Board levies fine for pit bull

Family must pay $700 for `dangerous' pet, follow guidelines

Rules cover other 3 dogs

May 17, 1999|By Jamal E. Watson | Jamal E. Watson,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Animal Matters Hearing Board has ordered a North Laurel couple to pay $700 in fines and adhere to strict guidelines of ownership after declaring one of their pit bulls dangerous and harmful to the public.

The board reached its decision last week after receiving complaints for months from neighbors on Washington Avenue and nearby. They reported that Vincent and Teresa Gibson's pit bull, Diamond, and their three other dogs had been terrorizing the residential neighborhood for more than a year.

At a hearing before the board last month, Vincent Gibson protested the fines, saying the allegations were false. But his attorney, Ellen G. Spencer, said in an interview that the Gibsons are happy with the board's decision.

"Considering that the alternative could have been that Diamond was put to death, we are pleased with the outcome," Spencer said.

In addition to ordering $700 in fines, the hearing board directed the couple to strictly supervise the pit bull along with their other three dogs -- another pit bull, a German shepherd and a schipperke.

The board ruled that Diamond, when outside the home, must be muzzled and that it cannot be allowed to remain outdoors for more than four hours at a time.

Under the board's ruling, only individuals 18 or older are permitted to walk the dog -- precluding the Gibsons' four children, who are all minors.

"Whatever Mr. Gibson is asked to do, I am sure he'll comply," Spencer said, noting that a fence has been built since the hearing to keep the dogs in the yard.

"The Gibsons must take all precautions to assure that all four of their dogs are confined to the property and not allowed to run at large off the property," board members wrote in the decision.

Failure to comply with the board's ruling could result in additional hearings and penalties, including putting the dog to death.

One neighbor called the board's decision fair.

"I'm glad that they were penalized," said Charles Alongi, 87, who believes that Diamond killed his 8-pound poodle this year.

"I think that it's good that they're going to be hit in the pocket. I don't think that it would have done any good to kill the animal. The dogs alone aren't the problem; it's the caretakers," he said.

Vincent Gibson has said that all the neighbors' complaints are unfounded. He said that he does not believe that any of his dogs attacked residents and that his family has been targeted because they are black.

"They have made all of these accusations against me and my family, and they are all false," he said. "We're just trying to live peacefully and mind our own business."

Neighbors denied that race was a factor.

Spencer said she hopes the board's decision will bring closure to the yearlong dispute.

"My clients are ready to move on, and I'm hoping that the community feels that their concerns have been addressed as well," she said.

Pub Date: 5/17/99

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