PROSECUTION OF VICIOUS DOG ATTACKS RARE HERE

February 01, 2001 11:00 pm
Addie Walker, one of many victims of vicious dog attacks. was severely mauled by a neighborhood dog that was known for attacking people  (The Daily Triplicate/Stephen Merrill Corley).
Addie Walker, one of many victims of vicious dog attacks. was severely mauled by a neighborhood dog that was known for attacking people (The Daily Triplicate/Stephen Merrill Corley).

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

It is unlikely that any dog attack in the history of Del Norte County has ever resulted in a criminal prosecution, according to Del Norte County District Attorney Bob Drossel.

The San Francisco District Attorneys office is now examining California State penal codes to pursue a manslaughter case in that county, following the mauling death of a San Francisco woman last Friday.

We would look at the state penal codes too, said Drossel. For us to pursue a case here it would depend on evidence from the sheriff or police department investigations. We would do it if the evidence supported it.

Del Norte County ordinances demand that a dog must first be declared potentially dangerous or vicious by Animal Control before a set of restrictions are placed on the owner.

For a dog to be placed in this category it must have a history of three or more bites in a three-year period. The disposition of the dog is determined by several factors; including the circumstances surrounding each dog bite, according to Glenn E. Anderson, director of animal control for Del Norte County.

In Del Norte County, there are no specific laws that hold dog owners criminally accountable.

They need to change the laws, said Robert Walker, husband of Addie Walker who was severely mauled by a dog last August. Theyre lucky nobodys been killed here yet. I just dont want to see anyone else get bit in this county if its not necessary, he said. In the past year, vicious dog attacks in Del Norte County have hospitalized at least three people. Two of these attacks were mounted by the same dog.

Bunia Hampson, now living in Troutdale, Ore., was attacked March 2000 in Klamath.

I was out walking and the dog came out of nowhere, said Hampson. He slammed me down and took a chunk out of the side of my foot. Fortunately I was able to fend him off with an umbrella.

Hampson said she was surprised later when she was told that her report to Animal Control was not logged in their database.

At Sutter Coast (Hospital) the doctor told me to report the dog attack, said Hampson. And thats what I did, by phone. They didnt tell me on the phone that I needed to come in and file a formal complaint.

If it was reported to us by telephone we investigated it, said Anderson. We do require something be signed in our office for a formal complaint if we dont see a doctors report or an obvious injury. We cant just go by a telephone call.

Anderson says that by law all dog bites must be reported to Animal Control, regardless of whether the victim needs hospitalization. This is done routinely by doctors and nurses around the county, according to Anderson. But often its only the most serious attacks that are reported by the actual victims.

On Aug. 24, 2000, the dog in Klamath attacked a second time. Addie Walker was the next victim.

The dog tried to kill me, said Walker. The bites along my shoulder were because I threw my arm up to keep it away from my throat.

I will always have a problem with (the wound). I have to walk with a cane now, said Walker.

Bunia Hampson, still in a wheelchair from the first attack, visited Walker at the hospital shortly after the August attack.

I went to see her and I was so angry that she had to go through what I went through, said Hampson. But she was much, much worse than I was.

She was apologizing to me, said Addie Walker. She was saying she should have forced them to put the dog to sleep months before.

The lab-mix canine responsible for the two attacks has since been destroyed by Animal Control. The records regarding the dogs history were deleted at that time and it cannot be determined if the dog was ever declared dangerous.

The state penal codes concerning dog attacks are covered under two sections:

Penal Code 399 says that if a known mischievous animal causes death to a person, and the owner is found negligent, the owner is guilty of a felony.

Penal Code 399.5 says that any person owning or having control or custody of a dog trained to fight, attack or kill is guilty of a felony or misdemeanor. This is connected to the dog biting on two separate occasions, or causing great bodily injury on one occasion.

Neither of these codes apply to a dog which has not been trained in an aggressive manner and does not kill its victim.

A combination of state and county codes would probably be applied in Del Norte County if the occasion arises, according to the district attorneys office.

We would not rely on a database, said Bob Drossel. Wed do whats right.