Judge Fails Victims
Firestone, CO - So that readers better understand the way many existing dog laws operate -- to protect the dog owner and the dog, not to protect future victims -- we post this story. Despite five attacks, as well as a vicious dog conviction for each owner, the existing law allowed Judge Charles Unfug to return these dogs to their owners. The sixth attack inflicted severe injury to 54-year old Myma Lee, the dog owner's aunt. She is currently still hospitalized.
"In September, 2004, after three of the Riley dogs attacked the couple, David Riley was convicted of owning a dangerous dog. The dogs were returned to the family on the condition they would send them to the Coal Ridge Animal Hospital near Firestone. The order came from Judge Unfug.
Just a few days after they were boarded at Coal Ridge, the three dogs attacked and severely injured one of the shelter's employees. The court gave David Riley permission to transfer the dogs to another shelter.
According to the Weld County Humane Society records, both of the Rileys have been uncooperative with the judge's and other orders. In one case, David refused to have his dogs neutered, and in another Jackie Riley came to claim the dogs and did not have the proper equipment.
In that case, in May 2008, "Scout" attacked an 8-year-old boy at the Riley house, causing minor cuts and scrapes. The dog was taken to the humane society shelter for the 10-day quarantine. But later, Judge Unfug stated: "The court finds that reasonable precautions can be made so that the dog can safely be returned to its home while this case is pending."
Judge Unfug did not return calls Friday.
The judge ordered that Jackie Riley could pick up the dog from the humane society, but she had to muzzle and leash the dog, and when at home, keep it locked in the yard or house.
But records from the Humane Society of Weld County show that when Jackie Riley arrived to pick up "Scout," she did not have a muzzle or leash, so the humane society loaned them to her. But the humane society report also stated: "It should also be noted that ‘Scout' pinned Ms. Riley against the wall and knocked her down on the floor twice, drawing blood while she attempted to leash him."
While Firestone police have requested the dogs be taken away from the Rileys after last week's attack [that caused severe injury to Myma Lee], there are still dogs at the house, and "Scout" is at the humane society shelter in Evans."
Riley was charged last Friday with two misdemeanors, ownership of a dangerous dog and obstruction of a police officer. The charges come after a history of owning multiple dogs that have attacked, including the recent attack that severely injured Lee, and after a former conviction of owning a vicious dog. While the new Nebraska law is peanuts in a pale, it at least would have pegged Riley with a Class IV felony due to the multiple vicious dog ownership aspect.
05/19/09: New Nebraska Law Focuses on Repeat Owners of Dangerous Dogs