Friday, October 8, 2010

Dogs involved in attack give breed bad name

By Kristin Harty Barkley, Cumberland Times-News

If attitude is a reflection of leadership, Gail Hall believes that the behavior of a pit bull, or any other dog, is a reflection of the dog’s owner.

Two pit bull terriers in LaVale are accused of biting at least two people and a dog over the past 18 months and, on Monday, of killing a blind and deaf dog in its own yard on LaVale Avenue.

But Hall, an unapologetic defender of animals’ rights and enthusiastic activist, said it’s wrong to blame the breed.

“I would trust a pit bull with my children more than I would trust half the people walking on Decatur Street,” said Hall. “This is an admirable breed.”

The dogs, owned by Simpson Avenue residents Timothy Newell and Gloria McLaughlin, are currently being quarantined at the Allegany County Animal Shelter on Furnace Street. They’ll be housed there until Oct. 18, at which time the owners can reclaim them or permanently sign ownership of the animals to the county.

A phone number listed under McLaughlin’s name was not in service Thursday afternoon.

Hall believes in restoration and rehabilitation first. The right person could “make them into decent dogs,” Hall said.

The only other reasonable action is “they should be put down.”

“Clearly, it’s not the dogs’ fault,” Hall said.

Mary Ann Bloom is a self-proclaimed animal person who grew up around and loves dogs, including her 4-year-old shiloh shepherd Isabelle. Bloom and Isabelle were attacked in April while in the backyard of their Asbury Avenue home by the same two pit bulls accused of killing the dog owned by Suzanne Brandenburg on Monday.  In the April attack, Isabelle suffered gashes on her right front paw and shoulder. Bloom sought emergency medical attention at LaVale Veterinary Hospital.

The previous Wednesday, the dogs allegedly bit Bruce Clites, a subcontractor working with the LaVale Sanitary Commission. Clites refused medical attention for bites on both legs.

Bloom said any pet, regardless of size or kind, can bite. But there’s a way to deter that.

“I raise my animals with nothing but love,” Bloom said. “I think you have to use more discipline with a dog that’s aggressive.”

But Bloom refutes the notion that all pit bulls are bad.

“Are pit bulls just bad dogs? I don’t think so, necessarily,” Bloom said. “It’s a mixture of genetics and training. And a responsible dog owner takes care of their dog, raises them well, trains them well and makes sure they don’t hurt other people.”

Jerilyn and Joe Rogers, along with 7-year-old Annika, work with Sir Cassius Diggy Dog Gator — Diggy (photo), for short — on a daily basis. The family adopted Diggy, a pit bull terrier mix, two and one-half years ago from Safe Shelter in Flintstone. He had been found nearly a year earlier roaming Ellerslie.

Were the Rogers looking for a pit bull?

“Ah, no,” Jerilyn Rogers said. “We weren’t. My husband actually found the dog online through petfinder.com. I didn’t really like the way he looked. I don’t really think he’s cute.”

Rogers admitted she was “a little nervous” when Diggy came home. Raised around smaller dogs most of her life, “I just assumed small dogs were safer for some reason.

That was then. Since, she’s seen Diggy and Annika have been inseparable.

“They became best friends,” Rogers said. “He is very protective of her.”

And if anything ever would happen to Diggy, “we’d definitely get a pit bull” again, Rogers said.

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