Dog attack prompts concern over leash laws
Police: Funding, manpower, facilities present barriers
A Cassville resident is questioning why there is no leash law in the city after her dog was attacked by another dog during a routine walk, resulting in her dog's death.
According to the police report filed by dog owner Tracy Youngblood, on March 19, she and her sister were walking her chihuahua, Molly, on a leash on Chinquapin Street when the front door of a residence opened, two dogs ran out, and one, a pit bull, charged and attacked her dog. She began kicking the dog to stop the attack. Two women appeared from the residence and tried to get control of the dog.
At one point, when they got the dog free from the pit bull, Youngblood's sister picked up the Chihuahua and turned against a tree for refuge, but the pit bull continued trying to attack the dog, biting at her hands, Youngblood said.
The dog was rushed to the Barry County Veterinary Clinic, but it was decided she had a slim chance of survival, and its demeanor an quality of life would change drastically. Therefore, Youngblood euthanized the chihuahua.
"Her injuries were so severe that, to hope that she would have recovered would have left her in unnecessary suffering," she said.
While at the clinic, Youngblood said a female and male, Cassville City Council member and business owner Cindy Carr, and her son Aaron Carr, arrived and told her it was their dog that had attacked. They apologized and covered the medical bills. Youngblood stated in the report she was not pressing charges, but was concerned the dog might attack a child or someone else.
"I can't bring Molly back," she said. "But my 5-year-old niece often takes that walk with me. That day, I do feel lucky I did not have my niece, and that my sister was there with me."
Youngblood said the Carrs had an electronic fencing system and a shock collar on the dog, but it is unknown if it malfunctioned, was not on, or if the dog ran through the shock warnings to attack. They also had other fencing on order. Youngblood said when she was walking, she was in the street on the opposite side.
"I was on the far side of the fence," Youngblood said. "That dog breached the fence. [There were no flags to identify where the fence was], and came into the street. There was no stopping it. It happened so quickly, there was no time for me to pick up my dog to protect it."
Youngblood said she had seen the dog on previous walks, and was afraid of it. Carr expressed remorse and said it was an unfortunate accident.
"She was walking in our neighborhood and for some reason, our dog ran out there and grabbed her dog," Carr said. "We went to the vet and I paid the bill. Our animal is not a vicious dog. He has been into it with the neighbor's dog, and that's when it was on our turf. I don't know what happened, to be honest. We're heartbroken that she had her little dog put down. We've complied and done everything we could do to make it right.
"Our dog plays with other dogs and we've never had a problem. [My daughter, Caroline], came home from college, the dogs wanted out, and she didn't see the people out there and when she opened the door, he went out. It's upsetting. We're dog lovers. I just hate it."
Youngblood said according to her research, an electric fence is not enough for a pit bull.
"Why, knowing that, did they let it out without a leash or without anyone with it?" she said. "I'm not out to demonize pit bulls or large dogs. My dog is never outside alone, she is five pounds and always on a leash. I did that to protect her and respect my neighbors."
Leash laws have been discussed at Cassville's city council meetings, but have never gained traction, primarily due to a lack of funding and the manpower for enforcement.
"If we got called with every dog that was at large, we would be busy all the time," said Cassville Police Officer Danny Boyd. "It boils down to the of funding not just a dog catcher, but to have a place to put these animals. It's going to be expensive any way you go. We need to take care of something prior to it happening."
Chief Dana Kammerlohr questioned the affordability of the process, addressing the lack of manpower, facilities or vehicles to round up strays. She said there was one call last month for a dog bite, and that Fair Street and Ivey Street seem to have issues.
City Attorney David Cole said charging licensing fees would only defer some of the cost, and the rule of thumb in Municipal Court is that the the city does not want biting dogs in town.
"It's been a divided situation," Kammerlohr said. "There are concerns both ways. Dogs that run loose usually get in trouble. They're a prey animal. But, there's dogs that never get in trouble. I've always said 'A dog with a mouth can bite.' It's not breed-specific. The [Carr's] dog has been removed by the city."
"In this day and age, it's barbaric that a city does not have proper ordinances in place so that we can have pets and our children be safe, and it can be considered negligent oversight of a city," Youngblood said. "I think the dog is vicious and the best result is for it to be euthanized, not out of angst, but out of being a responsible owner and to show proper stewardship of the creatures we've been given. At the very least, where this dog has been moved to the county, surrounding residents should be notified. I know it was traumatizing for the owners, too, but the dog is being allowed to live, knowing it has attacked previously, and mine had to die? That's not responsible ownership, or responsible oversight of the city.
"People complain about too many laws, but when we're not considerate of our neighbor and of their life and well-being and property, its unfortunate that we have to have laws to guide our consciousness. We're very lucky not to have a loss of human life or serious injury and that is why I'm doing this, so it doesn't go to that level. What I'm after is tightening up our ordinances so interpretation is not so loose, and for adding leash laws to our city."
Carr said even after the incident, she would not support a leash law.
"Where would the city find the money for it?" she asked. "It was an isolated incident. It was horrible, and I was sorry, but does that mean every dog in Barry County needs to be on a leash? No. To pass a leash law for one isolated incident is extreme. I understand her feelings. I wish I could turn back the page. I can't change [what happened]."
Youngblood brought her concerns to the city council on Monday, asking the body to address the lack of animal control in the city.
Mayor Bill Shiveley said the city would take her concerns under advisement and see what it could do.