County orders dogs to be killed following attacks

April 23, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The Berkeley County Commission decided Thursday morning to have a dog euthanized after Animal Control officers warned the commissioners that the animal was more vicious than they may have believed.

Until Animal Control officers warned them about Apollo, a pit bull that bit a man's arm earlier this month, the commissioners were on the verge of returning the dog to its owner.

Apollo's owner, Lorraine Teodoro, said the dog had never been aggressive. Teodoro got the dog after her home in Winchester, Va., was broken into four times, JoAnn Overington, chairwoman of the Nuisance Appeal Board, said.


Teodoro opted not to buy a gun but "she purchased another lethal weapon," Overington said.

The attack happened on April 5 when Allen Unger, 72, came to Teodoro's Pikeside home to mow her lawn. After Unger knocked on the back door, Apollo ran from "out of nowhere" and bit his arm, Overington said.

Although Nuisance Appeal Board members decided the dog is vicious toward strangers, they did not recommend euthanization.

Volunteers who serve on the board hear both sides of a case involving dog attacks and then decide whether the dog should be returned to its owner or euthanized.

"He was doing his job protecting his property," Overington said.

Overington recommended that Teodoro erect a 6-foot kennel, keep her doors locked and put up "beware of dog" signs.

An emotional Teodoro told the commissioners she would abide by all of the recommendations, prompting Commissioners Howard Strauss and Steve Teufel to say they favored returning the dog.

They changed their minds after Animal Control officers John Ramos and Larry Light spoke.

Since the dog has been in a kennel at Animal Control's facility, he has been "extremely aggressive" and "totally unapproachable," Ramos said.

"People do not realize how vicious this dog is," Light said. "If it gets ahold of a child, it's over with."

Ramos agreed and said he would hate to have such a situation on his conscience. He said the dog could dig out of its kennel.

County Attorney Norwood Bentley had pointed out earlier in the discussion that if commissioners release the dog, knowing it to be aggressive, they could be held liable should another attack occur.

After commissioners voted that the dog should be euthanized, Teodoro responded that she planned to immediately appeal the decision to Circuit Court, which is permitted.

Since the county's vicious dog ordinance went into effect on Jan. 1, 2003, Nuisance Appeal Board members have heard nine cases, Overington said.

The case involving Apollo was one of two vicious dog cases presented to commissioners. In the other case, which was not contested by the dogs' owner, commissioners voted to euthanize two pit bulls that on April 3 escaped from their yard and entered another yard. There they killed and mutilated a miniature pinscher, Overington said.

The owner of the pit bulls, who lives on New York Avenue in Martinsburg, also has two pit bull puppies. Overington recommended that the puppies be spayed or neutered and undergo obedience training and socialization.

Christopher Monninger, the owner of the miniature pinscher, said he worries that a person could have been hurt.

"Somebody should ban pit bulls," he said.

Strauss responded that he examines a case based on a dog's actions, not its breed. He pointed out that some pit bulls would never attack a person or animal.

The Herald-Mail Articles