Pit bull, ruled safety threat by board, ordered put to death

July 16, 1999|By Jamal E. Watson | Jamal E. Watson,SUN STAFF

The Howard County Animal Matters Hearing Board has ruled that a North Laurel family's pit bull poses a safety threat to neighbors and ordered that the dog be put to sleep.

The board's decision last week came months after neighbors complained that the dog, Diamond, belonging to Vincent and Teresa Gibson of the 9500 block of Washington Ave., had been terrorizing their community for more than a year.

Diamond is being housed at the county's animal shelter in Columbia.

Community complaints about the dog became so frequent that the matter caught the attention of Wayne Livesay, the Howard County police chief, whose department recommended to the board last month that Diamond be put to death after the dog allegedly attacked and injured a Yorkshire terrier belonging to the Gibsons' neighbor, Paul Daniels.

"There is no doubt in the minds of the board members that the dog Diamond did inflict serious injury on Mr. Daniels' dog," the board wrote in its ruling, saying that the Gibsons have ignored previous board rulings ordering them to strictly supervise the dog.

"There is no reason to believe that the future would bring forth compliance any more than in the recent past," board members wrote.

Ellen G. Spencer, a lawyer representing the Gibsons, said yesterday that she is disappointed with the decision.

"We're very distressed by the outcome," Spencer said. "My clients are very honorable people."

The couple have 30 days to appeal the ruling to the county Board of Appeals, but Spencer said she didn't know if her clients would pursue recourse. The Gibsons couldn't be reached for comment.

"They would have to spend hundreds of dollars, not including attorney fees," Spencer said, referring to the $250 filing fee to appeal a decision and the $4-a-page fee to cover the cost of transcribing the Animal Matters Hearing Board testimony.

The Gibsons have denied that Diamond and their four other dogs are violent. They contend neighbors have targeted them because they are black.

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