Violent dog on lockdown

Published 12:49 am Monday, March 9, 2009

VIDALIA — A medium-sized pit bull let out a short, low growl as Vidalia Animal Control Officer Toxie Burnette approached the cage at the Vidalia dog impound.

“You wouldn’t want to get in the cage with him,” Burnette said, pointing. “He’d be on you in a heartbeat.”

Aside from an occasional growl, though, the dog was subdued Friday, something Burnette guessed was because of the significant number of injuries on his body.

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“He’s probably got a fever,” Burnette said. “You can tell somebody has been fighting that dog.”

And it’s obvious the dog had been through some kind of traumatic, violent episode.

He had bite marks across his body, a gash across his face and one of his legs was swollen to one-and-a-half times its normal size.

The dog ended up in the impound after he attacked an officer, Burnette said.

The police received a call from a citizen on Gillespie Street that a dog was trying to come through her glass door to get her.

When Officer Tyler Morace arrived at the scene, he whistled to get the dog’s attention, and the dog turned and started to trot toward the officer as if to comply, Burnette said.

“When he got right up to the young man, he lunged at him and tried to bite him,” Burnette said.

Morace was able to hold the dog off until Burnette could catch him with a choke pole, and escaped without any injuries.

“I don’t know how that young man did it,” Burnette said.

It was a good thing the police were able to catch the vicious animal when — and where — they did.

“The house where we caught (the dog) was half a block from (Vidalia) Junior High,” Burnette said. “What if the school had been having a recess?”

One kennel over is another pit bull, also injured and curled up in a ball, not even bothering to lift his head at the approach of strangers.

That animal didn’t show any evidence of being a fighting dog himself, but the problem was that he wandered within reach of one that probably was and had to be rescued by animal control officers, Burnette said.

“He just sits there back in the corner,” Burnette said. “He doesn’t want to do anything. He’s hurt.”

While the dog waits and nurses his wounds, no one has come to claim him.

Vidalia Police Chief Ronnie G. “Tapper” Hendricks said he knows that illegal dog fighting goes on, but that it’s a matter of catching the people in the act.

“Most of the time when we find these animals, they’re just loose in the street,” he said. “No one wants to claim them because they know that (dog fighting) is highly illegal.”

The owners of the dog that attacked the officer have come to the police station to claim it, but the police aren’t ready to release it just yet, Hendricks said.

The police are considering pressing charges of criminal neglect to animals for the dog’s untreated wounds. Anyone who is caught fighting dogs would be charged with cruelty to animals, Hendricks said.

Some municipalities have bans in effect for so-called vicious animals like pit bulls, and Hendricks said at the least he would like to see some kind of tracking system put in place for animals with known vicious behaviors.

“If your dog has bitten someone or had trouble in the past, they would do implants on animals to track them,” he said. “It would be just like a convicted felon.”

For now, though, at least one accused dog is going to have to wait at the pound.

“I’m not going to let him out of the cage until my superiors tell me to,” Burnette said.