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Published: 7/25/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Toledo woman fights vicious-dog charges

Pet seized by warden after biting child

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

OBJECTCorrected version: A reference to the name of person who owned the bulldog has been changed. 

Dancie Murrey never imagined that her American bulldog, named Cambria, would be capable of hurting a fly, much less biting a neighborhood child, resulting in the dog being declared vicious and seized by the Lucas County dog warden.

"She's like our daughter," Ms. Murrey said, adding that the 2-year-old dog played with her fiance's daughters, ages 8 and 10, and never showed any signs of aggression previous to the incident.

It occurred July 9 when the dog jumped out of a parked car where it had been left briefly.

The 9-year-old victim apparently ran to the steps of the house, which was where the bites on her ankle and back occurred.

No adults witnessed the incident, according to Ms. Murrey's mother, Diane Murrey, who was watching the dog and had left it in the car with the windows down while she ran inside the house to retrieve pizza coupons she had forgotten.

Dancie Murrey and her fiance, Jade Juhasz, have hired attorney Phillip Browarksy to appear on their behalf at a hearing today in Toledo Municipal Court to try to get their dog released from the pound, where Cambria has been held since July 12.

"I can tell she's really depressed," said Ms. Murrey, who visits the dog nearly every day. "I just don't understand why they have to hold her. We've done everything that the law requires us to do for a 'vicious' dog. Why can't she just come home?"

Dog Warden Julie Lyle said the dog was seized because of the severity of the bites, which reportedly took 21 sutures to close.

However, Ms. Lyle said all information in Dog Warden Attack Reports is self-reported by the victim or victim's parent, at least initially when the report is taken.

Later -- and the lag time varies -- the Lucas County Health Department sends a dog-bite report to the dog warden, based on information it has received from medical professionals who treated the victim. The amount of information the health department sends the dog warden varies, depending on how much the medical professionals have provided, Ms. Lyle said.

In the case of Ms. Murrey's dog, the health department report indicates the victim suffered a "large laceration" that required sutures, but no number is indicated.

Elevating a dog's status from "dangerous" to "vicious" requires that the dog has caused "serious" injury, which is defined by state law as any physical harm that causes a substantial risk of death, that involves permanent incapacity or a temporary substantial incapacity, any physical harm that involves a permanent disfigurement or a temporary serious disfigurement, any physical harm that involves acute pain of a duration that results in substantial suffering, or any degree of prolonged or intractable pain.

DOG DESIGNATIONS

The Ohio Revised Code makes the following distinctions among dogs:

Nuisance: A dog that without provocation and while off the premises of its owner, keeper, or harborer has chased or approached a person in either a menacing fashion or an apparent attitude of attack or has attempted to bite or otherwise endanger any person.

Dangerous: A dog that, without provocation, has caused injury, other than killing or serious injury, to any person or has killed another dog.

Vicious: A dog that, without provocation, has killed or caused serious injury to any person.

It is up to the state's dog wardens to designate dogs as nuisance, dangerous, or vicious.

Cambria was seized at least in part because of Ms. Murrey's cooperation with authorities.

The first dog in Lucas County declared "vicious" by the dog warden since new Ohio laws pertaining to nuisance, dangerous, and vicious dogs took effect May 22 has not been located.

Gladys Gohm's cane corso, named Minnie, bit a child on June 8. That dog was not seized because when a deputy dog warden visited Ms. Gohm's house, the dog had been moved to another home, Ms. Lyle said.

The case was heard in court June 29 with Ms. Gohm pleading guilty and paying a fine of $75, but the dog's whereabouts remain unknown.

Under the new dog law, Ms. Gohm is required to register the dog as "vicious," and Ms. Lyle said the dog warden's office will follow up to make sure that is done. But because the court case is over, the dog is safe from being seized.

Owners of dogs that have been classified as either nuisances, dangerous, or vicious by county dog wardens have 10 days to appeal in writing to the municipal court where the incident occurred.

So far, no one has appealed those designations, Ms. Lyle said. As of today, 17 dogs have been deemed dangerous in Lucas County, along with the two deemed vicious, she said.

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com or 419-724-6066.



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