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Tag: fatal

Owner of dogs that killed California jogger is charged with murder

jacksondog1Prosecutors in Los Angeles County have filed murder charges against the owner of the dogs that attacked and killed a 63-year-old jogger in Littlerock.

Alex Jackson, 28, was arrested at his Littlerock home Thursday after DNA testing confirmed the presence of the victim’s blood on several of his dogs.

His bail is set at $1,050,000. If convicted, he faces life in prison, a district attorney’s spokeswoman said.

Six pit bulls and two mixed breeds — were recovered from his home, according to the Los Angeles Times. Four of the dogs were believed to be involved in the attack.

“We believe there was evidence that he was aware the dogs were vicious and they have attacked before and he knew of the danger they posed,” said Jane Robison, a district attorney’s spokeswoman.

Pamela Devitt, of Antelope Valley, was attacked by a pack of dogs on May 9 and died en route to the hospital. Coroner’s officials said the cause of death was blood loss, and that they found 150 to 200 puncture wounds on her body.

Since January, authorities had received at least three other reports of Jackson’s pit bulls attacking other people, according to the district attorney’s office.

Experts said the filing of murder charges in such cases is rare.

“When it comes to murder charges, there are very, very few over decades. But increasingly dog owners whose animals attack are facing criminal prosecution,” said Donald Cleary of the National Canine Research Council. Most dogs involved in such attacks aren’t family pets, and have usually been isolated, he added.

Cleary said he was aware of only two cases in the last 15 years in which dog owners have been charged with murder — one in San Francisco and one in Atlanta.

One of those was Marjorie Knoller, an attorney whose dogs mauled her neighbor to death in San Francisco. She is now serving 15 years to life in prison for the 2001 killing of lacrosse coach Dianne Whipple.

A jury convicted Knoller of second-degree murder. A judge later reduced the conviction to involuntary manslaughter, saying there was not enough evidence for Knoller to know her two 100-pound Presa Canarios would kill. The original jury verdict was later reinstated after an appeal.

(Photo: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)   

Report calls attention to dog shootings by Houston police


Since January of 2010, Houston police have gunned down 187 dogs, killing 121 of them.

And last year alone, law enforcement officers in Houston and Harris County shot more dogs than New York City police officers shot in 2010 and 2011 combined.

All of those shooting were deemed by police to have been justified, but it’s not too hard to find families that disgree with that.

The KHOU 11 News I-Team did, and its report this week is more evidence that, across the country, requiring police to be trained in dealing with dogs could save dogs, and their families, a lot of pain.

Colorado passed a law requiring that, and it was signed by the governor this week.

The KHOU report, when it looked at the police-involved dog shootings for all of Harris County found at least 228 dogs had been shot by officers and deputies since 2010, 142 of them fatally.

“If the dog turns and comes at a citizen, or the deputy, they have all right to use lethal force,” explained Dpt. Thomas Gilliland of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

Records show Harris County deputies shot 38 canines in the last three-and-a-half years.

When asked if all those shootings were justified, Gilliland said: “The justification is, in that matter, and at that moment the deputy had to choose the decision to use lethal force against that animal.”

Sgt. Joseph Guerra, who works as a cruelty investigator for the Houston Humane Society, said it teaches some officers how to safety interact with threatening dogs. But the training isn’t mandated for all officers.

“A lot of times, officers are not sent to training to get that type of certification to feel comfortable enough to deal with these animals,” he said. “We need to get those officers involved in some mandated training in how to defend before going to deadly force.”

The Arlington and Fort Worth Police Departments started mandatory dog training for officers last fall, and state lawmakers are considering a bill that would require the training for officers across Texas.

A case of mistaken identity?

charlotteA mastiff that killed a terrier-Chihuahua mix Thursday at Charlotte’s Frazier Dog Park mistook the smaller dog for his favorite chew toy, according to the man who brought the mastiff to the park.

On Thursday, Maran Heatwole walked into the dog park with her 12-pound dog, Presley. Witnesses said the mastiff, about 140 pounds, picked up Presley and shook her from side to side, reports the Charlotte Observer.

The man who brought the mastiff to the park told the newspaper that the dog had been playing at the park with his favorite toy, a brown stuffed bear. When Presley walked by, he said, the mastiff picked her up because they looked similar.

The newspaper did not identify the man by name, and he declined to give the dog’s name, but he did provide a photo of the toy in question.

He said he feels sorry for Presley’s owner, but pointed out the park has a separate area designated for small dogs, and that Presley should have been there. He said the mastiff was not his, but belongs to his girlfriend’s relatives in Tennessee.

Heatwole drove Presley to Dilworth Animal Hospital after the incident but veterinarians were unable to save the dog.

Heatwole passed the man’s name on to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control. Officials there said Sunday night that the case is under investigation.

Parks officials said this is the first fatal incident they know of at one of the county’s five dog parks, which have been open for eight years.

Joseph Hawley, Heatwole’s fiance, said the couple is devastated by the loss and plans to lobby for stricter safety regulations for aggressive dogs in parks. “We’re gonna do as much as we can to make sure no other owner or family has to go through this.”

Boy and his dog shot at West Baltimore home

Police in Baltimore are investigating the shooting of a 9-year-old boy and his dog Tuesday night.

The boy was shot in the left hand in West Baltimore Tuesday night after three men kicked in the front door of his residence, police said.

The boy was taken to an area hospital and is in stable condition, the Baltimore Sun reported. The dog was killed.

Police were called to the 1600 block of N. Ellamont St. about 11 p.m. and found the victim shot along with a dog. Witnesses told police that the suspects fled the residence after the shooting.

Father shot while walking dogs with daughter

A father walking his dogs was shot to death in front of his 13-year-old daughter Tuesday night, after exchanging words with a man who got mad when one of the two dogs sniffed his legs, police said.

The father, Thomas Cunningham, 38, of Hayward, California, worked as a head janitor for the Dublin Unified School District. He and his daughter had gone to a store to get ice cream and were returning home with their two dogs, the San Jose Mercury-News reported.

Police said Cunningham’s German shepherd approached a man and sniffed his leg. An argument ensued and the man pulled out a handgun, shooting Cunningham as his daughter watched.

The two were returning from a two-block trip with the dogs — the year-old German shepherd and an unspecified smaller breed.

Police are seeking the suspect, and any additional witnesses.

Man blames dog in wife’s shooting death

A California man is blaming his dog for the fatal shooting of his wife.

John Aaron Norris, 25, of San Miguel said his dog ran underneath his feet, tripping him and causing the semi-automatic rifle he was holding to fire.

Norris is accused of involuntary manslaughter in the July 9 shooting death of  24-year-old Tasha Dawn Norris. His preliminary hearing  is scheduled to resume today.

Norris pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge and to a charge of  possessing an illegal weapon at his home — a semiautomatic rifle found by investigators, according to The Tribune in San Luis Obispo.

Sheriff’s deputies testified Wednesday that Norris stated he was standing on the stairs when the dog ran under his feet and tripped him. He told authorities he was holding the gun because he was planning to remove the ammunition before fire inspectors came to his home to examine new sprinklers in the condominium.

Tasha Norris was seated on a couch in the home when she was shot, according to investigators. Medics attempted to revive her, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Norfolk SPCA offers cut rate dog flu vaccine

Concerned that cases of a highly contagious dog flu might be on the rise in Virginia, the Norfolk SPCA has vaccinated its shelter residents and is offering the two-shot vaccine series to local dogs for $45.

The H3N8 influenza virus is fatal to about 5 percent of dogs that catch it, the SPCA said in a news release. Symptoms include persistent sneezing and sniffling, coughing with a yellow discharge, and unusual fatigue.

The SPCA said suspected cases have been reported in Williamsburg and at the Norfolk Animal Care Center, the city’s animal shelter.

“If a dog sneezes and another dog walks by, he can catch it – that’s how contagious it is,” said Michelle Williams, SPCA director of donor and community relations.

All 70 dogs housed at the SPCA’s shelter have been given the vaccine, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

Barbara Hays, manager of the Animal Care Center, told the newspaper that tests haven’t come back yet on a dog in its care that died after being adopted. Although no other dogs have gotten sick, the shelter limited contact with outside dogs for about a week but isn’t vaccinating dogs, she said.

H3N8 is a type A influenza that is suspected to have started at a Florida greyhound track and has spread to 30 states. As of last year, 1,079 cases had been confirmed, Tampa Bay Online recently reported.

Virtually all dogs exposed to the virus become infected, though only about 80 percent will develop symptoms, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The AVMA recommends that people who work with dogs in shelters, kennels and dog day care centers wash their hands when they arrive, and before and after handing any dogs.

For an AVMA fact sheet about canine influenza, click here.