Board of adjustment hears potentially dangerous dog appeal

Published 4:01 pm Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pit bull injured Jack Russell

The Polk County Board of Adjustment heard testimony on Tuesday, Dec. 18 regarding a pit bull owner appealing the animal control officer’s decision to deem his dogs as potentially dangerous.

Polk County Animal Control Officer Michael Herman decided on Nov. 6 to deemed two pit bulls named Brutus and Ieshia owned by Keenan Nesbitt as potentially dangerous. Brutus attacked a Jack Russell terrier owned by Jennifer and Jason Wilson on Nov. 2, according to testimony.

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Nesbitt’s dogs are housed at the residence of Ashley Hannon on Keith Lane in Columbus who is the next-door neighbor of the Wilsons.

Jennifer Wilson testified that Brutus came into her yard, attacked her Jack Russell and drug her dog back to the Hannon property.

Nesbitt appealed the potentially dangerous dog decision and testified that when he arrived at the house, Brutus was on his chain and Hannon told the sheriff’s officer who responded to the call that the Jack Russell came in her yard and Brutus attacked the dog while still on his chain.

The Jack Russell suffered puncture wounds and a collapsed lung, according to Herman who entered a report from Bonnie Brae Veterinary clinic where the Jack Russell was treated. Jennifer Wilson said the vet bill was $677.59.

Jennifer Wilson said she saw the entire attack until Brutus drug Jackson, her Jack Russell into the woods. She said one of her two children let the Jack Russell out without a leash and the Jack Russell was playing with 10 pit bull puppies in her yard from the Hannon property when Brutus came around the corner and attacked Jackson. She said Brutus was on her property attacking her dog for five to six minutes before taking it into the woods towards his doghouse. She described the attack as the pit bull “mauling” her dog.

“I couldn’t do anything but scream,” Jennifer Wilson testified. I have two kids. I didn’t want to get hurt and didn’t want my kids to get hurt.”

She said she called her sister’s boyfriend, Nick Jolley, who came over and hit Brutus with a brick to stop the fight and take Jackson to the vet while she got her kids ready. Wilson showed pictures taken of her property where the attack occurred. Herman also submitted pictures of Jackson taken by Bonnie Brae Veterinary Clinic.

But Nesbitt testified that when he arrived he saw the brick and blood at Brutus’ doghouse, where he was still chained. He also testified that only he and his father are able to chain or unchain Brutus due to training the dog under his command.

“I immediately went over there (the Wilson’s property) and looked for any blood spots. I walked in the yard and didn’t see (any) blood spots. All the blood is by his doghouse,” Nesbitt said.

Nesbitt asked for the Wilson’s pictures of their property to be shown again during his testimony.

“If my 125-lb dog attacked a Jack Russell for five to six minutes wouldn’t there be some blood on the ground?” Nesbitt asked. “I don’t see (any) indications of blood nowhere on that ground.”

He added that he lets Brutus loose and he has never attacked anything. He said in his appeal letter that the Jack Russell often comes over and barks around his dog’s boundary, or length of the chain, acting as an aggressor towards both his dogs. Nesbitt said the Wilson family knew of the Jack Russell coming over to the property and should have corrected the situation before something like this occurred.

“I do not agree with your decisions,” states Nesbitt’s letter of appeal. “First of all the issue that occurred on 11/02/12 concerning Brutus and the incident involving the Wilson’s Jack Russell, my dog was on his property and he was tied down on his chain to a tree. I know you all know that the county ordinance general statute 67-4.1 clearly states a, ‘potentially dangerous dog is classified as a dog that killed or inflicted severe injury upon a domestic animal when not on the owners’ real property.’”

Owner’s real property is defined in the county’s ordinance as “any real property owned or leased y the owner of the dog, but does not include any public right-of-way or a common area of a condominium, apartment complex or townhouse development.”

Specifically, the county’s animal control ordinance defines a potentially dangerous animal as one that “inflicted a bite on a person for which the person sought or obtained medical treatment; killed or inflicted severe injury upon a domestic animal when not on the owner’s real property; or approached a person when not on the owner’s property in a vicious or terrorizing manner in an apparent attitude of attack.”

Board of adjustment members asked Nesbitt why the dogs are on the Hannon’s property. Nesbitt said it was an agreement to keep the dogs there in exchange for one of the female pit bulls and a litter.

Herman said he deemed the other pit bull, Ieshia, as also potentially dangerous due to Nesbitt telling him a third female pit bull was no longer on the property because Ieshia and the other female pit bull named Layla were both pregnant at the same time during the summer. The dogs got into a fight and Layla’s jaw was broken and she had to be put down.

Nesbitt argued that due to the female dog incident being on the dog’s property that Ieshia should not be deemed potentially dangerous either.

The county’s animal control ordinance deals with deeming an animal dangerous, which can only be done by the county health director, according to Herman. The county’s ordinance references state statutes for deeming an animal potentially dangerous, which Herman can do.

Board of adjustment chair Paul Weidman asked Nesbitt if the Keith Lane property where the dogs are housed is his property. Nesbitt answered that it is not.

If the board upholds the potentially dangerous status of the dogs, the dogs will have to be kept in a kennel or fenced area with a lock, according to Herman as well as “beware of dog” signs placed at the property. Potentially dangerous dogs are also required to be leashed and muzzled when off the property, such as walks. Herman also said if a potentially dangerous dog is sold, he has to be notified and has to be informed of where the dog is going to be located.

The board of adjustment is a quasi-judicial board in place to uphold the county’s ordinances. The board does not make the rules but hears appeals to decisions made regarding county ordinances.

The board decided to hold another meeting on Jan. 2 at 5 p.m. to make its decision whether to uphold Herman’s decision or overturn his decision. It takes four out of five members in order to overturn the decision, in this case all four members since one board of adjustment member was absent on Tuesday.