More ‘bite’ than ‘bark’

Published 8:45 am Thursday, April 12, 2012

AHOSKIE – The daughter of a dog attack victim wants the Town of Ahoskie to toughen its animal control ordinance.

Speaking before the Ahoskie Town Council at their Tuesday morning meeting, Linda Meeks said her 83-year-old mother, Ruby Baker who resides on Parker Avenue, was extremely fortunate to escape serious injury following an April 1 attack that occurred in the parking lot of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. Mrs. Baker’s pet Dachshund – “Snoopy” – was seriously injured in the attack and remains under the care of a local veterinarian.

Weather permitting, Meeks said her mother, accompanied by her loyal companion, enjoys her daily walk – starting at her home on Parker Avenue, entering the News-Herald’s parking lot, to the sidewalk along Catherine Creek Road and back to Parker Ave.

“Mama and Snoopy were on their walk on Sunday, April 1…a beautiful afternoon,” Meeks recalled. “Out of the clear blue sky two pit bulls appeared. One attacked Snoopy.

“Mama loves Snoopy, so my mother bent down and tried to open the pit bull’s mouth to free Snoopy,” Meeks continued. “She didn’t win that battle, so she screamed for help. Her front door neighbor (Henry Cherry) was in his yard and he came running to help. He saw mama on the ground and a big dog with his mouth clamped down on Snoopy’s belly. All he had was his size 15 boots, so he started kicking the pit bull. He finally kicked the dog in its chest and that’s when he let go of Snoopy.”

Meeks said her mother was scratched up and bruised from the altercation. Mrs. Baker, according to Meeks, had bruises and lacerations on her fingers, apparently inflicted when she attempted to open the pit bull’s mouth. There was a dog bite on her arm.

“Mama is not the same; she has no desire to walk anymore, expect maybe to walk down towards the end of her block and back,” Meeks noted. “This dog has taken mama’s rights from her.”

Meeks said Snoopy remains in the care of Dr. Cheryl Powell and her staff at Powellsville Pet Clinic. In an interview last week with Dr. Powell, she said Snoopy suffered puncture wounds to his stomach, spleen and liver. Following four hours of surgery, it took it rook 75 staples to close Snoopy’s wounds. Dr. Powell also had to insert three drain tubes to assist the healing process.

“Snoopy is not eating; they’re feeding her by a syringe,” Meeks said. “I don’t know if Snoopy will ever be the same again.”

Meeks said Dr. Powell couldn’t believe that the pit bull didn’t attack Mrs. Baker, especially when she attempted to pry open the dog’s mouth.

“I honestly believe that Snoopy and Mr. Cherry saved my mama’s life,” Meeks said.

As far as the medical bills, Meeks said her mother had excellent health coverage…..she felt that should cover Baker’s visit and treatment at Roanoke-Chowan Hospital.

“However, we’ve been told that Snoopy’s bill at the vet’s office could exceed $1,000,” Meeks stated.

After sharing this harrowing story, Meeks pleaded with Ahoskie officials to toughen the current animal control laws that are part of the town’s ordinances.

“I’m old enough to know that money talks, so let’s think about putting some laws on the books that carry hefty fines,” Meeks suggested.

Her research showed that the town of Windsor has such fines against the owner of a dog that attacks and inflicts wounds by biting. She said Windsor levies a $500 fine for a first offense and $1,500 for a second offense.

“If I had a dangerous dog and knew that I could be fined that amount, I would want my dog in a pen,” Meeks said.

She added that dangerous dogs can be any breed, not just pit bulls.

Meeks praised the fast and professional response by Ahoskie Police Officer Michael Kellett and Hertford County EMS.

“If I had a vote, if my family had a vote, Officer Kellett would be the town of Ahoskie’s Employee of the Month and Employee of the Year,” Meeks stressed. “He has been great to us.”

Meeks said she also researched North Carolina General Statutes regarding dangerous dogs. She said she assumed that statute to read that a town could appoint a committee to be responsible for determining whether or not a dog could be considered as dangerous.

“We can’t be with her 24/7 but we’ll protect mama the best we can,” Meeks said. “I am begging you to please do something about these dogs. As of right now, my mama is the latest pit bull victim in Ahoskie. Will she be the last? The next loved one might be killed….they might be your loved one.”

During board comments near the end of the meeting, Councilman O.S. “Buck” Suiter Jr. commented on Meeks’ presentation.

“We need to follow up on her comments and suggestions,” he stated. “This is serious.”

At the council’s approval, the measure will be placed on the agenda for further discussion at their May 8 meeting.

Ahoskie’s current town ordinance (Section 10-24) states, “No person owning or having control of any dog shall permit such dog to run at large within the corporate limits of the town.”

Section 10-25 reads, “It is hereby declared the duty of the police department when it is notified or becomes aware of any dog running at large in violation of section 10-24 to ascertain by whatever available means the identity of the person owning or having possession of such dog found running at large and, upon ascertaining the identity of the proper person, to notify such person that he is in violation of section 10-24. Persons violating section 10-24 for the first time shall be issued a written notice of warning; persons violating section 10-24 for the second or subsequent times shall be deemed, upon conviction, guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished in accordance with section 1-8.”

According to Diane White, administrative assistant for the Town of Windsor, the animal control ordinance there does carry hefty fines.

Windsor maintains a complete registry of all dogs. If one is deemed dangerous or perceived dangerous by Chief of Police (i.e. – a dog that, without provocation, has killed or inflicted serious injury on a person or has bitten a person, while not on the dog owner’s real property and in an apparent attitude of attack), which requires medical attention, the owner of such is required to pay the town a civil penalty of $500 for the first offense and $1,500 for subsequent offenses. The owner is also liable for all injuries suffered by a person or damage to personal property.

Additionally, a dangerous dog involved in such situation can be destroyed by the Windsor Police Chief after a 10-day waiting period.

There is also a $200 civil penalty against the owner of a dangerous dog if that animal, unprovoked, kills, wounds or worries another animal or assists in the same.

Windsor prohibits any domesticated animal to run at large in town. If the owner allows their animal to run at large and continues to permit that to occur following notification, the animal can be impounded for up to 10 days and the owner shall pay a civil penalty of $50 for the first offense, $70 for the second, $150 for the third, $200 for the fourth and $500 for the fifth.

There are also animal nuisance laws in Windsor pertaining to barking, whining, and knocking over trash cans, etc. Violations carry a civil penalty of $10 for a first offense, $25 for a second and $50 for a third.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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