Friday, July 16, 2010

Owner, others won’t let dog’s death be for naught

By Steve Huffman, The Dispatch

On the morning of July 4, Sherry Elliott took her dogs, Gigi, a Yorkshire terrier mix, and Cocoa, a Chihuahua, for a walk around their neighborhood.
It was a quiet Sunday, about 8 a.m. Elliott lives on South Ford Street near First Baptist Church.
“I was going to take them for a short walk,” Elliott said of her beloved dogs. “But I could tell they wanted to keep walking, so we went a little further.”
The decision had deadly consequences for Gigi. As they walked on Fifth Avenue, Elliott and her dogs were attacked by an aggressive pit bull that was running loose. Elliott said she could tell the pit bull was targeting Gigi, so she picked her up and tried to cradle the 10-pound dog.
But the pit bull managed to rip the Yorkie from her arms and killed it. Elliott said that had it not been for the response of Ricky Workman, a resident of the neighborhood who heard her screams and responded, the attack could have been even worse.
Elliott said small children who live in the neighborhood sometimes accompany her when she walks her dogs. She said she believes there’s a strong likelihood the pit bull might have killed one of the girls if they’d been with her that morning.
The police were called, and the pit bull’s owner was cited for letting his dog run free, but the $25 fine he faces seems almost like a slap in the face to Elliott.
“Shouldn’t there be stronger restrictions on these great big dogs?” she asked.
Gigi’s story is one that area residents might remember. The Humane Society of Davidson County held a fund drive two years ago to raise money for surgery the small dog needed.
When Gigi was only 1, she had cataracts and was almost blind. It’s a common ailment among certain breeds of small dogs like Gigi’s, officials with the Humane Society said.
The Humane Society’s fund drive generated $2,500 to pay for cataract surgery for the dog. At the time, Gigi was known as “Pachuca,” a Spanish name given it by the Hispanic woman who owned the dog.
After her sight was restored, Gigi was a playful animal, a bit too outgoing for her owner, Socorro Ramierez, an elderly woman who lives next door to Elliott. At times, Gigi would bound from the house, excited to explore the world she’d previously been unable to see.
Elliott eventually adopted the dog from Ramierez. That’s when the animal’s name was changed to Gigi.
“She knew she didn’t really lose her dog,” Elliott said of Ramierez, “because I’d let her or her family play with Gigi anytime they wanted.”
Gigi’s life seemed to have had a blessed ending until July 4 when the pit bull attacked.
Becky Everhart, a member of the board of directors of the Humane Society and the organization’s treasurer, is infuriated by the way Gigi’s life ended.
“There was so much love involved in this whole story,” she said.
Everhart said members of the Humane Society met Tuesday and are determined not to let the case end this way. They may, Everhart said, ask members of the Lexington City Council to tighten laws regarding aggressive dogs running at large.
“There are several breeds that can be very dangerous,” she said. “They’re just as dangerous as a person with a gun. It’s a dangerous weapon. This is not a small problem.”
But in her next breath, Everhart admitted, “It’s not the dog, it’s the owner. Dogs are a product of how they’re treated by their owners.”
Everhart said both she and Elliott think Gigi’s life may have been taken for a greater good.
“What happened to Gigi,” she said, “happened for a reason. We will not let this just slide. This is about making our community safer for people and animals.”
Capt. Jimmy Truell oversees the Lexington Police Department’s animal control department. He said the dog that killed Gigi was owned by Genaro Delazquez Beltran, 38, of 314 W. Sixth Ave. He was cited for a leash law violation. Truell said that while the fine for conviction of the offense is only $25, the individual also has to pay the cost of court, which is $130.
Truell said Beltran agreed to have his dog euthanized, and the animal has already been put to sleep.
He said animal control officers take seriously calls about aggressive animals.
“We investigate all animal complaints,” he said. “We investigate them all to the fullest.”
Meanwhile, Elliott said that when she returned to her house the morning of the Fourth of July after Gigi had been killed, numerous friends and neighbors stopped by upon learning of the dog’s death.
“A lot of people put a lot into this little dog,” Elliott said. “Everybody was right here with me, crying. It was a shock.”

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