By J. W. Johnson Jr., The Intelligencer
As communities across the Ohio Valley work to draft new and comprehensive dog ordinances, two Wheeling Island residents discovered first hand the dangers of vicious canines.
Wheeling police Chief Robert Matheny said officers responded to South Penn Street on Wheeling Island about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday after two people were bitten by two different pit bulls.
"A resident was walking by, and one of the pit bulls came out of a gate that had been left open," he said.
The dog attacked the woman, prompting a concerned neighbor to rush to her aid. At that time, a second pit bull from the same yard attacked the neighbor. As a result, the owner of the pit bulls, Samantha Demello, was cited for not complying with the city's vicious dog ordinance. Matheny said this is not the first time the department has dealt with Demello and her dogs.
"Earlier this month we had cited the owner for not complying with the same ordinance," he said, adding court action for that incident was still pending and an investigation into Demello and her dogs was ongoing before Wednesday's attacks occurred.
Because of that earlier problem and concern voiced by residents of Wheeling Island at Monday's crime watch meeting, Matheny said he had ordered patrols of the area to be focused on identifying vicious dogs and making sure their owners are in compliance with the vicious dog ordinance.
"We take the ordinance very seriously and make sure our officers do as well," Matheny said. "We want to make sure we enforce it to the fullest extent."
The ordinance is "extensive," Matheny said, and includes a number of rules for owning a vicious dog. This includes requiring a muzzle for the dog while it is being walked and a 6-foot fence around the owner's property if the dog is outside. Matheny said he is making the effort to fully inform the department on the content of the ordinance, which was approved about four years ago by City Council.
The attack occurred on the same day a Shadyside woman appeared in Eastern Division Court after her pit bull attacked at least one person in June.
During a village council meeting after the attack, a number of residents shared stories of their encounters with the pit bulls, prompting Shadyside Village Council to form the Vicious Dog Ordinance Committee.
Earlier this week, the committee updated residents on the status of what they have termed a "comprehensive dog ordinance" to be introduced at the next council meeting. The pit bull remained at the residence after the attacks, as the dog can not legally be seized without a judge's order.
Update July 31, 2010 2:02pm - The following article is by Leigh Ann Towne, The State Journal:
Two People Recovering After Pit Bulls Attack on Wheeling Island
Two Wheeling Island residents are recovering after being attacked by two pit bulls on Wheeling Island.
The incident happened just before 7 p.m. Thursday near the corner of Florida and 312 S. Penn St.
Mary Jane McKenzie claims she was in the alley way between her Florida Street home and where the dogs live at 312 S. Penn St., when she noticed a gate was opened in a yard.
That’s when McKenzie said a pit bull named Coco came charging after her. A neighbor yelled for help. McKenzie said she was able to make it to her front porch, but was bitten. Neighbor, Desmond Lekandus saw what was happening and tried to help McKenzie. That’s when, he said, a second brown and white pit bull came after him, biting him on the hand. McKenzie has a gash on her arm and a pretty severe bruise. Lekandus said it was, “by the grace of God” that the pit bulls took off.
Both McKenzie and Lekandus went to the hospital for treatment and tetanus shots.
Those bitten along with several other neighbors, City Manager Bob Herron and Councilman Vern Seals met out in front of McKenzie’s home Friday morning to address the issue. Herron claims that the home owners at 312 S. Penn St. have been cited in the past for the dogs and were cited once again after Thursday night’s attacks.
Herron said, that the city does have provisions under a pit bull ordinance to deal with some of those issues and he plans to address the dogs right away.
Residents are calling on city leaders to remove the dogs. WTRF tried to talk to those at the pit bull’s home, but were told, “Go mess with someone else, people out here doing worse than this. Go somewhere else!”
Chief Matheny said that the two dogs were removed from the home late Friday afternoon and they are impounded, per the vicious dog ordinance. Samantha Demello has been charged with two counts of vicious dog violation, Matheny said.
Update August 24, 2010 9:23pm - The following article is by Shelley Hansen, The Intelligencer:
Biting Dog To Be Put Down
Will be first dog in four years to die under ordinance
The first canine to be euthanized under the city of Wheeling's vicious dog ordinance will be a pit bull that bit a Wheeling Island man and woman in July.
During an Island Community Association meeting Tuesday, Councilman Vernon Seals said he believed the dog either had been euthanized or was going to be euthanized soon. After the meeting, via telephone, City Manager Robert Herron said the dog had not yet been euthanized. He said arrangements for who would euthanize the dog still needed to be made.
The owner of the pit bull, Samantha Demello, was cited for not complying with the city's vicious dog law. She could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Herron said Demello did not appeal the decision to euthanize the dog. It was determined Demello's other pit bull was not the aggressor during the attack and will be allowed to live. However, that dog can no longer live in the city, Herron said. Seals believes the dog was taken out of state.
"After speaking with animal control and the police department, it was determined the first dog was the aggressor," Herron said.
Since being enacted by City Council four years ago, 19 dogs have been registered as vicious dogs with the city. Breeds automatically deemed vicious by the law include Canary dogs and any Staffordshire bull terrier or American pit bull terrier.
While Demello's dog currently is being held at the county animal shelter, County Dog Warden Doug McCroskey said late Tuesday that he does not know if he will be asked to euthanize the canine.
"They're my bosses. If they tell me 'do it,' I do it," he said of county commissioners. McCroskey said he doubts any veterinarian would be willing to euthanize the pit bull because it is so aggressive.
Regarding the vicious dog ordinance, McCroskey told residents at the Island meeting he is not required by law to enforce the city's vicious dog ordinance because currently there is no agreement between the city and county compelling him to do so. If an agreement is reached, McCroskey said he would "be more than happy to enforce it."
Update September 6, 2010 11:19am - The following article is by Shelley Hanson, The Intelligencer:
Pit Bull Scheduled To Be Euthanized Thursday
A pit bull that bit a Wheeling Island man and woman in July is scheduled to be euthanized Thursday.
It will be the first canine to be euthanized under the city of Wheeling's vicious dog ordinance, adopted by City Council about four years ago.
Ohio County Dog Warden Doug McCroskey said because he is not required by county or state law to enforce the city's vicious dog ordinance, county officials asked the city to issue a court order for the action. The order was necessary because there is no agreement between the city and county compelling McCroskey to enforce Wheeling's vicious dog ordinance, including euthanizing a dog seized because of the ordinance.
McCroskey is licensed to perform euthanizations, which involve sedating an animal then giving it a lethal dose of sodium pentobarbital.
He noted each decade it seems a different breed of dog becomes popular, which often leads to more negative incidents related to that breed.
"During the 1970s and '80s, it was the Doberman pinscher, and the mid-'80s and early '90s it was the rottweiler. And from the mid-'90s to now, it's the pit bull," he said. "Ten years ago the dog with the most number of bites in the country was the cocker spaniel."
McCroskey said after the dog dies, it will be cremated with the cost being covered by the shelter. McCroskey said he did not know if the pit bull's owner, Samantha Demello, planned to appeal the decision. She could not be reached for comment. City officials determined her other pit bull was not the aggressor during the attack. While that dog will be allowed to live, the city has ordered that it be taken out of the community.
Last Friday, the female pit bull scheduled to be euthanized was being held in a cage in a separate room from the general population of dogs. In the same room were smaller cages containing litters of kittens mewing for attention. In the cage next to the pit bull were two dogs that workers said had just been brought to the shelter. When the animal's cage was approached, the canine simply wagged her tail and rear end in a happy manner.
Since the ordinance was enacted by City Council, 19 canines have been registered as vicious dogs with the city. Breeds automatically deemed vicious by the law include Canary dogs and any Staffordshire bull terrier or American pit bull terrier.