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Vicious Animal Laws Needed?

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Victim's Mother Says County Lax In Addressing Vicious Dogs

By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

     A Pacific Junction mother whose daughter was bitten by a dog that had recently bitten a neighbor is wondering why Mills County isn’t doing more to prevent vicious dog attacks.
    Mills County does not have any criminal statutes for vicious animals or dog bites currently on the books.
    Shannon Rader’s daughter was attacked on Feb. 20 by a neighbor's dog. Her daughter’s attack was the second by the same dog in the last month. A large German shepherd, estimated by Rader to weigh more than 100 pounds, bit a neighbor, Harry Leisure, on Jan. 24. Rader said the dog is owned by Amanda Deeds.
    Mills County Attorney Eric Hansen said Deeds would be cited under the county’s animal control ordinance, a civil infraction that levies a $50 fine for a first offense.
    Hansen said citations for dog bites in Mills County are rare, citing just two such occasions where citations were issued in his tenure as county attorney.
    That doesn’t sit well with Rader.
    “Civil liability? Why is there not a law?” said Rader. “That’s sad. People’s dogs can’t behave and this is what happens.”
    Rader said the dog’s history of biting should have prevented a repeated incident.
    “She knew her dog could bite. She said to me, in her email, ‘I’ll pay for everything,'” Rader said. “I have no idea what rabies shots cost or what the ER visit will cost.”
    Deeds could not be reached for comment.
    Rader said her daughter Julia, 9, was walking to a friend’s house on Feb. 20 when a white German shepherd ran from a house and bit her. The sheriff’s report shows deputies were called at 4:57 p.m. to 58426 Eads Road by Jeannie Kennedy, Rader’s other daughter, reporting a dog bite.
    “She was out looking for our dog on the road and Suzanne Blowers opened up the door to say “Hi” and the dog ran out attacking her. It was completely unprovoked,” Rader said.
    Rader said Deeds lives with Blowers.
    Julia suffered bites to her hand and arm. She was treated at an emergency room in Council Bluffs and released.
    Harry Leisure, 67, reported a similar incident to the Mills County Sheriff’s Office Jan. 24. Leisure said he was out for a walk when a white German shepherd that resides at 54833 Eads Road, Blowers’ residence, approached and bit him through his knit gloves. Leisure suffered a bite on his right arm and hand.
    In that incident, Deeds supplied shot records to the county for her dog confirming rabies vaccinations and promised to confine the dog. No civil citations were handed out.
    In the most recent incident, Mills County Public Health is conducting a follow-up investigation to ensure the animal is quarantined for 10 days and has been properly vaccinated.
    In incidents where dogs do have their vaccinations and the wounds are not severe, as is the case with Kennedy and Leisure, it is left to the dog’s owner to confine the dog for at least 10 days. If the incident is a more severe bite or if the dog is not vaccinated, MCPH can step in and have the dog confined. Deeds’ dog has yet to be examined in the most recent biting, but MCPH has been in contact with Deeds and she is cooperating, Mills County Public Health Administrator Sheri Bowen said.
    “This dog is still in the owner’s possession and it is not officially confined in a vet clinic,” Bowen said. “We are working with the owner. She said she had taken the dog to a relative’s home and she would be returning with it and confining it in the Council Bluffs area.”
    Bowen said her agency gets reports of about 20 dog bites a year. Most are minor and few require medical attention. She said there have been only two severe bites in the last six years and Mills County has not had a report of rabies in two years.
    After the dog is confined for 10 days and is given a clean bill of health, MCPH’s job is done. Bowen said it would be up to the county attorney to take over from there concerning any criminal charges.
    “What we see in most instances is responsible pet owners who want to do the right thing,” she said. “No one wants their dog out there injuring other people and we don’t want that to happen, too. It’s a risk to people and dog owners for liability. Most pet owners take responsible steps to make sure their animals aren't put in positions to bite again.”
    That’s of little comfort to Rader. Her daughter has already undergone a series of rabies treatments and likely faces more painful shots. Julia’s wounds could not be stitched. Doctors have told her there will likely be permanent scarring.
    Rader has yet to confront Deeds face-to-face but she spoke to Deeds via email last week. In the email, Deeds apologized for the incident and said she would return with the dog.
    “I am truly so sorry, I had no idea he would ever do anything like that. He is going to live at my uncle’s farm in Alliance, Neb.,” read the email sent to Rader last Wednesday evening.
    Once the dog is returned to Mills County, Deeds will have to sign documents assuring that they are taking legal responsibility for confining the  animal for the required 10 days.
    Rader said she has been in touch with an attorney but has not decided if she will pursue any civil action against Deeds.
    Leisure has said he plans to discuss the county’s vicious dog ordinance with the Mills County Board of Supervisors.
    “How much do we have to put up with, for crying out loud?” Leisure said. “I don’t know what has to be done to get this taken care of. This dog who has bitten me and a little girl, I wonder how far he’s going to go next time. It bothers me there’s no law other than taking matters into my own hands, which I chose not to do. What recourse to do we have?”