Pit bull attack kills dog, prompts policy question

Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — The loss of one pet is being mourned, another dog’s death is pending and city officials may consider stricter penalties for animal owners found liable in an attack.

Elizabeth Smith and Larry Vanwashenova were walking their three dogs in the 7000 block of Weddell shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday, May 29. They told Taylor police they heard a dog bark and turned to see a pit bull terrier push through a backyard gate. The 85-pound pitbull charged at and began mauling the couple’s 12-year-od dachshund, Reilly.

According to Taylor Police reports, Smith and Vanwashenova said that the owner of the pit bull yelled at the animal, and while Vanwashenova pulled the dachshund free the pit bull released its hold.

Reilly was taken to an Affiliated Veterinary Emergency in Allen Park, and died soon after arrival.

The pitbull’s owner, Bethany Strain, was interviewed and told police that the animal “has a prior history with attacking other dogs.”

Taylor Police Cmdr. Mary Sclabassi said that an investigation by animal control officials will determine any charges against the owner of the pit bull, which was in quarantine during the investigation and is expected to be euthanized.

Taylor does not have ordinances prohibiting ownership of pit bulls, as do some communities.

Smith and Vanwashenova addressed city council Tuesday to ask if such a local rule might be considered. Taylor Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand said that specific breed ordinances were unlikely, but that council might consider stricter penalties for pet owners who do not control animals who cause damage or harm.

“It doesn’t come down to the animal, it comes down to the owner,” Lamarand said. “I don’t think the city will be looking at a pit bull ban per se, but whether we can increase penalties for vicious animal attacks.”