Dog owners dispute charges that animals are dangerous

But neighbors tell board that pets are aggressive

April 21, 1999|By Jamal E. Watson | Jamal E. Watson,SUN STAFF

A North Laurel family appeared before the Howard County Animal Hearing Board last night and disputed charges by residents that its four dogs have been tormenting the neighborhood.

At a public hearing in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City, Vincent Gibson told the board that he has never seen his dogs physically attack anyone.

"These dogs would never hurt anyone," Gibson said. "They are good dogs."

Neighbors told the board another story. They said they have seen the dogs chasing residents in an aggressive and menacing manner.

Tina McKibben and her father, Charles Alongi, showed the board pictures of their 8-pound poodle, which, they said, was attacked and killed in January by the Gibsons' pit bull, Diamond.

"It's very upsetting," said McKibben, weeping. "I fear for the kids in this community."

The Howard County Police Department's Animal Control Division has received 13 complaints about the dogs owned by Vincent Gibson and his wife, Teresa. The division has issued five citations against the Gibsons, with fines totaling more than $700.

Vincent Gibson asked the board to dismiss the fines and said the residents' complaints are false. He said his family is being singled out because it is black.

"This is about racism," Gibson said. "These accusations are false. They're not true at all."

Julie Brown, an animal control officer, told the board that she was bitten on the legs and arms repeatedly by Diamond after she responded to a complaint in February that the dog was running free and chasing people.

"The dog was approaching me in an aggressive manner, circling me and biting at my legs and arms," Brown told the board.

The dog was declared potentially dangerous and was temporarily impounded, but Gibson said he does not believe Diamond bit the officer.

The board has 30 days to make a decision. It could dismiss the fines against the Gibsons or declare the dogs dangerous. If the dogs are labeled dangerous, the owners could be forced to pay the fines, or their animals could be confined to strict supervision or be put to death.

Pub Date: 4/21/99

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