Owner Claims Dogs
UPDATE 05/16/09: On Friday, the owner of the two pit bulls appeared at the county animal shelter to identify the two male dogs. Authorities said that the owner, Jamie Whitmer, signed over custody of the animals. Following the 10-day quarantine, the dogs will be euthanized. Since no previous animal-related charges have been filed against the owner (owners must first receive a warning before being issued a citation) it's unlikely that any charges will be filed.
Virginia is a "one bite free" state, as well as a "contributory negligence" state. So, every dog gets one free bite -- in the instance of a pit bull or rottweiler, one free mauling or killing -- prior to legal action. However, dog bite attorney Kenneth Phillip notes, "if the owner or another person caused the accident by being negligent or breaking a law, such as a leash law, then that person will be held legally liable." The contributory negligence aspect is also eye-opening:
"Making matters worse for all kinds of accident victims, Virginia also follows another ancient and inhumane doctrine, called the "contributory negligence" rule. It says that a person who is even one percent responsible for an accident has no legal right whatsoever to recover compensation for medical bills or anything else. There are only 4 states in the USA that follow this terrible, 18th century rule."
DogsBite.org hopes that the victims, Tammy Powers and 3-year old Hunter Ryder, hire an astute dog bite attorney. It's clear that the State of Virginia makes few, if any, allotments on behalf of victims of dog bites and serious dog maulings. Virginia's dog laws, no matter their prehistoric "farm day" roots, serve only to protect owners of aggressive dogs. Thankfully, 30 other U.S. states have rejected the "one bite rule" and 46 states have rejected "contributory negligence."
As of Thursday night, Hunter was still hospitalized.
05/15/09: Animal Control Called 3 Times
The original article also reported that animal control had been called several times about the loose pit bulls prior to the double mauling. Neighbor Amanda Kreitz said, "We called (animal control) Monday and Tuesday, and we were here the last three or four days," she said, adding that she doesn’t think she would have missed their presence. Animal control, however, said they drove through the area on Monday but did not see the animals.
In 2005, in the adjacent county of Spotsylvania, 82-year old Dorothy Sullivan was killed by loose pit bulls. The owner of the pit bulls, Deanna Large was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 3 years in prison. In a 2007 civil suit, the Sullivan family unsuccessfully sued Spotsylvania County Animal Control, which reportedly knew Large's dogs frequently ran loose, had attacked neighbors and killed pets and that Large was operating an unlicensed kennel.
Between 2007 to March 2009, throughout the period of the civil suit, county animal control departments across Virginia must have been watching the case closely, particularly nearby counties, such as Culpeper. A guilty verdict would have left the officers financially "on the hook" for gross negligence after a serious or fatal mauling. The Sullivan family had argued that the officers should have done "more investigating" after Sullivan's repeated calls about the dogs.
As depicted in the death of Dorothy Sullivan and the recent Culpeper maulings, which sent two victims to emergency care in LifeFlight helicopters, several phone calls to animal control about loose pit bulls ought to be taken very seriously.
05/14/09: Pit Bull Injury is Not a "Dog Bite"
Culpeper, VA - Two loose pit bulls severely mauled a 3-year old boy and his grandmother yesterday. Two separate LifeFlight helicopters were used to fly the victims to emergency care. The slideshow created by the Star-Exponent tells the horrific story and illustrates the difference between a "dog bite" and a pit bull attack. The latter often requires one or more ambulances and helicopters along with numerous paramedic personnel and police officers.
According to county officials and neighbors, the attack happened southeast of town in the 21000 block of Mount Pony Road around 10:30 a.m. The boy and the woman were walking near their home when the loose pit bulls launched an attack. According to Star-Exponent correspondent Greg VanNostrand, the child received severe wounds to his head and scalp, forcing workers on the scene to apply a large bandage. The woman suffered bite wounds below the waist.
The wounds suffered in this attack are the direct result of the pit bull breed, selectively bred to inflict severe and deadly injury.
According to Animal Control Director Jamie Bennett, the two pit bulls were both male, unneutered and lacked identification. It's illogical to assume that the owners of the pit bulls will now come forward to claim their dogs. Once again we see the painful reality of the pit bull problem. The dogs are unidentifiable, therefore: Criminal prosecution is impossible; civil recourse for the victims is impossible and the pit bull owner suffers zero consequences.
11/09/09: Collection of Pit Bull Scalp Attack Victims - DogsBite.org
04/22/09: Wappingers Boy Suffers Life Altering Injures in Pit Bull Attack
04/20/09: Pit Bull Attack Victim Airlifted to Regional Burn Center in Tampa
04/10/09: Animal Control: "This is Not Just a Bite. This is a Mauling."
03/06/09: 2005 Fatality: Victim's Family Sues Animal Control in Spotsylvania