Rottweiler blamed in Sykesville biting

Jogger requires stitches for arm injury

authorities identify, quarantine dog

July 01, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan and Sheridan Lyons | Jennifer Sullivan and Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Joe Dolliver drives the same route along Obrecht Road to work at 6: 30 a.m. every day, passing the same things -- and the same woman running.

June 21 was different: "I was driving to work, and from about an eighth of a mile away, it looked like the woman was in trouble," Dolliver said. "I could see the plea on her face, as if she was saying, `Don't go by.' "

During her daily five-mile run along Obrecht Road, Julianna Howes, 37, of the 400 block of Obrecht Road had been attacked by a Rottweiler. One arm was torn to the bone.

Dolliver said he screamed at the dog, and it backed off. But then it bit the woman a second time. As he screamed for her to get in the truck, the dog lunged a third time. The dog chased the truck as the pair sped off.

Howes was treated at Carroll County General Hospital. She received two rows of stitches in her upper left arm and has been unable to work at her job at Fairhaven Retirement Community in Sykesville. Her mother said Howes was not available for comment yesterday.

An animal control officer found the dog three days later at its owner's home on Obrecht Road, said Nicky Ratliff, executive director of the Humane Society of Carroll County.

Ratliff wrote the owner a letter yesterday warning that her agency considers the dog potentially dangerous and that if another bite occurs, it could be declared vicious. Ratliff could then seek an order from the county commissioners to destroy the animal.

When a second attack occurs, she said, "Most people voluntarily turn them over to be destroyed."

Ratliff said this was the first report on the dog, whose owners could not be reached. The dog will be quarantined at their home for 10 days from the bite, she said. Rabies symptoms normally appear within five or six days, and the animal had had its vaccinations.

"Now, they know they should not let it run," Ratliff said. "It's a big dog," even for a Rottweiler, she said.

Barry W. Fortune, supervisor for rabies control in the Carroll County Health Department, said this attack "was unusual because after the dog attacked, the dog ran off. Usually we get bite reports from the state police or local police who have already tracked the owner."

Fortune said he and another officer took Howes to the scene, between Gaither and Carmae roads, and twice identified the wrong dog.

"The real dog was just across the street" with the blue collar the victim mentioned, he said, and was soon located by an animal-control officer.

"The owners were aware that the dog had gotten loose, but they didn't know how much damage had been done," he said. "It was a vicious dog bite, but we've had worse."

Ratliff said she reviews the circumstances of each bite, looking for cases where "the dog did something really weird and didn't have shots, acted real strange -- stranger than a dog biting a jogger."

"Now, if you're sitting on a bench and a Rottweiler comes up and attacks, that is a decidedly different situation than you running past a dog on a road and being bitten on an arm or leg," she said.

Fortune agreed with Ratliff's assessment.

"Bites like this happen a lot in Carroll County," with about 350 to 400 cases a year, he said, most from dogs but also from cats, bats, raccoons, ferrets and animals in petting zoos.

Fortune said rabies is transmitted by saliva and travels from the bite through the nervous system to the brain and into the salivary glands. The animal's brain must be taken and studied when rabies is suspected.

"But we haven't submitted a dog that's been positive [for rabies] in years," Fortune noted.

Several recent cases involved cats, including 12-year-old, 21-pound Irving, who had roamed his Taylorsville neighborhood for years -- until he bit five or six people within two weeks, and officials learned that his vaccinations had expired, Fortune said.

"The secret is to keep your animals vaccinated," he said.

Ratliff mentioned another concern. "People are getting dogs that historically are dominant breeds and they are novice owners. It's a bad combination. They need to be treated much differently than, say, a beagle. People make mistakes like sleeping in their beds with them.

"People spoil these dogs," she said, mentioning Rottweilers, pit bulls, and Akitas, the increasingly popular Japanese fighting dog. "They need to be taught manners -- where they fit in the chain."

Pub Date: 7/01/99

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