Last week, a North Laurel couple were fined $700 after one of their dogs was declared a public nuisance by the Howard County Animal Matters Hearing Board.
On Thursday, the couple were fined $600 after another of their dogs, a pit bull named Cinnamon, escaped from their property and ran through the neighborhood.
Last night, Vincent Gibson appealed the $600 fine and asked the board to dismiss the citation issued by an animal control officer.
Gibson said he suspects that neighbors might have freed Cinnamon, who was chained to a pole in the front yard, and then called police to report that the dog was running free.
"How the dog came out of the collar is a mystery," Gibson told the board. "I don't trust people in my neighborhood. It's very possible that someone could have done this."
"I love these dogs," he said. "To think that I would neglect these dogs, or that my children would neglect the dogs, is ludicrous."
Cinnamon escaped from the front yard days after the board declared that the couple's other pit bull, Diamond, was dangerous.
The board had ordered the Gibsons to "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."
Cinnamon was caught by animal control police and is being held at the county animal shelter.
For months, residents who live on Washington Avenue and other streets have complained that the two pit bulls and the Gibsons' other dogs -- a German shepherd and schipperke -- have terrorized the neighborhood and they are loath to venture outdoors for fear of being bitten.
Gibson said the neighbors' complaints are groundless, and he does not believe any of his dogs attacked residents. Gibson, who is black, said his family is being targeted because of race.
The board ruled this month that Diamond, when outside the home, must be muzzled at all times and cannot be outdoors for more than four hours at a time.
Under the board's ruling, only individuals age 18 or older are permitted to walk Diamond, which precludes the Gibsons' four children, who are minors.
An animal control officer who responded to the Gibson home after Cinnamon was reported running free said that when she looked into the fenced-in back yard, Diamond was not wearing a muzzle.
Gibson said that for the past week the dog has been ill and vomiting and his veterinarian advised him not to put the muzzle on the dog.
Brenda Purvis, executive secretary of the Animal Matters Hearing Board, asked the board to impound Diamond.
"I am very alarmed," said Purvis. "This dog has been sick for more than a week and nothing has been done. I am concerned for the dog's welfare as well as the safety of the community."
The board has 30 days to rule on the appeal.
Pub Date: 5/19/99