COLUMBUS — Despite a recent spike in local vicious dog reports, dangerous animal incidents typically are uncommon, according to area animal control officers and humane societies.
And although area animal control officials and shelter managers agree dangerous dogs can cause myriad problems throughout the community, such cases rarely occur often enough to overwhelm local animal officials.
“It”s usually not a real big thing for us. We respond to a lot of calls, but only a small percentage of them involve dangerous dogs,” said Lowndes County Animal Control Officer Bobby Reeves. “Recently, it seems like there has been more of those cases than normal, but I wouldn”t say it”s a big, widespread problem.”
Reeves” comments came on the heels of a Tuesday Lowndes County Justice Court hearing, during which Justice Court Judge Mike Arledge sentenced county residents Kevin Blizard and Joan Blair, both of 23 Oil Well Road in Caledonia, to serve a six-month probation after the suspects” four bulldogs attacked an 11-year-old boy.
Blizard and Blair each also were ordered to pay a $371.50 fine, the maximum allowed by law, and $473.72 in restitution to the victim”s family for medical bills generated by the July 18 attack.
“That one up in Caledonia was pretty bad,” Reeves said. “You rarely get ones like that. Those dogs were pretty vicious.”
Arledge also ordered the four bulldogs involved in the attack to be euthanized at the Lowndes County Humane Society.
Although the euthanasia order came at the request of humane society officials, shelters usually attempt to rehabilitate confiscated dogs and adopt them out, said Reeves and Anita Howard, manager of the Oktibbeha County Humane Society on Industrial Park Road in Starkville.
“It is by no means a common occurrence that we get vicious dogs from animal control,” Howard said. “I would say that, since I”ve been here, we have gotten five vicious dogs at most.”
“The four dogs confiscated in the Caledonia incident just got more and more vicious every day they were at the humane society,” said Reeves. “They just didn”t get any better, and the humane society staff wrote a letter to the court requesting the dogs not be put back into society.”
Although animal shelter employees handle dangerous animals on a “case-by-case” basis, Lowndes County law prohibits the county”s shelter from adopting out pit bull dogs.
“County law classifies pit bulls, German shepherds bulldogs and a few other breeds as vicious breeds. It also prohibits us from adopting out pit bulls altogether,” said Karen Johnwick, executive director of the Lowndes County Humane Society, off Airport Road in Columbus. “But if we can handle them, we always want to at least give them a chance of being adopted.”
Even though the Lowndes Humane Society cannot offer pit bulls for adoption, shelter officials routinely seek rescue programs for any pit bulls the society receives, Johnwick said.
Because Lowndes County code classifies several dog breeds as dangerous, Johnwick said many believe all pit bulls, German shepherds and bulldogs are vicious animals.
However, Johnwick, Howard and Reeves agreed dogs” temperaments usually are determined by people, not nature.
“Most of the time, it”s people who do it to the dogs,” Johnwick said, noting her shelter typically receives dozens of dangerous dogs each month. “I have seen some of the nicest pit bull dogs come through here, and we have two of the sweetest German shepherd dogs I”ve ever seen right now.
“Because many people around here use pit bull dogs for fighting, the city and county just won”t allow us to adopt those dogs out,” Johnwick added. “A lot of it could be solved with education, because there are a lot of kids who think it”s cool to fight dogs.”
Even though shelters sometimes euthanize dogs classified as dangerous, overpopulation often is the most common reason for animal euthanasia, according to Howard and Johnwick.
“We are forced to euthanize between 300 and 500 animals each month just due to overpopulation. We just don”t have room for all of them,” Johnwick said, as she encouraged anyone interested in adopting a pet to visit the shelter. “The only way to really combat that is for people to spay or neuter their animals.”
“Feral cats are actually a much bigger problem for us than vicious dogs are,” Howard said. “Once cats reach a certain age without a lot of human interaction, there”s really nothing you can do besides put them down.”