New Castle News

March 18, 2013

‘We have no dog pound’: Animal under house quarantine after attack:

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — After her nephew’s pit bull bit her face, it was Ramona Dabney, not the dog, who had to find shelter.

“I don’t understand why the dog got to live in luxury in my house but I had to relocate,” the North Crawford Avenue woman said.

Dabney moved in with a sister for three days after she was bitten on Feb. 25 by her nephew’s dog, Dro. The attack required numerous stitches to both lips and her nose and left Dabney in pain and fearful.

“I’m shaking all of the time,” said Dabney who has an appointment with a plastic surgeon and is being treated for nerve damage caused by the dog bite.

“I can’t eat. I can’t sleep, it’s hard to talk. I want to be myself again.”

Calling herself a strong woman, Dabney said she will overcome her current difficulties. But she doesn’t understand why she — not the dog — had to leave.

By order of police and local animal control officers, the family was required to confine the dog in their home for 10 days — at their expense —to determine if the animal had rabies.

“We have no dog pound,” New Castle police chief Bobby Salem explained. “This is the procedure we follow (after dog bites.)”

ADDITION TO FAMILY

Her nephew, Jahmia Ward, came from Charlotte, N.C., to look after his aunt, who suffers from several medical ailments and was alone in her house after her son left home to go to school in Pittsburgh.

Ward thought adding a dog to the family was a good idea since the house had been broken into and ransacked last fall. About four months ago, he obtained 2-year-old Dro from a West Side family. Familiar with the breed, Ward said he believed he could train the animal for watchdog duty.

“I thought I was making progress until he bit my aunt,” Ward said.

After the attack, Jerry McCarthy, a humane officer who works in the office of Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa, ordered Ward to quarantine the dog  in the house for 10 days to determine if the animal has an illness, specifically, rabies.

Ward cared for the dog for several days at his aunt’s home, but ultimately decided not to put off the inevitable.

Well shy of the 10-day sentence, Dro was euthanized and his brain stem was tested for rabies with negative results.

“I didn’t want to (have the dog put down), but I had no choice,” he said. “My aunt was traumatized.”

The experience hasn’t changed Ward’s love of dogs.

“I will get another dog but not right away,” he said, “And next time I’ll get a puppy so I can train him.”

Lamancusa said his office was called to fill in for Lawrence County animal control warden Tom Wharry, who had been at a training session in Harrisburg when the bite occurred.

“Usually the dog warden protects people from animals. My humane officer gets involved in animal cruelty cases, generally protecting animals from people,” he said.

He added that since the owner voluntarily gave up his dog so his aunt could go home, the animal was put down at no cost to the owner. Generally it is a $400 expense.

Attempts to reach Wharry and McCarthy were unsuccessful.



HUMANE RESPONSE

The family was told that the Lawrence County Humane Society was not available to house the dog following the attack.

Attorney David Henderson of the Humane Society board of directors, agreed.

“This is not the mission of the Humane Society,” he said, “although we have done so in the past.”

One reason for the change is economics, he said.

If the society accepts an animal and criminal charges are filed, “we are responsible to hold the animal until the case is resolved. It could take six months or longer for the case to come to court. In the meantime, who is going to pay for the care of the animal? We (at the society) can’t afford it,” he said.

“We’re not cold-hearted,” Henderson continued. “We know there is a problem. But we just can’t afford to care for every animal in the county. But owners should be responsible for their own animals.”

When the district attorney hired a humane officer, Henderson said, the society revamped its policy and notified him of its decision to no longer accept dogs for quarantine.

“We changed at that time because we knew there was an alternative,” he said.

Under the law, Henderson said, a dog owner can be required to keep and quarantine an animal in his home — and at his expense — for 10 days.

“If the owner fails to do so, he can be charged with a criminal offense. This is in the law,” he said.

If the owner finds it an imposition to quarantine a dog, Henderson said, “He can contact a veterinarian or kennel to keep the animal for the 10-day quarantine period and pay the expense,” he said. “Or he could have the animal put down by a vet.”

However, if the animal in question is “an evidence dog, a mistreated animal, we will accept it.

“The mission of the Humane Society is that we are there for the animals. Our primary purpose is to assist them,” Henderson said. “Secondly, we will take in a dog if it is signed over to us and if we can determine if it is adoptable or not. But we just can’t take in every dog.”

The animal shelter will accept stray dogs, and hold them for the 48 hour period proscribed by law to see if the owner comes to claim it.

“Then we must make a decision about what to do. We also take abandoned animals,” Henderson said. “But again, decisions have to be made.”

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)