A Bay Village neighborhood is afraid and outraged after a Pit Bull attack left a pet Yorkie dead and its owner injured after the two were attacked on Pellet Drive last Saturday.
“My husband Tom, was standing on our lawn in front of our home. Two massive dogs from across the street charged and attacked Tom as he held our 10 pound puppy, Charlotte,” reported owner Gail Moran, Tom’s wife.
“He tried to ward them off but they knocked him to the ground. Our daughter and son-in-law, standing in the yard, attempted to pull the dogs off Tom as he lay on the grass. A passer by from the neighborhood also attempted to try to remove the dogs from biting my husband. Our 8 year old grandson watched as his family and pet were attacked.”
Police and the EMS squad responded. “Tom and my son-in-law were transported to St. John’s by ambulance for treatment for their injuries. Our puppy Charlotte died from the attack,” continued Moran.
Bay Village Ward 4 City Councilman Thomas Henderson and Police Chief Mark Spaetzel hosted a Town Meeting on the event Monday night.
Chief Spaetzel reported that Marijana Marlin and Ed Hirt, owners of the dogs, will be be charged with two misdemeanors as a result of the dog attack. They include a charge for their dogs not being on a leash and failure to update a dog’s rabies shots. These will be the only charges brought against them. “That is the maximum we can do currently under the law as far as criminal violations,” said Spaetzel. “One of the reasons we are here is to see what we can do as we move forward.”
“We have a history at this address,” he added, noting that Police, Building Department, Property Maintenance, Health Dept., Child & Family Services and Law Department attention has been directed toward the residents over the years. Rocky River Court dockets reveal multiple misdemeanor convictions of the residents, ranging from property maintenance, driving offenses, dogs and cats at large, to domestic violence. “We have been dealing with this family for a while to the extent that we can,” said Spaetzel. “We have frustrations just like you.”
Other dogs that the Hirt’s have owned have reportedly escaped in the past, approaching and antagonizing neighbors, added Gail Moran.
“Last year there was a similar attack to our neighbor and her dog as she walked down our street. This attack was by another dog owned by Mr. Hirt. Although we and many others called city officials to voice our concerns to our councilman, law director, and police department the problem was not resolved. I now wish I had pursued the matter further. You never expect it to happen to your family.”
Public outcry over the attack resulted in a Community Meeting held at Bay Lodge with Ward 4 Councilman Thomas Henderson, Law Director Gary Ebert and Chief of Police Mark Spaetzel presiding.
Calls for re-instituting the position of Animal Control Officer re-surfaced. The position was eliminated in budget cuts four years ago.
The prevailing question: Do residents of Bay Village have the right to feel safe in their own yards or walking their city sidewalks? The first function of any government at every level is to provide for the safety and security of its citizens. Is this question adequately addressed under current city protocols for animal control?
Pit Bull Attacks
Pit Bull attacks are not uncommon. A Cocker Spaniel was reportedly attacked by a Pit Bull in another Pellet Drive incident last year. In Avon Lake last year, a shih-tzu was attacked and killed by two Pit Bulls while being walked by its owner on Bridgeside Drive. The Pit Bull owner reportedly apologized because a landscaper had left a gate open, allowing an exit for the attacking dogs.
Earlier this year, a Terrier had to be euthanized after being attacked by a German Shepherd near Moore Road.
Avon Lake City Council acted last fall to enact two ordinances addressing dangerous dogs, the so-called “Pre-Bite” and “Post-Bite” laws.
The Pre-Bite law deals with potential nuisance dogs, and to identify dogs showing signs of aggression to prevent an attack before it happens.
The Post-Bite law deals with nuisance, dangerous, and vicious dogs. Both laws give officials more ability to address dangerous animal situations, calling for strict restraints, signage and behavior modification.
Links to the laws: www.avonlake.org/residents/dog-legislation
Councilman Henderson said Monday’s meeting will help focus on strategies to beef up Bay Village dog laws. Approaches to consider may include strategies to control certain dog breeds in the city, to better manage unacceptable dog ownership, and introduce graduated penalties to violators. To date, more has not been done about the Pellet Drive scenario due to lack of legal authority.
“What are you going to do? Wait until they kill a child?” asked one resident.
“I feel terrible about this whole thing,” said Henderson. “That is why we are here, to see what direction we will take.” Council members in attendance said Safety Committee discussions will begin next week.
The question of re-instituting the position of Animal Control Officer also came up, as did the issue of a city kennel.
“There is a family in Bay Village that has offered to rebuild the kennel,” said a resident. “The offer has been on the table for two years and the city council refuses to allow this couple to do this.”
“Council has always been willing to accept that donation,” said City Council President Paul Koomar. “But the operation and the building of that kennel falls specifically to the mayor. At that point, it has not gone any farther.”
With the resignation of Mayor Debbie Sutherland taking effect Oct. 1, Koomar is – by ordinance – in line to become mayor by succession should he decide to accept the position.
“I am so proud of our police chief, and the way he has handled this situation,” concluded Gail Moran. “He not only has the tenacity of a lion, he has a great heart. He has been extremely sensitive to our needs and had called us a number of times, even before tonight’s meeting. I wish he was in a position to do even more than he does in the city because his impact would be tremendous.”