The public is entitled to safe streets. Without a doubt, one who will try to kill you or your children should be the first priority of law enforcement authorities. When the potential killer is a vicious dog, however, we are seeing unconscionable lapses on the part of animal control, police and prosecutors.
The latest story comes to me from Delaware County, Ohio. Last December, pit bulls attacked a man on the street and police had to shoot at them. They got away but their owner was identified. Police reports were filed but the prosecutor’s office said the same were not received. Then in April, the same dogs attacked a woman standing on her front porch and police had to shoot at the dogs again. This time, charges were filed — but too late to protect the second victim.
For all we know, there could be a good explanation as to why this prosecution did not go forward in December. At this time, however, the public has reason to question whether the police and prosecutors are performing at adequate levels with regard to dangerous dogs. The public needs to know that someone is monitoring the performance of the people who were entrusted with the safety of the community.
A couple of years ago, I was contacted by the family of Jennifer Lowe, a 21-year-old young lady who was mauled to death by pit bulls that savaged her for more than 30 minutes. It turned out that sheriffs had shot at the dogs in the past, the animal control department had declared the dogs to be vicious, but law enforcement officers then took no steps that would have saved Jennifer from her brutal fate. As a result, the renowned Tennessee lawyer Wayne A. Ritche II and I sued several parties including the County of Knox, Tennessee, because of the inactions of the Knox County Sheriff’s Department and Knox County Animal Control. Following a detailed judicial evaluation of the case, Knox County offered a confidential settlement which was acceptable to Jennifer’s family.
Since then I have been pursuing similar cases against the authorities in other areas of the country. The lesson that public officials must learn from these lawsuits is that they must take vicious dogs out of the hands of irresponsible dog owners and off our streets. The dangerous dog laws must be enforced. If the authorities fail us in this important duty, the victims will have their day in court.