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Resident pushes to protect pets

Move sought to toughen city law against dog-on-dog attacks

POSTED: January 11, 2014 11:50 p.m.

Mary Paglia walks her dogs last week along the trail where a neighbor's pit bull has attacked them six times in three years, she said, the most recent attack occuring Dec. 27. She has lobbied city officials to create a law against dog-on-dog attacks. Shih Tzu Bella, center front, was the initial victim in the most recent attack before Paglia intervened and the attacker turned on Buster, center rear, the Jack Russell terrier. All are rescue dogs, Paglia said.

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A Gainesville woman wants the city to adopt a dangerous dog law with more teeth.

After her dogs were attacked multiple times in the last three years by a neighborhood dog, Mary Paglia said she wants the city to adopt an ordinance that mirrors Hall County’s guidelines on determining if an animal is dangerous.

Paglia said her four rescue dogs have each been attacked by a neighborhood pit bull mix breed that roams the area where she takes her dogs on their daily walks near the lake off of Holly Drive in Gainesville.

The latest attack on her 3-year-old shih tzu, Bella, was the last straw. The pit bull approached her animals alone and took the small dog’s head in its mouth and crushed several bones. The dog survived the attack but required surgery costing $3,000.

“I’m just mad now,” Paglia said. “My dogs aren’t going through this any more. I’ve had them stitched up. They’ve all been hurt. All these things have happened to them and we’re just not going to go through this anymore.”

After each attack, Paglia said she contacted Hall County Animal Control but was told nothing could be done to contain the animal because the city’s ordinance on dangerous animals does not specifically mention domestic animal-on-animal attacks, only animal-on-human attacks.

Paglia said the pit bull’s owners were issued a citation and paid a fine for one of the previous attacks, but failed to keep the animal contained on their property.

Mike Ledford, Hall County Animal Services Director, said the response “depends what side of the road” animal control officers are on when answering calls like Paglia’s. Because the ordinances vary across city lines, the officers keep copies of both county and city guidelines for reference. The city contracts its animal control services from the county.

“The major difference is the county has a way for us to deem potentially dangerous for an animal-on-animal attack. The city does not,” Ledford said. “Other than that, there are some other differences here and there, but that is the big thing that has become problematic.”

Once an animal is determined to be dangerous, the county requires the animal to be properly enclosed on the property, a clearly visible warning sign to be posted and at least a $100,000 liability insurance policy taken on the animal.

“I’m on a mission to get the city ordinance changed to reflect the county ordinance,” Paglia said. “So that a dog on a dog (attack) or a pet can be deemed a dangerous dog so that they will be forced to take appropriate actions to have the dog contained in an enclosure. Or if it’s outside the house it has to be muzzled, (owners) have to carry appropriate insurance, those kinds of things.”

Ledford said animals, dangerous or not, should be enclosed for safety in general. People can help protect themselves and others by preventing animal fights with proper enclosures.

“This needs to be changed because I have a 1-year-old grandbaby now and they walk down to the lake which is where the dog attacks always take place,” Paglia said. “My grandbaby wouldn’t hold a chance against this dog.”

Angela Sheppard, assistant city manager, said after speaking with Paglia it became apparent there is a “gap” in the ordinance.

“Obviously, we’re interested in doing what needs to be done to protect the animals,” Sheppard said. “... Basically I’ve looked at our ordinance and I’m comparing it to Hall County’s ordinance and trying to mirror Hall County as closely as we can.”

Sheppard said she expects to present an alternate ordinance to the city council around the end of the month.

Ledford said he expects the city council members to accept the updated ordinance.

“Having the same ordinances for city and county would make it a lot easier for all our animal control guys to go by,” Ledford said.


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