Pit bull in fatal attack euthanized
Web Posted: 01/18/2007 11:35 PM CST
Sitting crestfallen inside Animal Care Services on Thursday, Jesse Banda knew his dog had to die.
Six days earlier, the pit bull had fatally mauled his neighbor Amber Jones. An animal lover, the 10-year-old girl was bitten in the neck and stomach as she tried to free the dog from Banda's chain-link fence. The pit bull had leaped over it and gotten hooked by his collar, the victim's relatives said.
City employees allowed Banda to pet Chuey one last time before they injected the animal with a lethal chemical around noon. Stricken with remorse and sadness, Banda, 29, struggled with unknowns.
Why did Chuey, a dog that played well with toddlers and had never before shown signs of aggression, suddenly snap? What could Banda have done to prevent this "bad dream"?
For city officials, the girl's death has raised questions about whether the dog was properly confined to Banda's backyard â€” a requirement by city code. Robert Jones, the victim's father, said his daughter's death underscores a need for better enforcement of leash and enclosure laws.
Loose dogs are "all over this place," said Jones, standing in the alley behind his South Side home in the 700 block of Topeka, where the dog attacked his daughter. "They're everywhere."
Jones is not the only city resident concerned about unrestrained dogs. Rebecca Taylor, a resident of Heritage Meadows on the far West Side, recently complained that no one walks through her neighborhood without a stick to fend off animal attacks.
"This is no joke," Taylor said.
Jef Hale, director of Animal Care Services, said the city is authorized to impound loose dogs and issue citations to their owners. But city officials must first witness an animal outside of its property.
"It's really the responsibility of the owner to ensure that their animal does not get off their property without (the owner) on the other end of the leash," Hale said.
City code mandates that animals be confined within an enclosure that prevents them from escaping â€” a requirement that can become a challenge considering the dexterity of some dogs.
"I've seen dogs climb 8-foot fences before," Hale said. "It's just amazing. It's like Spider-Man."
Banda said Chuey could "easily" leap over his chain-link fence, so he kept the dog chained to a tree whenever he and his wife were away. No one was at the Banda home when Amber Jones was attacked, he said. It's unclear if the pit bull was chained when the attack occurred, said Lisa Norwood, spokeswoman for Animal Care Services.
The city department is investigating the incident. Police said Banda will not be charged in the girl's death.
James Crosby, a canine aggression expert, said keeping a dog chained could make it more aggressive â€” a warning echoed by Hale, who added that owners of powerful dogs should take safeguards seriously.
"Understand when you have a dog of this particular breed, you have an additional responsibility to ensure that these animals are properly socialized," Hale said. "Neutering the animals certainly can improve disposition and decrease aggressive behavior."
Banda's dog had not been neutered.
According to Crosby and Hale, fatal dog attacks are rare. About 20 people are killed by dogs every year in this country, they said.
Three days after Amber Jones was killed, a man was seriously injured in Bexar County when his pit bull attacked him. That dog had not been neutered, Norwood said.
Banda went so far on Thursday as to wish he never had moved behind the home of Amber Jones, who aspired to become a veterinarian.
"I told (her mother) if I could trade my life for her daughter's I would," Banda said. "But I can't."
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