Carroll commissioners to decide on fate of pit bull that bit girl Several victims argue dog should be killed

August 14, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

A black and tan pit bull named Leather is a potential child killer and should be destroyed, the dog's victims told the Carroll County Commissioners yesterday.

The Carroll County Humane Society declared the dog a public nuisance July 22, but owner Karyl White of Westminster appealed that decision to the commissioners.

Animals that are declared a public nuisance are normally killed within 10 days unless the owner appeals. The pit bull has been in the county animal-control shelter since July 15, when it attacked Mary Warren, 10, of Westminster, biting her on the arms, stomach and groin, leaving a 36-square-inch bruise.

"This animal was unprovoked and meant to kill," the child's father, Kenneth Warren, told the commissioners yesterday. "The dog is unsafe. I'm afraid it's going to kill a child the next time" unless destroyed.

Warren entered a videotape into evidence at the hearing on the owner's appeal. Several witnesses said the tape would show Mary's wounds. It was not shown in open session at the request of Assistant County Attorney Kimberly Millender, because the child is naked on the tape.

The commissioners are expected to view the tape today and decide the dog's fate by early next week.

Commissioners W. Benjamin Brown and Donald I. Dell said they were ready to make the decision yesterday, without viewing the tape. But Commissioner Richard T. Yates said he needed to see the tape before making a decision.

Two other victims, both adults, described yesterday how the dog had attacked and bitten them "without warning" or provocation. But the most horrific account concerned the 10-year-old.

The child "has gone from a love of animals and being friendly to everybody" to being fearful whenever a dog barks or she sees an animal outside her home, her father testified. She is undergoing counseling, he said. She did not testify.

'Can't walk the streets'

"This child has to live with this the rest of her life," he said. "We can't walk the streets of Westminster if this dog is out there again."

Joyce Kaplan, who was having a birthday party across from the pit bull attack on Mary, testified that Mary and her older sisters were trying to avoid the dog when it "lunged for the child."

The dog didn't make any sound until it was on the child, Kaplan said. Then it was "a sound like I've never heard," she said.

The pit bull, which was on a leash, was restrained initially, but broke away a second time and "went for the child's throat," knocked her down, and "grabbed her in the groin and wouldn't let go," Kaplan testified. "I thought for sure I was going to see a child being mutilated."

A man identified as White's husband, who had been with the dog, told the screaming child "shut up" and then "ran away from the scene and never returned," Kaplan testified.

Mary's 14-year-old sister, Bonnie, testified to a similar account.

She and her sisters were on their way to get a soda in the first block of W. Main St. when they saw the dog and tried to move from it, she said. At first, "nothing happened," she said, "but then the leash dropped" and the dog attacked and began biting her sister. Bonnie said she kicked the dog. The owners pulled the dog off Mary, witnesses said.

Laundromat attack

Amie Snyder testified that she had been bitten by the pit bull at a Westminster coin-operated laundry in May 1997.

"I was scared for my life," she said. "The dog was out of control."

White, the dog's owner, suggested that the dog may have jumped on Snyder because it "loves women."

Jason R. Cantrell testified that the dog had bitten him while he worked at a motel July 1. The attack occurred near the pool, and he was afraid that the dog, if not destroyed, might attack children, he said.

White dismissed the incident.

"I'm not saying it was his fault," she said, "but he did walk up on her. Anybody who has any sense doesn't walk up on a pit bull."

White began crying, however, when Kaplan began describing the attack on Mary. Kaplan, who said she loves dogs and owns Rottweilers, told White that she had to "put to sleep two young puppies because of bad temperment."

"Nobody means to hurt you," Kaplan said. "But you have to make the proper decision. I'm very, very sorry for you."

White offered what she believed were mitigating explanations for the other attacks, "but as for Mary Warren, I am so deeply, deeply sorry," she said.

'Keep her alive'

White still believes she can control the dog and pleaded with the commissioners not to destroy it.

"This dog is like my life," she said. "I will do anything I have to keep her alive."

"What did you do after any of these instances to keep the next one from happening?" Brown asked White.

She did not reply.

"I think that's the problem," he said.

Pub Date: 8/14/98

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