July 08, 2001
Dog attacks detailed at meeting
Richmond residents complain city does little to protect them
Richmond -- About 40 people, most of whom shared their own tales of
vicious dogs roaming in their neighborhoods, attended a special
Richmond City Council meeting Saturday where they learned a little
more about state and county dog laws and got some tips on protecting
themselves and their children against dog attacks.
was part of the city's ongoing effort to strengthen animal control
ordinances and educate the public after the June 18 dog attack on
10-year-old Shawn Jones on Lucas Avenue in Richmond. Shawn was mauled
by three pit bulls that knocked him off his new bike, chewed his face
and arms and tore off his ears.
After remaining in critical
condition for nearly three weeks, Shawn's condition was upgraded
Saturday to "serious and stable," Children's Hospital Oakland
administrators said. He may soon undergo the first in a series of skin
grafts to repair the facial damage, but still needs months, possibly
years, of reconstructive surgery and therapy.
The owner of the
dogs, 28-year-old Benjamin Moore, has been charged with two misdemeanor
counts of concealing the dogs after the attack. Only two have been
Saturday's meeting was at the Nevin Community Center,
just blocks from where Shawn was mauled. Almost everyone at the meeting
-- even county animal control officials -- agreed that animal services
departments all around the state are often overwhelmed with reports of
loose and vicious dogs and cannot respond to every call.
city contracts for animal control with the Contra Costa County Animal
Services. Richmond residents from all parts of town complained about
problems with the department's phone system, slow response times and an
ordinance that says an animal control officer must actually witness a
dog's aggressive behavior before taking action.
agreed there must be change. "Here we have asked the public to be more
vigilant and report these incidents, and now we have a responsibility
to take that response and do something with it," said Richmond Mayor
Rosemary Corbin. "But people are calling animal control and getting
busy signals and sometimes giving up. We might need to look into
supporting funding for more staffing and an upgraded phone system."
Dan Barrett from animal control said his department normally receives
about 700 calls a day about loose or vicious dogs. After the attack on
Shawn, call volume shot up to about 2,500 a day.
not every call can be answered and it's tough to get through sometimes,
but it's important to keep trying," Barrett said. "And when you do get
through, leave as much information as possible. We can't respond if we
don't know all about the situation."
Richmond resident Glenn
Kiesel was not happy with the department's response in his case. He
said he and his dog have been attacked four times by a neighborhood pit
bull, and he discovered the owner had 20 previous complaints against
And Darlene Drapkin, who lives in the East Richmond
Heights neighborhood, said two pit bulls from a nearby home killed her
cat last December on her own front porch and terrorized other residents
for months before anything was done.
"When animal control
finally came out, they told me they had to have an animal control
officer physically see the dogs mauling my cat," Drapkin said. "Come
on. That's crazy. When your car is broken into, or you're mugged, no
police officer has to actually witness it for something to be done. It
shouldn't be so lax with animal control."
No matter how many
laws are in place, there will always be irresponsible dog owners, said
Mary Paglieri of the Little Blue Society, a nonprofit education group.
"There will always be the possibility of an attack, so you need to
fight back with knowledge."
Don't approach an unfamiliar dog,
she said. Never put your face near a dog's face. Ask the owner's
permission before trying to pet the dog, and let the dog sniff you
first. If you are threatened by a dog, don't make eye contact with it.
Don't run or make sudden movements. In a loud, commanding voice say
"Stop! Go home! No!"
If you are attacked, cover your face and
neck with your arms or a purse, jacket or backpack. Try to "play dead,"
and don't scream.