Neighbors are upset at a county Animal Control Commission recommendation that would return to its owners one of two pit bulls suspected of mauling a 14-year-old Millersville girl last summer.
Residents say they are afraid of the dogs, which have been impounded since the August incident.
The commission rejected an order by the county's animal control administrator, Tahira S. Thomas, to destroy the 5-year-old dog named Kane.
The pet had bitten a 66-year-old woman in 1997 and a 7-year-old boy last year, according to Thomas' office.
But the commission said Monday that it wants the dog returned to owners David and Dawn Neal, with stricter orders on controlling the animal.
The recommendation is subject to review by county police Capt. Thomas Suit, who oversees Animal Control and has 30 days to decide whether the dog should be destroyed.
"Our main responsibility and our main concern is to protect the public, and they have a legitimate concern," Thomas said yesterday. "When 65 people sign a petition and 60 people show up to a community association meeting and say, `We're afraid,' I've got to protect these people."
Some residents in the Crain West and Hillendale neighborhoods who have packed meetings with police and Animal Control officials calling for the dog's destruction, are frustrated at the possibility that Kane could be heading back home.
They say that Kane and another pit bull - 1-year-old Isis, also owned by the Neals - have terrorized the community.
The dogs had been seen roaming free after Animal Control ordered them confined, neighbors said, and the dogs have chased residents.
Neighbors say they were afraid to walk or allow their children to play outside.
"A child was mauled," said Pat Brain, a resident. "Somebody is going to get bit by that dog and they could die."
Both dogs have been impounded since the Aug. 7 attack on 14-year-old Abbey Best, who had gone to the Neal home to visit a classmate.
When David Neal answered the door, the dogs bolted past him, tackled Best and bit her on the leg, nose and arm, according to Animal Control records of the case.
Because Kane had bitten twice before and the Neals had been ordered to keep the dog confined, Thomas called for the dog's destruction.
Isis had been labeled potentially dangerous by Animal Control before the attack, for being aggressive and running free in the area, records show. The Neals would be allowed one more mistake with Isis under the county's three-strikes policy before Thomas would call for the dog's destruction.
Best reported the incident to Animal Control and submitted an affidavit but did not testify Monday night as the commission heard David Neal's appeal of the dog's death sentence.
Witnesses who said they had been visiting the Neal home that night testified Monday that Kane was not involved in the incident, only Isis, and Neal accused community members of lying about the animals.
He said yesterday that he was pleased with the decision but concerned that Suit would reject the commission's recommendation and order Kane destroyed.
"They're trying to make it bigger than what it is, to kill my dogs," Neal said. "They know how much I care about Kane. I'm going to spend any amount of money fighting it."