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Published: Wednesday, 7/24/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Woman admits she lied about dog attack

Bites came at home, not at Wildwood park

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A Toledo woman who made a false report of a dog attack at Wildwood Preserve Metropark earlier this month said she was trying to protect her boyfriend and his dog.

“I’m not proud of what I did,” said Nicole Farrell, who was bitten by her ex-boyfriend Steve Thompson’s dog while at the couple’s Toledo apartment. “I can’t go back in time and fix it. I have offered to pay restitution.”

On July 5, Metroparks rangers were told by Toledo police that two people were being treated at Mercy St. Anne Hospital for dog bites they received that morning at the park. A ranger went to the hospital to check on the victims and gather information to ensure the safety of park visitors. Rangers closed the east entrance to the park for the rest of the day and searched for the dogs with the assistance of Sylvania Township police officers and the Lucas County Dog Warden’s Office.

Ms. Farrell, 36, told the ranger that she and Steve Thompson, 35, were walking their dog at Wildwood when they were confronted by three stray dogs, one of which attacked them. However, in a subsequent interview last week, Ms. Farrell gave a written statement that the incident did not occur at Wildwood.

What actually occurred is Mr. Thompson’s dog, Judah, a 5-year-old “pit bull”-type dog, got in the middle of the couple when they were arguing at their home and ended up biting both of them. They both needed dozens of stitches and were put on antibiotics, she said. Ms. Farrell was bitten on the ear and the back of her neck, and Mr. Thompson was bitten in the face and arm, she said.

“He’s a good dog; he’s never bit anyone before,” Ms. Farrell said. “I think he just got really upset because we were fighting. I was afraid the dog warden would come and take him and kill him.”

Ms. Farrell and Mr. Thompson have since ended their relationship, and he has left town with the dog, she said. Her dog, a 1-year-old “pit bull” mix named Lou, hid in another room during the incident, she said.

“I was also afraid that the dog warden might take my dog, and he didn’t have anything to do with it,” she said. “He would never hurt anyone. All he might do is lick you to death.”

Park rangers have charged Ms. Farrell with falsification, a first-degree misdemeanor, and turned over information they have gathered to the Sylvania prosecutor.

“Safety of park visitors is always our first concern, and our law enforcement officers took this matter very seriously,” said Steve Madewell, executive director of the park district. “Evidence convinced them the incident did not happen as it was reported, and that there was never a threat to the safety of our park visitors.”

The dog warden sent three patrols to the Sylvania Township park, but they were unable to locate the dogs, Dog Warden Julie Lyle said. Metroparks brought in rangers from other parks and the Sylvania Township police to sweep Wildwood’s east side.

If the couple had told the truth about the bite, the dog would not have been seized and would not have faced euthanasia, Ms. Lyle said. The only time she has the authority to seize a dog that has bitten is if it was running at large when the bite occurred, she said.

“It’s unfortunate that these people took the resources of our department and other departments to investigate something that was false,” Ms. Lyle said. “Most dog-bite investigations do not result in the dog being taken or euthanized. We encourage people to report honestly so we can protect the public as much as possible.”

Under Ohio law, the dog warden has the authority to declare dogs as dangerous or vicious, depending on the severity of the bite, assuming it was not provoked, she said. The dog’s owner has the right to appeal that designation. In cases where the dog has bitten its owner or another family member or friend, if the person who was bitten is not willing to serve as a witness, the court may overturn the designation.

The dog warden will follow up with Ms. Farrell regarding the incident, Ms. Lyle said.

Mr. Thompson could not be reached for comment.

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



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