Dangerous dogs often not stopped from striking again

Dangerous dogs often not stopped from striking again

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - When 5-year-old Barrett Graeter was repeatedly bitten by a dog named Toothless, the boy's family couldn't believe Toothless was placed on a 10-day quarantine at the same home where it was when it attacked the boy.

"The dog was quarantined," said the boy's mother, Leslie Graeter. "Later the dog was picked up and taken to the shelter, but then they let the dog go. I understand the one-bite thing, but that's not one bite, that dog was trying to kill him."

What happened to this boy raises serious questions about what happens in dog-bite cases. Are dangerous dogs euthanized? Are the owners punished? What's done to ensure they don't attack again?

There are more than 500 dog bites reported each year in Louisville. WAVE 3 News examined the 112 citations Louisville Metro Animal Services filed over a recent 16-month period. Dogs with names like Slayer, Chaos, Massacre, Monster and Mayhem.

In 35 of those cases, the dog owners had failed to comply with what Louisville Metro Animal Services had ordered them to do, or they were the dogs' second or third incidents.

What happened to the dogs in failure-to-comply or multiple-bite cases? Three were euthanized. One was sent to a rescue facility. Two were impounded, then returned to their owners, and 29 of the 35 were never even impounded. Not even Sheeba, who attacked and bit a child who had to be hospitalized.
And the investigator in the case noted that Sheeba has bitten before.

Even when LMAS does impound animals, officials say it's only after the owner grants permission.

"What has to happen for you to be able to step in and pull the dog?" I asked Leslie Hawk of LMAS.

"Evidence," she said. "Witnesses. If they're not cooperating, we have nothing, it's this word against this word and (we) weren't there and it's hard to make a case."

I can tell you what happens in dog-bite cases because while working on this report a dog bit me at a Fairdale residence while just knocking on the front door, much like a Girl Scout or mail carrier might do.

The dog named Smoky bit another person in 2014, and Smoky's owner had been cited four months later for failure to comply with what animal control ordered.

WAVE 3 News learned that Urgent Care automatically notifies the health department of animal bites. After a 10-day home quarantine, Smoky was released. The health department said she is alive and shows no symptoms of rabies.

The five times WAVE 3 News checked after that, nothing had changed, as Smoky was out roaming the property inside of the family's invisible fence, free to come and go through a door propped open on the porch.

"Our ordinances aren't strong enough to allow us to take the dog,' Hawk said. "If we feel the bite is severe enough, we can pursue it through the courts."

The owner of the dog that bit me had already been pursued through the courts. LMAS said it prefers to deal with biting dogs another way.

"We do a lot of education," Hawk said. "We go out and work with the public on how to examine your dog, give them education, if aggressive, how you can protect yourself and the public against cases where a bite might occur."

Sometimes in dog bite cases, the animals are turned over to LMAS by owners who don't want to deal with the animals anymore. Hawk said some of them go to rescue groups, and some get new life with a new family.

"If it's a dog that has little aggression and a little behavior problem, they might be able to take that dog and work with them," Hawk said. "They have more experience and resources."

"Would that dog be adopted back out?" WAVE 3 News asked Hawk. "Is there a chance a dog in a bite situation goes to some other family?"

"They are individual cases," she said. "It all depends. And that's hard to say."

None of this is news to mail carriers. Louisville ranks 6th nationwide for dog attacks on mail carriers. It happens an average of once a week. At a recent safety seminar for mail carriers, LMAS advised them to carry a clipboard to give attacking dogs something to bite other than their arms and legs.

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