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Dog that bit girl sent to Florida

The county commission voted to send a dog declared as vicious to the owner's family's home in Florida.

The county commission voted to send a dog declared as vicious to the owner's family's home in Florida.

October 10, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

A dog that bit a 3-year-old girl on the face, severely injuring her, has been banished to Florida.

The Berkeley County Commission voted 2-1 Thursday to let a border collie/retriever mix named Hayden live.

Hayden's owner, David Weightman of Porter Avenue in Martinsburg, will have about a week to get the dog from a pen at the county's animal control office to his family's home in Florida.

Hayden bit 3-year-old Timica Johnson - who lives next to Weightman - on the face on Sept. 29. The county's animal control department seized the dog and declared it "vicious."

Timica's wounds required 25 to 30 stitches. Her father, Tim Johnson, said she was mentally and physically scarred.

"She's OK, but she's having nightmares," he said Thursday morning.

Weightman has agreed to pay her medical bills.

At a hearing Wednesday, Berkeley County's Nuisance Appeal Board, which reviews complaints about vicious dogs, did not recommend Weightman's request to send Hayden to a friend's house on Rock Cliff Drive.

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The board did not recommend a solution in its report, which was submitted to the County Commission Thursday.

Commission President Howard Strauss said he was unsure if sending Hayden to another state solved the problem or merely shifted it. But when he and Commissioner Steve Teufel heard that Hayden would live in a rural area, near a game preserve, in Florida, they voted for the move.

Commissioner John Wright voted no.

"I think the dog will still be a threat in Florida," he said.

Tim Johnson listened to the discussion, but didn't comment.

After leaving the meeting, though, Johnson decided to appeal the decision. He went back inside the meeting room and picked up an appeal form. Strauss said the appeal should go to Circuit Court.

Asked why he's filing an appeal, Johnson said he wants the dog to be euthanized "because it might hurt somebody else."

After the vote, Wright asked Johnson if Timica approached Hayden before the dog bit her. Johnson said she didn't.

However, although Timica did not go toward Hayden first, her 5-year-old brother, Timico, did, Johnson said in the hallway.

Johnson was playing horseshoes with friends in his yard, which he shares with Weightman. Timica and Timico also were in the yard.

Johnson said Timico tried to pet Hayden, who was chained, but the dog lunged at him. Timico stepped out of the way. Timica was behind him and the dog bit her, Johnson said.

In its report, the Nuisance Appeal Board outlined what it saw as a dilemma.

"Board members believe that Timica's parents were somewhat irresponsible in not knowing where their children were and what they were doing," the report said. "If they had been watching their children closely, this unfortunate and sad situation might not have happened. On the other hand, if Mr. Weightman had been more vigilant with his dog around young children, Timica might not have been bitten."

The report said Weightman seemed to be a good dog owner and had seen no sign of aggression from Hayden before. Weightman wondered if the children startled his dog.

This was the Nuisance Appeal Board's third case since it formed in June, Chairwoman JoAnn Overington said.

The first case involved a pit bull that was aggressive toward other dogs, she said. A Nuisance Appeal Board member couldn't find a rescue group to take the dog, so it was euthanized.

In the second case, two Rottweiler mixes had a history of annoying neighbors by getting loose and barking. One dog was aggressive toward a man, Overington said.

Both dogs were seized. The board considered them a nuisance, but not vicious. The owner was allowed to keep the dogs if he put a roof over their kennel and kept them confined, which he did, Overington said.

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