Courts push zero tolerance for dangerous dogs
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2002:
AUGUSTA, OMAHA, LONDON, OTTAWA, CAPE TOWN, LOS ANGELES–Annette
Heggs, of Augusta, Georgia, spent three weeks in the hospital at
cost of $100,000 after she was attacked on a public sidewalk on
December 30 by Frederick Gardner’s two pit bull terriers. She will
continue to need skin grafts and physical therapy.
Gardner will spend the next 60 days in jail for failing to
vaccinate the pit bulls and keep them leashed, Richmond County
Magistrate Court chief judge William D. Jennings III ruled on January
24, imposing the maximum sentence on each count.
Roy A. Townsend, 30, of Omaha, Nebraska, on January 16,
2002 drew the maximum six months in jail from Douglas County judge
Lawrence Barrett after pleading no contest to one count of harboring
a dangerous animal. Townsend admitted owning a pit bull terrier
named Gator who on October 11, 2002 tore the genitals off of the
17-month-old son of his then-girlfriend, Christine Anderson, 20,
who faces charges of child neglect.
Townsend was sentenced a week after Martin Crump, 27, of
London, England, drew six months from the Horseferry Magi-strates
Court for keeping a Staffordshire bull terrier named Milo who caused
a serious leg injury to a seven-year-old boy last year, eight days
after attacking an eight-year-old girl.
Both attacks occurred while the dog was at large off leash.
The cases exemplify a global trend toward holding dog owners
responsible for dog behavior. The trend extends to accidents caused
by dogs running at large.
In Middlesex County, New Jersey, a jury on January 18 held
Maria Albensius 50% at fault, her teenaged minor son 25% at fault,
and her 75-year-old mother 25% at fault for a June 28, 2001 head-on
collision that killed Ikram Yasin, 45, of Old Bridge. Swerving to
evade one of the Albensius family’s dogs, who was at large for the
second time in four days, Yasin hit a car driven by Jeanine
Frierson, of Union. He left behind his wife and four daughters,
ages two to 10. The jury awarded $1.3 million to the Yasin estate.
Less than a month earlier, Ontario Superior Court Justice
Paul Hermiston awarded $363,000 [Canadian funds] to Mavis Miller, of
Barrie, Ontario, for injuries she suffered in 1998 when a
rambunctious Labrador retriever knocked her down, causing permanent
loss of mobility. The Lab, considered friendly, had allegedly been
left to roam by Miller’s neighbors, Patricia and Bruce Devenz.
The U.S. and South Africa have historically been among the
nations most tolerant of dog attacks, especially if they occur on
the owner’s property, but summaries of nine recent U.S. verdicts
tending to reverse previous leniency were provided in “U.S. courts
reshape dangerous dog law,” ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2001.
Acknowledging that he was “venturing into new legal
territory,” Cape Town regional magistrate Robert Henney on November
8, 2001 convicted Philippi vegetable farmer Waldemar Siegfried Rix,
51, of attempted murder and seven counts of assault with intent to
do grievous bodily harm, for keeping dogs who injured eight people
and allegedly killed another during 1999 on the road in front of his
house. One victim, Anthea Jacobs, 18, lost her left leg to the
dogs in February 1999, but they were allegedly still at large in
October 1999, when they allegedly killed a man named Martin
Schroeder. Rix was charged with murder in that case.
Within a week, police followed up the verdict against Rix by
charging Manuel Mondoza, 39, with four counts of assault for
allegedly setting his two pit bull terriers on a pair of vagrants,
in separate incidents, and then setting the pit bulls on two police
officers who came to investigate.
In pending U.S. cases of note:
* Rottweiler owners Matthew Martinex and Ann Shine, of
Lovell, Wyoming, were on December 18 charged with felony
involuntary manslaughter and being accessories to a felony, two
months after one of their dogs, named Max, on October 16 allegedly
killed one-year-old Kristin Jolley. The alleged killer, Max, was
reportedly kept chained and weighed barely half as much as a normal
* The California State Supreme Court on January 16 refused
to hear an appeal of a San Francisco Department of Animal Care and
Control finding that a female Presa Canario named Hera should be
euthanized, as too dangerous to release to the public and a constant
threat to shelter workers. Hera and a male Presa Canario named Bane
allegedly killed Diane Whipple, 33, on January 26, 2001. Bane,
who allegedly led the attack, was euthanized the same day.
Jury selection for the involuntary manslaughter trial of
owners Marjorie Knoller, 46, and Robert Noel, 60, began on
January 24. Knoller is also charged with second degree murder. Both
are further charged with keeping a vicious dog. Although the attack
occurred in San Francisco, the trial venue was shifted to Los
Angeles to ease the anticipated difficulty of impaneling an unbiased
On January 14, Los Angeles judge James L. Warren refused to
grant Knoller and Noel separate trials, and ruled that “If there is
sex that is relevant in this case, either with dogs or humans,” it
will not be excluded, as Knoller and Noel had asked, but “will be
scrutinized outside the presence of the media.”
Citing testimony by Knoller to a San Francisco grand jury,
prosecutor Jim Hammer asserted that Knoller and Noel “blurred the
boundaries between dogs and humans” in their sexual conduct, and
that the fatal attack began when in Knoller’s words, “Bane put his
head in Miss Whipple’s crotch,” and responded to her “as he would to
a bitch in heat.”
Wrote Kim Curtis of Associated Press, “Letters found in the
cell of Paul ‘Cornfed” Schneider, a Pelican Bay inmate and the
couple’s adopted son, detailed sexual activity among Noel, Knoller,
and Bane,” and included “nude photos of Knoller.”
Schneider, a reputed leader of the white supremacist Aryan
Brotherhood prison gang, already serving a life sentence, on
September 7, 2001 pleaded not guilty to 13 counts for alleged crimes
including arranging the 1995 murder of Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy
Frank Trejo, attempting to murder two other people, and conspiring
to kill three more, including Robert Scully, convicted of shooting
Trejo during a robbery allegedly set up by Schneider.
Seven other alleged members of the Aryan Brotherhood pleaded
not guilty to related charges of racketeering, conspiracy, robbery,
attempted murder, and drug possession.