of a pit bull dog. She choked up as she described her son continuing his route into Sunset Park, where he was knocked to the ground by the dog.

“He was able to get away twice,” she said. “He ran to the playground area and was knocked down a third time by the brown pit bull. The dog then decided to go after Dustin’s neck. Dustin was holding the dog’s mouth away from his neck and screaming for help. Thankfully a girl saw this and got the dog off him. If she had not been there, I do not know what would have happened.”

She said Goodman had said the owners of the dog would be cited for the incident. Levsen also said Goodman told her he would speak with the officer to determine if the dog would be declared vicious. She has not seen that the citation was issued.

“How is a dog tackling my son and attacking him not vicious?” she asked. “Would you put up with that?”

Gorham showed the council a large bag she was carrying at the time the dog was “stalking” her, that she had used to swing at the dog and get it to leave briefly. She said she had fallen during the incident. Gorham said she plans to carry her bag a lot from now on.

After she got up, the dog came back and was pursuing her. She described having to hide in a friend’s porch, behind her swing.

Stark spoke of a man he talked to whose dog was attacked by a pit bull. He said the man had been injured trying to separate them.

Pit bull is the common name for a type of dog. Formal breeds often considered in North America to be of the pit bull type include the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, American Bully, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Widely reported pit bull attacks in popular media have resulted in the enactment of breed-specific legislation in several jurisdictions. In some cases breed specific bans have been reversed or prohibited by state legislation.

The Washington Police Department investigates dog bites. People who are attacked should notify the police immediately. If someone is attacked, they should not panic, as this would make the situation worse. The police handles every case very seriously in determining if the dog will be declared vicious. All incidents involving animals are documented so officers will know if there is an ongoing issue. In dealing with animal complaints, officers may give the owner a written warning, a citation, or a civil infraction. With the civil infraction, officers can order more restrictions, such as quarantining the dog, being removed from the city, or, in serious cases, ordering the dog to be humanely destroyed.

Dog owners in the United States can be held legally liable for injuries inflicted or caused by their dogs. In general, owners are considered liable if they were unreasonably careless in handling or restraining the dog, or if they knew beforehand that the dog had a tendency to cause injury. Dog owners are automatically considered liable if local laws hold an owner strictly liable for all damage caused by their dog, regardless of carelessness or foreknowledge of a dog’s tendencies.

Delen Tusing, who works as a dogcatcher in Washington, said if a dog bites a person, the person should not try to pull the dog off, because it can tear the muscles. He said people should push into the bite, hopefully taking the dog off balance and cause it to let go.

If nothing is available to guard against the dog, Jason Whisler, who has served as a dogcatcher in Washington for about 10 years, recommends avoiding the situation altogether. He said in many cases, dog attacks are caused when someone approaches a strange dog. He recommends people seeing loose animals call the Washington County Communications Center at 653-2107.

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